Policing 2020

We are in a tailspin, one crisis piling onto another has brought us to the brink with no leadership to set a path toward a future. The hubris of our current administration is staggering, to say the very least. Top to bottom, with little space between, there are messages of distortion, distraction and just plain downright lies.  Truly, we have fallen far in just a few short years; yet perhaps not so far at all. Perhaps what we are seeing is the what has been there all along, the ugliness that we drove underground in our demand for political correctness, our need for a polite society; perhaps the election of this horrifyingly unqualified President has ripped the bandage we have been using to cover up the illness we never addressed.

The murder of George Floyd forced us to finally acknowledge there is something wrong in the Shining City on the Hill. Something deeply flawed, rotting and ugly that was undermining the American Dream of freedom, justice and prosperity for all. Laws were written with good intentions; other times, laws were wrong when passed yet remain viable and unchallenged. Sometimes, as we have today, what one President does to begin to unravel the wrongs without Congress the next undoes with the stroke of a pen, simply out of petty pique. Which brings us to where we are today with policing in America, how did we get here?

The simplest answer is watching the murder of George Floyd, all horrifying 8:46 minutes of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his throat while he died, miserably on a public street, begging first for his life, for breath and finally calling for his dead mother.

The more complex answer is 158 (one hundred fifty-eight) years the Emancipation Proclamation the first step in freeing all American slaves was signed. It would require three Constitutional Amendments (13-15) to give the African American former slaves the first steps toward civil rights and recognition as true equals under the law. Just over a century later Civil Rights activists took to the streets, leading to the greatest decade of upheaval and change, beginning with the murder of Emmit Till and ending with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Here we are today, some things have certainly changed some for the better and many if we look closely for the worse. It has been 52 (fifty-two) years since Dr. King was assassinated, I wonder what he would think of us all today? In this, I can only confront one of the issues, overly aggressive policing and what it has done to our communities, more specifically our many Black and Brown communities nationwide.

So finally to the crux of the matter policing and what can be done to stop the overly aggressive stance they take today, especially with Black men but frankly with all Black and Brown people. There are some simple answers and then some more complex answers. The most complex, you cannot change the hearts and minds of men and women with deeply ingrained bias and prejudice; you can, however, force them to act in a way that you wish by making it too personally costly to do otherwise. Over time, you will weed out those who are simply incapable of change.

My personal recommendations in no particular order:

  1. Reassemble the division of the Justice Department that reviews patterns of abuse. Bring back Consent Decrees, with federal jurisdiction and limitations on federal money to those cities where clear non-compliance is found. This applies to all, large and small, cities and state levels.
  2. Require “if you see it intervene and tell,” which effectively removes the Blue Wall. Those who do not tell are as guilty as those who abuse the power of the badge and in the future, should be treated equally harshly.
  3. Create an independent State Attorney’s Prosecution division under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney General for the investigation and charging all police misconduct.
  4. Fully remove qualified immunity from police, and all other public officials for that matter, and require all those who serve to carry individual liability insurance. Without coverage, they cannot serve on any police department in any capacity, and certainly, they cannot carry a deadly weapon.
  5. Create a national database, ensure no officer fired for dereliction, abuse, or any other misconduct can be hired by any other department. The combination of this with liability insurance would rapidly reduce the “bad apples,” and we would all begin looking at leadership closely again.
  6. Require a minimum of a two-year degree in Law Enforcement with additional Police Academy training and a 6-month apprenticeship.
  7. Fully de-militarize all police forces and stop immediately the sale of military weapons to any force.
  8. Stop immediately the use of Choke Holds and other physical restraint techniques that have proven to be deadly.
  9. Change the role and power of the Police Union, they should no longer be weighing in on controversial issues, matters of policy or protecting the “bad apples” at the cost of the public.
  10. Require Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras be on at all times during all stops; any deviation from this is cause for dismissal.
  11. Require partner rotations every 6 months. I know this seems strange, but long-term partnerships create loyalties that are frequently dangerous to the public.
  12. Require on-going professional training of all police. Not just that they are able to shoot their pistols, but in other skills needed for them to work with the public.
  13. Require regular psychological evaluations of all members of the police, especially those who regularly work with the public. We need to accept their jobs can be hard, they can see and face traumatic situations daily. They shouldn’t be the enemy, we need to make certain they don’t become the enemy by giving them tools and helping them cope.
  14. Require their social media is open to evaluation, yes everyone has free speech, but those who serve must be willing to be observed as well.
  15. Divide and conquer, create non-policing agencies to support community needs and no longer use the police for these issues. Retrain 9-1-1 to identify and direct calls to the correct agencies. This is a longer-term goal and will require police, public and citywide cooperation as each determines what their true needs are.
  16. Re-write the 1994 Crime Bill. This requires everyone to come together and acknowledge how misguided we were, now badly this Bill hurt so many and then to take it apart piece by piece. This will require we begin thinking of Crime in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of incarceration in new ways. It will require we begin thinking of many of our mistakes and how we might finally, if not correct them, address them and move forward together.

I am certain I have missed somethings in this and I apologize for the length, I have watched and listened for days trying to come to what I thought might be the best “right” answer. We cannot “Defund” the police; we can, though, make them more effective and more community-focused. We cannot change the past, we can change the future.

Things I recommend if you are interested:

American Son (Netflix)

13th (Netflix)

Just Mercy (Netflix)

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Val. Those are some great recommendations; especially demilitarization of the police. We have the National Guard for military backup, if necessary. And I’m all for body cameras! Dash cameras, cell phone cameras and video surveillance have been a veritable godsend. The myriad cultural changes you suggest will, of course, take longer, but are still vital.

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