As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I'm pleading to my brothers. You know this guy," Reddick said. "Brothers, don't let this happen again. It could be your family next."
It was appropriate for Reddick to weigh in, and his assistance could be helpful. The shootings took place in his district, and the community needed to see their council member join the mayor and police chief in making such a public appeal for cooperation. After the latest killing this week, of Ronald Felton, Tampa police went further by describing the suspect as a black male, 6-feet to 6-foot-2, thin with a light complexion. Reddick is frequently critical of the Tampa Police Department's tactics in the black community. He understands the no-snitch culture of the neighborhood, and he is trying to break through by offering to be a go-between for people with information.
Reddick was right to "use my position as a black leader to reach young black males." His appeal fills an important void, but this is no more an entirely black responsibility than a white one. The entire community has a stake and an obligation to help the authorities. A suspect's race cannot define the fault lines of who is accountable. Reddick's move should help resolve this crisis sooner rather than later and help to build vital bridges in the long run.