Fifteen Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality
[Ed. Note: The following article does a great job of describing 15 things that need to be done and that YOU as both police officers and citizens can begin to implement. They are good and realistic recommendations. Pick one — then get together, build a team, and work on it!]
By Zak Cheney Rice, July 01, 2015 (abridged)
“There’s a strong case that the problem with policing isn’t actually the police, but us.”
“…How, besides protesting, can we actually make sure no more black people are killed, beaten or tortured by the police? And how can we promote justice and equity in law enforcement more generally?
“There’s a strong case that the problem with policing isn’t actually the police, but us — the police are merely enforcing our democratic will. Yet the real-life benefits of this umbrella term we’ve dubbed ‘police reform’ — decriminalization, commitment to reducing prison populations and community oversight, to name a few — can still be impactful, if not quite a cure-all.
“To that end, the Center for Popular Democracy and Policy Link, two nonprofit advocacy organizations, have partnered with various protesters and street-level organizers to find some concrete solutions to this problem. The result is a 15-point report, titled ‘Building From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing,’ which Mic has synthesized below to identify the concrete steps citizens and local governments can take to affect change.
“’[This report] is the result of dozens of interviews … and work we’ve done on the ground,’ Marbre Stahly-Butts, a policy advocate with CPD and co-author of the toolkit, told reporters in a press call earlier this month. ‘Its goal was really to reflect the aspirations of these on-the-ground organizations.’
“Each point can be molded to shape your municipality’s particular needs, and most are doable through a focused and sustained bit of pressure on local elected officials.
Here are 15 things your city can do right now to better promote justice in policing.
- Stop criminalizing everything.
- Stop using poor people to fatten city budgets.
- Kick ICE out of your city.
- Treat addicts and mentally ill people like they need help, not jail.
- Make policy makers face their own racism.
- Actually ban racist policing.
- Obey the Fourth Amendment.
- Involve the community in big decisions.
- Collect data obsessively.
- Body cameras.
- Don’t let friends of the police prosecute the police.
- Oversight, oversight, oversight.
- No more military equipment.
- Establish a “use of force” standard.
- Train the police to be members of the community, not just armed patrolmen and women.
For a full description and narrative of each step, read the full article HERE.
I agree with most of those recommendations, although most we have already accomplished. While recommendations such as these seem valid on their face, they rest on the underlying assumption that policing in general and police use of force specifically is inherently racist. A title that contains “…End Police Brutality” implies that brutality is widespread. Are policy makers racist? In my experience most policy makers are pragmatic bureaucrats. I thought we had banned “racist policing.” Perhaps “actually” will have a greater impact than the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. This perhaps well motivated rhetoric fuels an anti-police bias in minority communities. Bias is not a one way street.
The other significant shortcoming in these arguments is that they do nothing to address the incidence of violent crime in minority communities in America. Police use of force tends to track closely with the incidence of violent crime in a particular community. As I write this I am listening to the Dallas Police Chief state that American society expects too much from its police. He is right. The police can do little to impact the conditions that stimulate gratuitous violence. What we can do is police; it’s a verb. We will go much further toward justice for all with a laser focus on competent policing and a demand that citizens and the rest of government uphold the Republic. Competent policing makes those 15 points moot.
Police have played a large part in helping to create the conditions in America. They can’t proclaim that they were innocent in not creating the problems (when they played a large important part) and then complain that they are being made scapegoats for the economic, social, and political ills of America.
I wish the cops would obey the law when someone tells them that they will not consent to searches by the police and he/she is invoking their her/his not to speak to the police and the right to have a lawyer present when he/she is being interrogated by the police.
We need to make politicians and business leaders to face their own racism and/or stopping using racism to divide society plus using it to advance their own personal and professional agenda. Look at how business leaders bring in different ethnic/racial groups into this country in order to squash unions, bust up any attempts at unionization, and keep wages lows while keeping their profits high thus increasing their own salaries, stock options, and bonuses. Look at how the Republican Party employed the Southern strategy to get poor white racist Democrats to move over to their party so they can get their votes while at the same time, not helping to improve the economic life of the poor whites.
People need to elect district attorneys and judges who are not afraid to hold the cops accountable and send them to jail/prison if necessary to get other cops to obey the law.
Police conduct that is criminal in nature is very rare. We place poorly educated and trained humans in positions where errors are likely and hope everything turns out OK. It almost always does turns out OK. We believe we’re doing OK because we succeed and don’t recognize the role of good fortune in those outcomes. We are learning disabled. We only examine major failures and consequently don’t recognize that individual and collective performance in those cases is much like performance when everything turns out OK.
Calls for accountability are based on the “bad apple” perspective. Some believe that all that is necessary is to find the bad apples and remove them from the barrel. It’s the barrel that is rotten.
Well said. It is really amazing that it works at all given the paucity of our training. Talk about mine, for example, in 1960, recently discharged from the Marines, I was hired as a police officer in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, rode with a sergeant for a week, and on the following day given a map, book of state statutes and local ordinance, a citation book, keys to a squad car — and began responding to radio calls… Luckily nothing happened until two cops got shot near our border in Minneapolis and I grabbed a shotgun, ran down an alley, and returned fire. The Marines trained me well.
Frank Fiel in his book Breaking the Mob talk about the flaws of police work in the beginning of his book and near the end of his book. What amazes him was how the police were able to do their job in spite of the systematic flaws in policing. Of course, he was able to prevent an innocent person from going to prison, and his boss told him that Fiel’s job was not to unarrest people. So sad.
We need to have politicians and business leaders face their own racism for using it to divide people and use it to advance their own political, social, economic, personal and professional advancement.
Go after wealthy people and corporations to fatten the city, county, state and federal budgets especially with all the economic crimes they have committed and all the tax breaks and subsidies they have been getting for the last 36 years.
I agree with most of the recommendations as well. Where I would slightly disagree with Mark is the “bad apples” problem. I don’t see bad apples as rampant, but I do see too many instances of the rest of us looking the other way. Not in all out criminal conduct, but in smaller ways that have what can be insulting or demeaning affects on citizens. Every time police say “Get back or I’ll put in jail” when there is no real threat to safety, or we refuse to answer a simple “Why?” or let our egos engage our mouth and decide on the POP charge, we are being bad actors instead of professional public servants. That, in my opinion, does more to erode the relationship with communities than almost anything else. This is a slow leak that has burst from the dam. We have to take a hard look at ourselves. This is not to excuse any criminal acts or anything in the community, but let’s be honest, we signed on to do this job. The job is dealing with bad people or decent people on their worst day of crisis. Our profession requires us to be the professionals and control situations, calmly and fairly. We are human, yes we will make mistakes, but that has to be what we strive for.
Nicely said and very insightful.
I agreed with you about cops looking the other way plus cops doing things when there was no threat to their safety, answer a simple question and can’t keep their egos in check.