Reform: Not Just for Liberals

Arthur Rizer is the criminal justice and civil liberties policy director at the R Street Institute. He is also an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, a former police officer and federal prosecutor, and a U.S. Army combat veteran.

He writes convincingly that police reform is not just for liberals. Excerpts from his argument follow.

“By using traditional conservative ideals as guideposts, policymakers can support the system and institute smart reforms.

“Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the ways it can be done:

1. Practice Compassionate Conservatism and Dignity

“President George W. Bush once spoke of ‘the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.’ We have strayed from that ideal. Republicans have an incredible opportunity right now to repair the impression that they do not care enough about communities of color and embrace ‘compassionate conservatism’ once again.

“The public discourse has created an “us vs them” mentality that paints conservatives as heartless. In response, conservatives must double-down on the presumption of innocence and the preservation of individual freedom…

2. Guarantee Public Safety and Limited Government

“Government does not and should not have all the answers, so conservatives believe that it should be limited to where it is most needed. In this case, this means reforming qualified immunity, which has devolved into a shield for law enforcement who have violated their mission to protect and serve.

“Too many police officers have been able to use this doctrine to avoid accountability, but no one should be above the law…

3. Transform Police Culture and Unions

“For reforms to work, we all have to transform police culture. Individual liberty and the dignity of life should stand above all, along with a dedication to strong family values––including keeping homes intact.

“On a day-to-day basis, officers must approach law enforcement with a ‘protect and serve’ mentality. We must end the culture that protects police above all else and ensure that communities come first––not police unions, which are fiercely resistant to reforms and immensely powerful…

“Training should be career-long and focused on more than weapons or vehicles. The role should be a calling for those who believe we are a democratic country built on the rule of law, and that officers are often the only defenders poor and/or minority communities can rely on.

4. Reinstate Fiscal Responsibility

“Policymakers on the right must embrace fiscal conservatism once again and consider if our tax dollars are incentivizing the best outcomes. We should spend money in the field of policing to ensure we are safer and that police have what they need to do their job effectively and without serious harm.

“Anything outside of those lenses is wasteful.

“Instead, departments should invest in peaceful and more productive response strategies to crises. This will also work to build police legitimacy, particularly among poor communities. Indeed, a ‘smart on crime’ strategy would encourage new models of policing, where departments invest in “co-responding” with mental health and substance abuse specialists and other first responders who are better equipped to make some of these lifesaving decisions…

“Every community is different. We need to consider the judicious use of arrest and incarceration powers so that our communities of color feel safe and trust police officers, and so that our law enforcement personnel are held accountable for their actions as we develop and practice new strategies.

“This is a watershed moment for police reform.

“Democrats have led the charge for years and have already demonstrated their willingness to make major changes right now. More Republicans must now pick up the banner of reform as well.

“Many of the changes proposed here would not only lead to better law enforcement, but are in line with existing conservative beliefs and priorities. Indeed, a police department whose mission is to protect, serve and respect individual liberty and dignity is a conservative ideal that can go far to repair the damage done by ‘tough on crime’ initiatives over the years.”

Read the full article HERE.

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