Monday, March 23, 2015

Asia Ford Crosses the Finish Line

Asia Ford flanked by her son Terrance and Lt. Aubrey George
The inspiring story of Asia Ford and Louisville, Kentucky police officer Lt. Aubrey Gregory represents a welcome change in the tone of what has often been a strained relationship between American police and the communities they serve. 

I was on the treadmill at the gym during my lunch break earlier today when I happened to catch a live interview on CNN with Ford and the man she emotionally called her "angel".

As you may have heard or read, Ford was nearing the end of a 10-K race in Kentucky recently and was starting to struggle when Lt. George saw a couple EMT's walk over and ask her if she could make it and she insisted she would; so he decided to walk over, introduce himself to her and her son Terrance, took her hand and helped her finish the final 1.2 miles to the finish line.

Ford trained for the race as part of her courageous effort to loose weight in an effort to make changes for a healthier lifestyle for the sake of her kids. She's lost 217 pounds already.

During the interview on CNN, George said as helped her to the finish line, he took her mind off her exhaustion by talking to her about her son Terrance and telling her about his own mother's struggle with diabetes (she died fourteen years ago) and assured Ford he would see her through to the finish line. 

I was really touched as I watched her tear up recalling his gesture of kindness; George said he was personally inspired by her efforts to complete the race.

When CNN host Brooke Baldwin asked Ford the obvious question about whether George had changed her mind about police interactions with the community, she said she didn't really see his badge or uniform, she simply saw the humanity he extended to her when she needed help. 

Too often in the history of this nation, seeing the humanity in one another has proved elusive.

Over the course of the past couple years, media headlines that highlight the unfortunate schism that exists between some members of American law enforcement and communities heavily populated by racial and ethnic minorities, have often overshadowed the positive exchanges police have with civilians.

Clearly many of those stories (Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice or Michael Brown) deserved the extensive media coverage and analysis they received; particularly those concerning the use of excessive physical violence or even deadly force against unarmed or innocent people.

Just today the Justice Department criticized the Philadelphia Police Department in a report released today for an unusually high number of shootings of unarmed men, mostly African-American over the past eight years; the report recommends changes in training in tactics to curb unnecessary police violence.

So after everything that's happened in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and elsewhere, it's uplifting to see a story make national headlines because a selfless police officer and a mother came together in a moment that's captured the hearts of millions of people around the nation - and around the world too.

Ford's son Terrance said it best in an interview with a local TV news station, when he summed up the feeling that's made this story blow up nationally; "...with all the stuff that's going on with police it's nice to know there're good people out there." 

It is nice.

A story like this offers hope and a positive glimpse of what relationships between police and civilians should be like. Let's hope it inspires both.

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