“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40
For those of us who are committed to social justice and improving nation’s system of justice, today’s news headlines demand a response – lest “stones cry out!”
Much of what I have written on this blog since 2011 can be considered to be a response to the virus of “bad apples” in the barrel of the police service. The “bad apple” argument has been used over the years to defend the charge that our nation’s police and bad policing is because of few “bad apples.” That may be true because these egregious acts of police behavior are not indicative of overwhelming number of officers in the field who, day in and day out, doing remarkably good work. Nevertheless, scattered acts of bad behavior have an extremely negative impact on the profession. It destroys the trust and support police need to keep the nation’s peace, and, therefore, the reason we all should work to improve their lot.
This improvement involves what I call “re-imagining,” while others call for, and I must say unreasonably so, the de-funding and even eliminating police in our society.
Perhaps I need to say again, and again… we can re-imagine and re-build our way of policing this great nation. Unfortunately, in our system of government, it cannot and will not be done nationwide. Instead, it can only be accomplished by the actions of concerned and caring local citizens in our nation’s towns and cities – one by one.
And what needs to be done?
- Listen. Think. Discuss. Then Create on a community-wide basis.
- Identify the type and kind of police officer you want to work in your community.
- Call and select a diverse group of men and women of high Emotional Intelligence who are disposed to solving problems without restoring to force, who are college-educated and mature.
- Make sure they are well-trained and led by mature, emotionally intelligent, and well-trained leaders throughout the ranks.
- Police need to be especially knowledgeable about race and racism in our nation’s history — Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Absolutely.
- Be clear about expectations of your police – especially with regard to how vulnerable persons, persons of color, and young persons in your community are treated. Consider raising the community standard for police use of force to the EU standard of “absolute necessity.”
- Require that a system of “customer feedback” be implemented so that the community knows on a real-time basis how police are interacting with those whom they have sworn to both “serve and protect.” A good example can be found at Open Policing. (This is important because police cannot effectively operate in a free and open society without being both trusted and supported. And community leaders need to know when that is not being maintained.)
- Further, I would encourage community and police leaders to use methods of quality improvement advocated by the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming. (More about this can be found in the book and on the website “Bending Granite,” my book, “Arrested Development,” in a number of national articles I have authored over the years, and in my recent biography by Rob Zaleski.)
- Implement change slowly, passionately, and persistently. Demand accountability and progress (data) toward achieving community-set goals. Change that lasts will take 8-10 years of consistent practice. Little can be done short of this.
- Good luck and godspeed.
The following news reports that got me writing again!
1. Black New Yorkers Are Twice as Likely to Be Stopped by the Police
‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People” – Black police officer.
“Multiple police officers in Brooklyn say they were told by a commander that white and Asian people should be left alone… At a police station tucked into an end-of-the-line subway terminal in South Brooklyn, the new commander instructed officers to think of white and Asian people as ‘soft targets’ and urged them to instead go after blacks and Latinos for minor offenses like jumping the turnstile, a half-dozen officers said in sworn statements.”
Read the rest of the article HERE..
2. Alabama Pastor Being Arrested While Watering Neighbor’s Flowers (“Gardening While Black”)
“‘What you doing here, man?’ ‘Watering flowers,’ Mr. Jennings replies, holding a hose. He tells the officer that he is ‘Pastor Jennings’ and lives across the street.”
“The Rev. Michael Jennings, a pastor of 31 years, had been watering petunias and hydrangeas when a neighbor called the police to report suspicious activity. At about 6 p.m., a police vehicle drove slowly past the neighbor’s house and parked beside it. Mr. Jennings, who is Black, recalled saying to himself, ‘Here we go.’ Then, according to body camera footage, Mr. Jennings was approached by an officer who asked him, ‘What you doing here, man?’ ‘Watering flowers,’ Mr. Jennings replies, holding a hose. He tells the officer that he is ‘Pastor Jennings’ and lives across the street, and the officer asks him to provide identification, the footage shows. But Mr. Jennings refuses, saying that he had done nothing wrong and that he was being racially profiled, according to the video. About 10 minutes later, he was arrested near his neighbor’s white porch and charged with ‘obstructing government operations.’”
Read the full article and view the video HERE.
3. Three Police Officers Beat a Man in Custody
The incident is again raising questions about the use of force by police, when it’s excessive and what can be done.
A few days earlier, in a video seen by thousands of viewers as police officers appear to use excessive force in restraining a man in their custody. In response, state police have launched an investigation into three officers who were captured on the following video — an interaction that sparked outrage on social media.
See the video and news report HERE.
Good morning Dave,
Another good blog post, alway insightful and loaded with clear statements both about the “bad apples” problem and the approaches and lessons that can help. Re-imagining; listen, think, discuss and then create. I often wish we could go back to the lates 60s and work together to rebuild our department.
I read half of your biography last night and will likely finish it tonight. Very well done and your candid and thoughtful responses to Zaleski tell your story well!
You focused on the difficult challenges you faced within your department. I think I visited you in Madison once during those challenging times and was impressed with your clear thinking and confident approach to dealing with the people who were trying to make you fail. They should have known better.
Hope to see you again soon.
All the best to you and Christine.
Thanks, Bill. Fond memories of our time in Minneapolis Police Recruit School in 1962! You have always been a close and vital friend — even when you went to Law School!
yeah, that’s definitely not a good look.
can we get the full backstory on this scene?
how many times would this happen without proof, prior to the ability to capture video?
ps: since he was only white, it wasn’t apparently so bad.
Always interested in your perspective, Jim.