In the early morning of October 12th a young African-American woman, Atatiana Jefferson was shot through a window while standing in her own home by a White police officer responding to a non-emergency (“welfare”) call from a concerned neighbor. The following blog is an open letter to Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, Texas in response to the tragic shooting of Atatiana Jefferson and the larger issues of institutional racism which undergird this tragedy . - Bishop Mike Lowry
To the Honorable Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth, Texas:
We are a wounded community. The needless and senseless killing of Atatiana Jefferson in her home on October 12, 2019 cries out for both justice and reform. The tragic and unjust police shooting of a peaceful African-American citizen by a police officer is not an isolated incident. The horror of her death must be seen in the wider context of racism in our home city of Fort Worth as well as across the United States.
- The trial of Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean in neighboring Dallas highlights the ongoing impact of racism and the tendency of some police officers to see people of African-American descent as probable criminals rather than citizens who need the protection, which should be extended to all.
- In 2016 David Collie, an African-American, was shot by police officers while walking away.
- Jacqueline Craig, an African-American mother, was arrested for complaining about a man (an Anglo neighbor) who choked her 7-year-old daughter.
- There have been multiple police-related shootings this year which raise serious questions about excessive use of force, especially directed towards people of color. The cry of “Black Lives Matter” reflects the pain and perception (supported by numerous studies and investigations) that while all lives matter, racism in America and especially in law enforcement has all too often led to behavior that sends the exact opposite message.
These are but a few of the examples which lead me to believe we must confront the systemic nature of institutional racism in our city as well as our country.
Accordingly, I write to join the call of other clergy and community leaders seeking a thorough review and revision of Fort Worth Police Department policies, procedures, and training in hopes that best practices for community-oriented policing are being enacted. The accountability and oversight which might result from such review and revision, I believe, would be best for African-American citizens living in Fort Worth; for people of color all across the Fort Worth metropolitan area; for citizens of all ethnic backgrounds ensuring justice and mercy for all; and for the police department of Fort Worth demonstrating transparent integrity to and for all the residents of our city.
I am convinced that this work is not yours alone. The United Methodist Churches of the greater Fort Worth area are committed to working with you and other community leaders for a safer and more just Fort Worth. For our part, we will continue to take steps to improve our cultural competency and to overcome fear, racism and injustice. We have a long way to go but are committed to journeying together.
We pray with you for our city that “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Day by day may we more perfectly live into our Lord’s teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Mike Lowry
Resident Bishop of the Fort Worth Episcopal Area
The Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church