Tempe, Arizona, is showing a bit of sensitivity, heart, and class in the wake of the racial wounds opening up all around the country as of late. It is also likely exercising a bit of prudence. The city has decided to cancel its annual “Run From The Cops 5k” this year, recognizing the discord such a name might cause for the event in light of the national climate since August of this year.
The race was scheduled for Saturday morning and was to take place around Tempe Town Lake, but has consequently been postponed due to the rash of protests that are breaking out around the country following the failure of two grand juries to indict police officers in the broad daylight murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, not to mention the recent murder of Rumain Brisbon in nearby Phoenix, Ariz. last Tuesday.
Like Brown, Garner, and so many other young black men gunned down by police, Brisbon was unarmed and killed over controversial, trivial circumstances.
Tempe Police Department Chief Tom Ryff said it took a great deal of consideration to reach the decision to cancel the event. Ryff stated:
I have determined that out of sensitivity, respect and support for all sides of an important debate taking place all across our great country, it is necessary to proactively postpone this year’s race.
One has to wonder if consideration will also be given to changing the name and/or theme of the race for future fundraising events, as well.
Like the newer themed races sprouting up, such as zombie runs, survival runs, etc., it’s not a total miss to envision a campy, fun run where people are pretending to run from police. Kids would love it, and it does make sense considering where the funds raised by the event end up going. And let’s face it, being chased by police, just like zombies, is certainly a good motivator for picking up the pace. All in all, an event like this could be done in a lighthearted, fun manner, but Tempe did good by recognizing that fun and harmless as it may normally be, this is just not the right time for it. That’s a sound decision. Hopefully the city will find another way to make up the loss of funds the benefit normally raises.
Chief Ryff went on to say that today’s social climate could not have possibly been predicted three years ago when the benefit was created. That is likely a yes and no issue. Certainly, one would have to be an ostrich to not believe a day like this would rise again in America. It was only a matter of time. However, one can also understand what Ryff is saying in a general sense and still give him and the city credit for recognizing that while racism is ever-present and prevalent in the country, things are especially sensitive right now.
“Run From The Cops 5K” is put on annually by the Tempe Police Foundation
It is a nonprofit organization that aids the police force’s budget. It also supports different outreach programs run by the department, so it is a bit of a mutual exchange. Residents show up to raise money for the police department so the police department can, in turn, put on outreach programs to help ensure better relations with the community. 400 people showed up to participate last year. It’s meant to be a feel-good event, and the city of Tempe, and Chief Ryff, reluctantly had to recognize that this year, people are not feeling so goody-goody with law enforcement.
Sure, it could be argued that, in such times, outreach programs are more necessary than ever, and hence, so is the funding for them, and that may very well be true. But one also needs to recognize that a need for money does not trump the means by which it is gained. Tempe recognized that putting on the “Run From The Cops 5K” this year could be viewed as poor taste. They made the right decision. Hopefully, their sensitivity and prudence will help relations in the community as much as the race may have.
In response to the Tempe PD’s sensitivity to the social climate in the country right now, Rev. Oscar Tillman of the Maricopa branch of the NAACP thanked the department in the form of a letter.
The Tempe PD is now in the process of informing participants of the cancellation and how to receive their refunds.
You can read the Tempe PD’s full statement regarding ‘Run From The Cops 5K,’ here