- - Thursday, September 22, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Why are American cities continuing to burn? Agitators and rioters are taking over peaceful protests in Charlotte and causing chaos and destruction, while lives are lost, police officers and innocent citizens are injured, and no solution is in sight.

The anger is real among the black community and, as a white suburban mom, I can only watch from afar, feeling helpless and praying for peace, wisdom and clarity in these communities. I think of the black single mother living in the inner city, praying that her child can make it safely to school because she is worried about crime in her neighborhood.

We need to find common ground and civility between black communities and law enforcement, and let us hope each side can show empathy in these turbulent times. Where is the much-needed dialogue, the calming forces and the unsung heroes who can address the problems and come up with solutions?

President Obama’s largely hands-off approach is troubling, especially when these cities are in desperate need of healing. He gave a lukewarm response by calling the mayors of Tulsa and Charlotte to find ways to “calmly and productively” engage protesters. But we’re way beyond finding ways to calmly and productively engage protesters at this stage in the crisis.

It is difficult to engage rioters who are focused on destroying property, creating chaos and taking advantage of the resulting confusion. From Baltimore to Ferguson, the tension continues to spill into the streets. Protesters feel their concerns are never adequately addressed, and police officers on the front lines feel that their lives are endangered and they can’t do their jobs.

Distrust between black residents and law enforcement continues to grow, and Obama administration officials have decided to provide unfiltered analysis after the shooting without respecting the investigative process. Their primary focus has been on the police departments, which only deals with half the problem. In December 2015, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch opened up an investigation into the Chicago Police Department over its “use of force, including racial, ethnic and other disparities in use of force, and its systems of accountability.”

While solutions may be hard to come by, it’s clear what is not constructive in such a volatile debate.

What is not helpful is when the Congressional Black Caucus sends a letter to the Department of Justice calling on Ms. Lynch to “aggressively pursue investigations, indictments and prosecutions through the Office of Civil Rights against any and all law enforcement officers who harm or kill innocent unarmed black men, women and children.”

Far more productive would be to actually work with law enforcement to identify the systemic problems within the police force and addressing the crime problem within the inner cities. Pitting one group against the other only creates further division and no resolution.

More than ever, we need leaders who truly understand the plight and struggles of the black community and at the same time enjoy the trust and support of the police; that’s just where national leadership, starting with the president, has been lacking.

And then there are our presidential candidates.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted out this week: “Another unarmed Black man was shot in a police incident. This should be intolerable. We have so much work to do.” Her initial reaction did not even consider the full story of the incident, and I’m not surprised that she picked one side over the other.

Republican rival Donald Trump said he was troubled by the shootings, then spoke about reintroducing the policy of “stop and frisk” and argued that police and policing decisions should be under local control.

Politicians need to stop picking sides and come up with bold solutions where the safety and security of all citizens become a priority. Bringing all parties to the table is a start. It might be too late for Mr. Obama to begin the healing process, considering that so many cities have “burned” under his watch. But it is time for those who want to succeed him to present real solutions that diagnose the underlying problems, promote healing and offer practical solutions for both our crime-plagued communities and the police officers trying to protect them.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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