Thinking about George Floyd and my life in policing and beyond:
It’s so familiar, I patrolled 38th and Chicago Avenue, the uniforms, and the subculture and bad attitude of — “Why? Because we’re the cops and you’re not!”
I served seven years as a Minneapolis police officer. That experience taught me a lot; mostly what not to do if I wanted to be an effective police officer in a believed-to-be “free society.”
The following is my learning after a half century of practicing and reflecting on policing (you can find more at http://improving policing.blog) — but here it is:
if cops were more serious about their work they would begin to see themselves as representatives of the people they served. Not cowboys working in a hostile frontier. They would love and begin to care for “the people,” but also to love themselves and their fellow officers.
Look again at that terrible, heart-wrenching video of Floyd’s death — those officers present not only despised the people for whom they once swore to protect, they despised one another.
For if they loved their fellow officers, someone in blue would have stepped forward and put a hand on Chauvin’s shoulder and said, “Derek, okay that’s enough. Let me help you…”
You never saw that happen in this event or scores of other highly-viewed and protested police killings over the years. And that’s sad, so sad it is immoral and unacceptable.
What now to do? As I have argued for years, American policing needs to apologize, seek forgiveness, stand down and re-structure and re-orient its function in our society. Let’s face it, our system of policing (and most of our criminal justice system) is broken.
Police in America need to re-think their mission, develop a new cadre of ethical servant leaders, and begin anew. Defund police? Yes, and begin a new, community-oriented way forward. What exists today must no longer be tolerated by us.
(You may not agree with me, but my voice is one of significant experience, graduate study, and thought that has spanned over five decades. Think about what I have said. If you agree with me, act. My day has passed, I have provided in my writings a way forward. It’s worth a try. We tried to do it in Madison, Wisconsin years ago. History matters. Study it.)
Thank you, once again, Chief. Your truth and experience are something policing desperately needs. Real change requires a re-orientation of our values. The status-quo has always stood in the way, retrenching and throwing sand in the gears of change. Your vast experience walking the walk is profound. Some cities are actively working on unique and innovative solutions that incorporate more holistic community responses.
What I have been thinking about lately is restorative justice. Restorative justice in the traditional sense focuses on offenders and victims in a judicial setting. The idea is accountability of the offender and making the victim whole again. Then I thought, we need a restorative justice frame for policing. A way of true accountability and empowerment that makes the community and police whole again. Sadly, most are once again relying on the same old messengers to steer them towards a zero sum approach that will only bring more devastation for the community and honorable officers. I pray progressive voices succeed for the good of the profession we love. Be well, sir.
After my beloved wife of 40 years died on Christmas Eve after battling cancer for 13 years, I suffered the biggest hit I have ever experienced. We talked about preparing for this… but nothing like being there! Since that time, I have grieved deeply and the good Lord put a lovely retired nurse into my life and I experienced moving from death to life. We were married last month and I now find myself getting back into my “groove” and thinking about policing again. Always enjoy your comments and wisdom. We press on!
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