No matter what happens in November, no matter who becomes our nation’s leader, the reform and improvement of policing in America have received a series of crippling blows during the past four years from which it will most likely never recover.
This has not been only because of the acts and inactions of the present administration, but also because of the unwillingness or reluctance of police leaders to push back and continue the path of improving their agencies.
Consider these crippling blows to police reform efforts:
–Backing away of the Department of Justice with regard to pursuing consent decrees from city engaging in a pattern of civil rights abuses. (The most effective method to date to improve policing has been through federal court supervised consent decrees.
–Police agencies failing to implement the work of the Police Executive Research Forum on police use of force and President Obama’s “Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”
–Despite the public deaths of scores of black men since 2014 and the work of journalists to count and publish the actual number of citizens being killed by police, the number of citizens killed by police has not significantly been reduced (approximately 1,000 annual deaths). A primary cause is because most police leaders through policy (or by state law with the exception of California) have failed to raise the present low standard of when police can use legally use deadly force. [I suggest we use the deadly force standard of the European Union; that of “absolute necessity.”]
–The lack of specific plans by police in our nation’s major cities to build trust and support from communities of color — elements necessary for police effectiveness and officer safety.
–The continuing growth in both equipment, dress, and attitude of police regarding militarization as the struggle in the ranks continues between “guardian” and “warrior” orientations.
–The inability of a “Community-Oriented” style of policing to become the main method of how America’s towns and cities are policed.
–A president who tells police it’s okay to allow the heads of handcuffed suspects to hit the car roof when they are placed in the backseat of their squad car; that is urging police officers, to violate the law, their department’s policy, and their own oath of office.
–State rules and laws which permit “bad cops,” fired from their agency for misconduct, to be re-employed by other police departments.
Even if Joe Biden captures the presidency it will take a decade of more to reverse what has happened these past four years.
If Donald Trump wins four more years, police in America will become less community-focused or accountable to those whom they have sworn to serve.
Milton Mayer put it eloquently commenting on the worst totalitarian society — NAZI Germany, (Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (University of Chicago Press. ©1955)).
Mayer, an American Jewish writer who had gone to Germany in the 1930s, made friends with 10 people, all of whom were members of the NAZI Party.
He found them courteous, funny, genuine human beings whom he called “friends.”
They were also fools and certainly were guilty.
From Milton Mayer:
But Then It Was Too Late
“What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
“You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time.” … https://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html
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Ah, yes, Mal, little by little it goes… “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!” — James Jackson, member of the 1st Continental Congress.
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Your work over sixty years will not be lost. There will come a time when future police leaders will resurrect your dream, consult your blog and writings, and use them as blueprints and tools to pursue and implement reforms. We may not be here to witness this resurrection, but I am sure that it will happen!
Smile and believe. A life well lived with purpose.
Sent from my iPad
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Thanks dear friend. We first met and became lifelong friends in the Minneapolis Police Academy of 1962… disciples of a great cop — Inspector Ed Farrell!
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