Police Don’t Need to Be Abolished, They Need to Be Reimagined!
The Spirit calls me out again to comment on American policing.
Was Derek Chauvin simply a bad cop? A bad apple in an overall fair and equitable system of policing? Or not?
Would Chauvin have been held accountable by his peers, charged, and convicted of a crime without that incriminating and shocking 9 minute video? Quite frankly, I doubt it.
But to focus on bad apples in a system greatly in need of total reimagination and reform is the wrong way to look at the problem facing us.
While many observers (very few of them police) have commented on the specific bad practices surrounding George Floyd’s arrest, suggesting laws be made against police choke holds, promoted the use of personal body cameras, and so on, none of the proposals does what needs to be done. And that is to change the hearts of our nation’s police.
The problem is that few, if any, police reformers talk about this real and present problem. Police in America need to change their attitude about who they are and what they do and be totally committed to the fair and equal treatment of others.
All that begins with police leaders and police training. Did you know that half of police training academies in our nation identify themselves as “stressed-based? (Read: boot camp.) When you train police like soldiers it’s difficult to change them into peacekeepers — which is what our towns and cities desperately need today!
I was a Marine. I know what boot camps are and what they are designed to do. Simply put, a boot camp atmosphere is inconsistent with the police mission necessary in a free, democratic, and diverse society; marching, push-ups and hazing will not develop a young man or woman into a caring, compassionate and ethical cop!
If we want to improve the attitude of our police to be that of a guardian, not a warrior, it is going to take a change in how we select, train and lead our police.
I have one observation that points to the enormous problem we have at hand: where are the police leaders? Who is standing up and declaring the current system of policing must change and proposing credible and effective ways to do it?
A few of my colleagues and I did that in the late 1960s and into the 90s. But then it stopped with 9/11 and the increasing militarization of our police. It continues and hasn’t stopped yet — even with the Chauvin decision.
We, as a nation, can reimagine and demand the kind of police we want in our neighborhoods. It can be done, but the path will be difficult.
It will begin with a new generation of young police leaders who are highly educated, smart and thoroughly understand the role of police and the use of force and compliance in a democracy. Perhaps they will come out of a new, national police academy like West Point and Annapolis.
These leaders must be ethically tough, because the current negative “rank-and-file” subculture of policing will be difficult to overcome. They will face many obstacles along the way.
At the same time, reimagine and improving police is a community exercise. Without the support of those whom they serve, police will never be what they should be: emotionally intelligent, smart, controlled I’m their use of force, collaborative with community members and compassionate problem solvers committed to fair, bias-free policing.
Ultimately, our police must adhere to the belief that all lives matter and the care and protection of human persons is their sacred duty.
May God give us the strength and integrity to do this.