Students in Rexburg, Idaho confidently leave their apartments during the day with the door unlocked. Cars warm up unlocked during the cold winter months in Idaho. A large portion of the Rexburg police logs include business alarms going off falsely, animals on the loose, lost phones and wallets, and other important but not necessarily dangerous events.
Rexburg is a quiet community. While Eastern Idaho has seen a significant increase in officer-involved shootings in recent months, that number doesn’t come close to the top cities for police brutality including places like St. Louis, Orlando, Las Vegas and dozens of others.
Nearly a year after the murder of George Floyd, Daunte Wright was pulled over, shot and killed by a police officer who mistook her gun for a taser. Both instances occurred in Minneapolis, hundreds of miles from Rexburg, but still hitting close to our hearts as we mourn with Daunte Wright’s family.
Even though we, in Rexburg, don’t see a high volume of police violence and officer-involved shootings, it is still a major trial our country is facing. We at Scroll believe that even if our community doesn’t consistently face specific social issues, we still need to be educated about the issues at large to know what we are or are not supporting.
There are many different social issues we could choose to illustrate this topic, including housing rights, LGBTQ rights, religious freedom, etc. However, with the recent Derek Chauvin verdict and the widely publicized shooting of Daunte Wright mentioned before, we’re going to focus on the discussion of police services.
This controversial subject involves an array of quick phrases people have turned into bumper stickers, posters and more. They often spark arguments and tension, but are we sure we’re on the same page when we start these heated conversations? Each topic is more complex than its simple three-word slogan.
Easy to support what we see in our community
As mentioned earlier, Rexburg typically hasn’t had a large volume of police violence. It is easy to support an organization that has traditionally made the community safer. However, we don’t just represent the city of Rexburg; students at BYU-Idaho are from all around the world. There is a little bit of Los Angeles, New York City and Miami in our Rexburg bubble.
We must educate ourselves on this social justice issue. It is easy to be naïve when we don’t see the issue in our neighborhoods.
However, in the United States since 1999, there have been at least 11 instances where officers confused their taser for a gun and there have been 15 cases of weapon confusion. Over the span of 22 years, that seems like a good number. What if one of those cases was someone you loved? That feels a bit more significant.
We are not trying to say no students or families of students at BYU-I have been the victim of police violence, but for those of us who haven’t had to face loss in that way, that number may seem minuscule.
We should treat all cases like it is our family member. Become educated on the issue enough that you can look at the case and read it as if your relative was involved.
It is easy to support what we see in our community. It is easy to support what we see in our families.
We need to become educated so we can have the hard conversations. It will be nearly impossible to recognize injustices that shouldn’t exist if we don’t educate ourselves. Hearing individuals reference racism like it is a thing of the past points out just how much informing needs to be done.
In earlier times, a restriction of knowledge was a way that government and religious entities kept individuals controlled. People during the time of Martin Luther, an individual responsible for the ancient Christian church’s reformation, and others who fought for educational rights would be disappointed if we were content with information that only pertains to us.
Those people fought so we could have the privilege of being educated. Let’s learn together; let’s not be afraid of information just because it reveals a truth we don’t want to accept.
The issues do exist here
Despite the fact that the majority of this article has been about the safety that exists in Rexburg making us not need to worry about this social issue, that isn’t completely true. We are going to continue to stick to evaluating the issue of police brutality and racism because it is something we are currently facing, but remember that this extends far beyond this individual issue.
As we mentioned earlier, there has been an increase in officer-involved shootings in the last couple of months in Eastern Idaho. In Rexburg on Feb. 15, there was an officer-involved shooting at Brenchley Apartments. The man who was shot was an individual struggling to get access to mental health resources and died after being shot multiple times by police officers.
In addition to this, despite what some may think, many BYU-I students are victims of racism and don’t feel comfortable here in Rexburg.
Following the brutal murder of George Floyd, Scroll interviewed dozens of Black students who attend BYU-I and heard and reported their stories of feeling unwelcome and unwanted.
Just because we don’t see these issues every day, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Becoming educated will allow us to recognize the social injustices present in our neighborhoods.
Difference between defund and reform
To stick with the theme of the article, here is an example of a commonly misconstrued principle.
“Defund the police” does not mean ‘“abolish the police.” Rashawn Ray from Brookings defined the ideology as, “reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality.”
It involves taking money out of the police departments and putting more money towards helping people who are homeless, mentally ill and those struggling with addiction. They’ll address the same issues but in a different way. Many people advocating for this movement understand that police officers are overworked and expected to handle far too many roles. Supporters of this movement want to spread the responsibility to other government workers and projects.
When discussing reform, people often mean putting more money into police departments to ensure more training. It also calls for new policies to take place. Many advocators want to end qualified immunity, racial profiling and no-knock warrants, among more changes in policy.
Both of these ideologies are more complex than the simple sentences we laid out regarding them. Taking time to understand policies government officials are striving to make, like The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, will increase our understanding of major issues in our nation.
Once we understand situations outside our hometowns, we can develop more empathy for those living in different areas than us. When we engage with others in conversation, we’ll be better informed and more open-minded to learn from their experiences.
When the time to vote for elected officials and policies rolls around, we can keep others in mind when we participate. We’ll at least understand that just because we personally don’t see a specific issue, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Many BYU-I students have taken the last week to learn about the Derek Chauvin verdict as he was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Let the decision of this case have an effect on our community. Even though Floyd was killed hundreds of miles from us, we can mourn with his family.
It shouldn’t take death to make ourselves aware. Educate yourself on social issues so you know what you are supporting.