Riverside Police Department
A Message from Chief Sergio Diaz
The following speech was given on January 20, 2014, at Riverside Community College Landis Auditorium, in celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. walk...
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would first like to express my profound and sincere appreciation to the leaders of the Riverside African-American Historical Society for inviting me to address you on the occasion of the 2014 Martin Luther King Walk-A-Thon.part of my pride comes from the recognition that unlike most of the world, in America today, a police officer is charged not only with protecting life and property, but also the rights of the individuals for whom we work. Law enforcement has made greater progress in integrating our ranks than practically any other segment of American society, including academia, the news media and the corporate establishment. While we still have work to do, like all of the followers of Dr. King, those of us who care about improving the justice system, are “Still Walking and Still Determined” to do better.
A few months ago, many of us here, met at the Riverside City Hall archway to remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That speech is a powerful and moving piece of oratory and the 50th anniversary was rightly covered extensively in the media throughout our nation. There is another work of Dr. King’s that has received less attention than it deserves. I’m referring to the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” which Dr. King penned on April 16, 1963. I consider myself a moderately well-educated person, and so, I am embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar with that work until a relatively late stage of life. It wasn’t taught to me in school and I was disappointed to learn that it was not taught to my daughters, either. I have since made sure that they have read it and that we have discussed the meaning of that letter.
On the occasion of this celebration of Dr. King’s life, I would recommend the Letter to all of us and, most importantly to our children. It is a tremendously powerful and instructive work whose themes span some of the most relevant issues of our times. I was particularly moved by its descriptions of the corrosive effects of hate and racism on children. It is also brilliant in its exposition of the moral and spiritual underpinnings of the concepts of civil disobedience and non-violence as responses to injustice. You can’t help but be inspired by Dr. King’s gentle repudiation of the twin evils of complacency before injustice on the one hand, and reacting with bitterness and violence on the other.
Dr. King, of course, was not only an activist and a statesman, he was at his core a spiritual leader; a Southern preacher. He does not let us forget that we all are children of a common father and as such, we are all brothers and sisters. And here, I return to my core vocation, police work. In our city and in our country, we too often see young men raining down violence on other young men, often seemingly for no other reason that differences in their skin color. Certainly, this violence, more often than not takes place within a context of drugs and criminality. However, we cannot deny that racial hatred and ideology are important components of that senselessness. Perhaps even sadder, there are some adults among us, even some who claim the mantle of community leadership, who excuse and cover up that hateful violence. I know of cases of adults who claim to be decent human beings and community leaders who demand to know the race of the victim of violence before they decide how much sympathy the victim is due. How sad for them! How sad for all of us!
Today, as we celebrate Dr. King’s life and work, may I humbly suggest that we not waste the opportunity to explore what he would want us to do to increase the love, brotherhood and peace in our communities that was his life’s ambition.
Thank you for your kind attention. God bless you all.
Chief of Police Sergio G. Diaz
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4102 Orange St.
Riverside, CA 92501