The following creative ideas come from Djohariah Singer from Middleton, MD. She is someone who has spent a lifetime in service to her community as a social worker, police officer, and educator. She shares what she has learned along with a proposal for improving police (the objective of this blog). [With her permission, I have edited her original proposal.]
Policing Today: A Solution
While these [many proposed police] interventions are critical, they don’t get to the heart of the underlying issues of bias, fatigue, and internal police culture that negatively impacts police officers. They do not address the mistrust between police officers and their communities, or how volatile and lethal exchanges with civilians are managed…
I offer [four] solutions that address these deeper challenges, a program that expands on community policing in order to help police officers and civilians co-create a better society together. We must take better care of our officers, so they can better care for the rest of us.
I. SABBATICALS. I first propose a “sabbatical” for every officer that works with the public; after every 4 years an officer must be reassigned to a job in the social services field for one full year.
This would allow for an officer to maintain her/his salary and benefits as the officer spends a minimum of a year working full-time in the same community as s/he has patrolled, but in a position in community service. Positions may include the Boys & Girls Clubs, schools, community centers, homeless shelters, outreach centers, women’s centers, etc. In these locations, the officer would not only be able to continue to serve the community in a new capacity, but also forge authentic relationships with the very people she/he serves on the street…
II. SAFETY OFFICERS. The second component is having officers randomly, and covertly, assigned to rotate their duty as “neutralizers, de-escalators, or safety officers”.
As much as we all would love to believe that officers will step in if a fellow officer is behaving out of line, this does not always happen. Police culture doesn’t always allow for such interventions by peers. At worst, those who intervene may face internal retribution.
Many law enforcement agencies have already implemented programs that allow for officers to work in tandem with a social worker to help mitigate crisis family interventions when called to a domestic dispute. Though this initiative has seen success, what is proposed here is different.
Such “neutralizing” officers would be officers already scheduled on the same shift, but their primary goal is to offer officers support in keeping everyone on scene safe. Most importantly, these roles must be *assigned by the chief/captain, not the sergeants / lieutenants* in order to keep the integrity of the role intact…
III. RESIDENCY. Incentives for officers for officers to live and work in the same community they serve. Officers who live and work in the same community have a different inherent motivation in achieving success for their communities. An officer that drives home 50 miles from where he/she works doesn’t have a personal investment in that town/city. Hiring from within the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency could prove positive for the whole community. Perks like taking home patrol cars, housing financial aid, etc. can motivate officers to remain in their community and be further dedicated to its success…
IV. COMMUNITY EDUCATION. Educating [citizens] should also be an integral part of this solution. More needs to be done to educate [citizens]. Every department of education should incorporate and implement a unit or course (much like mandatory health classes) that begin in elementary school and continue through high school. It is imperative that every member of our society knows the law and what to reasonably expect when they are stopped, addressed, questioned, or detained by authority…
We [must] remember that 99% of police contacts are peaceful, productive, and are successful in keeping members of our society safe. It is, however, unacceptable that 1% of those contacts goes sideways… We can address and minimize these statistics by implementing a new form of policing that takes care of not only the [citizens], but the police too…
We are at a critical impasse in our country and what we do today will have a long-standing effect on our society.
We need to have more creative, even experimental ideas on how police in America can best move forward as helpful guardians and problem-solvers. What do you think of her proposal?
Another blog I follow. Really like this author (Couper). Former chief at Madison , WI. He is 84-years old and became an Episcopalian priest after retirement. He is a thinker, like you, and responsive rather than reactive.
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Thanks, Susan, I appreciate the endorsement!