In case our nation’s police leaders simply don’t know what to say, are stimied and failing to understand the crisis in which they are in, I have a format they can use to begin the process of restoring trust.
Schedule a meeting with community leaders, invite the media, make a recording of the event, and make sure it is posted on the the social media sites.
Here’s what I believe citizens are waiting to hear from their police:
“We in the police department are shocked and saddened by the recent disrespect shown to poor people and those of color by police, and questionable use of deadly force incidents around the nation. I want to strongly state that’s not who we are.
“I want to strongly affirm who we are — the value of helping and protecting people, fairness and respect, openness and honesty. In order to reinforce these values, my commitment to you is that we will re-visit and re-examine our policies, training, practices and oversight mechanisms so that we are better prepared to handle conflict and resistance situations fairly, respectfully, and with the least amount of force.
“We will investigate and encourage the federal government to develop various technologies, methods and instrumentality that will help us to properly resolve conflict situations without loss of life. I will make sure your officers are trained in both de-escalation and disengagement tactics when confronting disturbed, addicted, or mentally ill people. Better control of firearms in our society would make the job your police officers do a lot easier and safer.
“However, when confronted with persons with firearms and who are not responding to verbal orders to drop their weapons we most likely will be are compelled to use deadly force to protect the lives of others as well as your police officers. Nonetheless, we are going to explore the possibility of training our officers in “less-than-deadly” shooting as is done in many police departments in Europe.
“As your police, we are committed to the continuous improvement of all that we do — and to do it well. But we need your trust and support in order to do this. We are strongly committed to rebuild any trust or support we may have lost. We need you to let us know when we do a good job as well as when we fail to meet your expectations.
“Further, in order to warrant your trust and respect, you can expect we will unconditionally treat everyone fairly and with respect. If that doesn’t happen in each and every contact we have with you, I want to personally know about it.
“We realize that unconscious racial bias is a fact of life in America. Overcoming this unacceptable bias will be a major part of our hiring, training and supervision efforts in order to assure our actions and decision-making is free of racial bias. In order to do this, we will continue to field a diverse and well-trained team of men and women who are committed to this goal and our shared values and reflect the diversity of our city.
“The proper policing of a democratic and free society depends on police and citizens working closely together to solve community-identified problems. We cannot do that without having your cooperation, support and, ultimately, trust. Where we have failed to do this in the past, I apologize.
“I ask you to please give us the chance to improve and be an organization in which you can trust and be proud. And when we are unable to meet your expectations, I personally want to know about it.
“You can expect that I will periodically be reporting back to you in how we are accomplishing what I have just outlined.
“Thank you. Together we will make this city a place in which we all can be proud! I will now be available to answer any questions you may have and expand, if necessary, on what I have just said.”
Sincerely, Your Chief of Police