“The future is our choice!”
Let’s be clear about what needs to happen today in American policing.
It’s not that we don’t know what needs to be done and how citizens expect police to behave. Deep down, even police know this.
It’s all out there, past studies, commissions, academic literature, and the values residing in “community-oriented” and “problem-oriented” policing.
What’s missing is a collective will to act on what is known, to actually change and reform, and to make the necessary organizational changes stick. This takes leadership, city-wide.
In the current vacuum, we hear angry voices calling for the elimination or defunding of police. Others respond by shouting “back the blue” or “blue lives matter.” Both are the wrong approach.
Instead, citizens must be clear — very clear — about the kind and type of policing they want in their city and for their children to experience. You must also remember that it will take at least a decade to make these new ideas stick.
But the time to start is now.
Citizens must require police to come up with a PLAN forward, crafted with both police and community input. A plan that effectively responds to the anger, protest, and mistrust police are experiencing daily since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
There also must be a way to MEASURE how police are doing in carrying out the plan and meeting the expectations of their community. This means real-time, transparent information regarding customer/client satisfaction with the new plan; including feedback from those physically arrested.
The question I hear from black communities is clear to some, but not all: “When will you stop killing us?” That question must be answered to the satisfaction of those who are asking it.
In addition, these questions must be answered by police leaders:
“Tell us how you and members of your department will work with us to develop a plan and specific goals that will build/re-build trust and improve police services to all residents in our city?”
“Within the goals must be ways to reduce use of force (especially deadly force) in carrying out your duties and increase your accountability to the community. Will you agree to this?
“How will we both know how our plan is working and how goals are being met; that how will we measure your effectiveness in accomplishing what we agreed to do?”
This is a moment of great opportunity for the future of police and our nation. The way we have policed in the past is not working and will not work in the future. Doing more of what hasn’t worked will not be acceptable.
However, this is a time to re-imagine a better future for both police and community residents. In order to do this, we must all work together in ways we have talked about before, but never accomplished.
The future is our choice!