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Bloomington Police Chief Brandon Heffner says he’s glad the head of the nation’s largest police organization issued a formal apology to America’s minority population this week.

“He didn’t check with me before he made it,” Heffner said with in his voice that instantly sobered. “But I think it’s what a lot of people were waiting for.”

An African-American in his fourth year as Bloomington’s top cop, Heffner conceded there undoubtedly are those who think the statement “went too far." I’m not among them.

Citing budget constraints and scheduling issues, Heffner wasn’t in San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention. But he was nonetheless attentive when its outgoing president apologized in a speech “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”

The words came from Terrence Cunningham, the police chief of Wellesley, Mass., the wealthy Boston suburb home to Wellesley College whose alumnae include Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright, where 85 percent of its 28,000 residents are white like him. But this week, he spoke for all 18,000 police chief members of IACP when he called law enforcement a noble profession “replete with examples of bravery, self-sacrifice and service to the community,” but with a history that “has also had darker periods.”

Unfortunately, Cunningham’s apology didn’t directly include headline-producing happenings in places like Baton Rouge and suburban Minneapolis, recent episodes that undermined public trust of law enforcement. He instead talked of earlier days when police were “the face of oppression” as they enforced laws “ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship of our fellow Americans.”

Cunningham lamented how “this dark side of our shared history has created a multi-generational — almost inherited — mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.”

Heffner agrees.

“That’s why it has to start at home,” he said. “If you keep telling generation after generation that law enforcement is bad, that’s how people are going to grow up. Nobody’s born prejudiced. That’s learned. If you’ve been in a community that’s had issues with law enforcement for a long time, well, you can stay the way you are, or you can try to change.”

Truth is the “us-versus-them” mentality exists on both sides. Police often justifiably feel they’re at war against certain elements on the street. At the same time, police who look, act and are equipped more like soldiers than public servants are more likely to be feared.

We need to remind ourselves and one another that first and foremost, police are our protectors. Still, we’re demanding they do more and more, to help us cope with society’s ills, now even asking them to administer medications to counter deadly drug overdoses.

Heffner believes police must be accountable. “But so do communities,” he said. “We can’t fight crime by ourselves. It takes the community to solve crimes and to deter it.”

This and that

There’s firm interest from a potential buyer for that huge, unfinished warehouse on the north edge of Normal … construction on the structure was suspended eight years ago when Gary and Toni Wilder, co-owners of Wildwood Industries, took bankruptcy and eventually were sent to federal prison on fraud charges …Mrs. Wilder is expected to be released next April … her husband died in prison last year … Don’t expect a big, happy announcement about the future of the Mitsubishi plant at Tuesday’s Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council Community Leaders Dinner … we’re told a deal, if it happens, is still a month away … And for those of you just dying to know where Portillo’s will be located: We hear an announcement is coming next month and if you’re on Veterans Parkway in north Normal, you’re close.

Vogel, of rural Bloomington, can be reached at vogelgraph@yahoo.com.

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