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UnknownffvThursday, July 28th, 2016

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



The turnout for a special funeral was a sight to see. Hundreds of motorcycles and police vehicles from all over the nation were lined up to honor a fallen hero in Baton Rouge. Police officer Montrell Jackson was laid to rest as several thousand mourners, black and white, joined to pay tribute to a cop on his beat who was killed in the line of duty.

A week earlier, Corporal Jackson was gunned down along with five other officers from both the Baton Rouge Police Department and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office. Three officers were killed, with another on life support.

I arrived at the Living Faith Christian Center, where the services for Corporal Jackson were being held, some three hours before the late morning tribute was to begin. Streets were impassable blocks from the church as hundreds of first responder vehicles and motorcycles formed a long line that would lead the procession to the cemetery after the service was over.

Particularly impressive was the number of police officers who had traveled long distances to come pay their respects. I visited with officers from coast to coast, from San Mateo, California, across the country to New Rochelle, New York. Large contingents of policemen and firefighters arrived from Florida, Texas and Mississippi. The Canadian mounted police attended with an entourage of officers that included a cadre of bagpipers. Rarely do you witness so many officers in so many different uniforms.

There was a particularly large contingent from New York City and the surrounding areas. They had arrived with several large trailer loads of water, passing out bottles to those making their way to the service in the sweltering heat. I asked one responder with the Port Authority of New York why so many had made the long journey to Baton Rouge? “Your folks were here for us after 9/11. We didn’t hesitate to come,” he told me.

Following the attacks on 9/11, Louisiana donated to New York City “The Spirit of Louisiana,” a fire truck built locally by Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc. A large contingent of Louisianans took truckloads of food supplies and other goods for victims of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.

The New York Port Authority operated the Twin Towers on 9/11, and the director was my longtime friend Neil Levin. We had served as Insurance Commissioners for our respective states in the late 1990s and had traveled extensively regulating insurance companies worldwide. Neil was having breakfast on the 42nd floor when the first plane hit the North Tower, and his body was never recovered. The lead officer who traveled to Baton Rouge for the Jackson funeral also knew Neil, and we talked at length about our respective tragedies.

Following the 2-½ hour service and the long procession to the gravesite of this fallen officer, a number of us retreated to a local restaurant to rest and review the day’s events. Several legislators and other elected officials joined our group along with U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy to discuss the healing process and how our communities go forward. There was agreement that, as terrible as the recent tragedies have been, perhaps the doors have been opened for an enhanced interchange between black citizens and white, the police and the community at large, so as to search for a better understanding that we’re all in this together and that the dialogue needs to continue.

As I wrote in last week’s column, Corporal Montrell Jackson was a exceptional person who was respected by his fellow officers, and loved by so many in our community. His legacy might well be that in his death, he has brought Baton Rouge directly into the national debate on policing and race relations. He would have wanted it that way.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.






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