A local police force has started sending its recruits to the Virginia Holocaust Museum as part of their training. The intent is “to show them what can happen when power is untethered from duty and decency.” Here’s a bit of the story; follow the link for more.
(Norfolk, Va., Police Chief–ed.) Goldsmith is following in the footsteps of Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia’s police commissioner who previously served as Washington’s police chief. While there in 1998, he accepted an invitation to come to the National Holocaust Museum and got a tour from a survivor.
He learned that, almost from the beginning of the Nazi Party’s rise to power, local police were intimately involved in helping them and were soon nearly indistinguishable from military groups like the SS.
Ramsey wrote a paper 16 years later about the tour and how it forced him to ask fundamental questions about the role police play in a democracy. Lest police and the public dismiss the lessons as something that happened long ago in a far away place, he draws connection between police in Nazi Germany and officers who helped enforce Jim Crow laws in the American South. Or more recently, when police watched while inner-city neighborhoods deteriorated into ghettos during the 1980s crack epidemic without trying to fix the underlying problems fueling it.
One can be skeptical of the extent to which a one-day tour may have a lasting effect, but one can only applaud the intent and effort, especially as one considers that many of our own police forces are already “nearly indistinguishable from military groups.”