Police Reform

From the Desk of the Editor

There are a lot of ideas out there regarding police reform. I am no policy expert nor do I hold myself out to be one. But you don’t need to be an expert to know that the way we are being policed now doesn’t work and it is in desperate need of reform. Here are a few ideas that I have researched and a few ideas of my own. First and foremost, I think the whole idea of policing needs to be reimagined and reframed. We don’t need to send a man with a gun for every single social infraction. We need to limit contact with the police except for the most serious and dangerous of crimes. Most things the police handle now can be handled by a social worker. Speeders on the freeway can be handled by technology. Every time a cop pulls someone over for a broken tail light a life-threatening situation is engendered. This is completely needless. So, less contact with the public.

My friend Jenny Bean made the following contribution on a FB thread in a discussion of these matters: Instead of police responding to instances of intoxication/substance abuse or mental health crises where a weapon is not being wielded, we could have counselors and medical personnel trained in de-escalation techniques as well as the proper resources to offer on-going help after the fact. Another point to consider, nurses subdue unruly patients on a regular basis, and they do it without killing anyone.

In Eugene, Oregon, an organization called CAHOOTS was started in 1989. Twenty years later, they handle almost 20% of the area’s public safety calls, including those for mental health crises and public intoxication. They also respond to de-escalate personal disputes.

Some have called for defunding the police. What does this mean? It means different things to different people. It is pretty much just a slogan. But basically, what it means is we want to demilitarize the police and divert money to much needed social programs. It could mean the reduction of officers. As previously stated, a lot of the work they do could be handled by social workers.

Some police departments are so bad they may need to be dismantled and started over from scratch. The Minneapolis City Council has just voted to dismantle their Police Department and reconstitute it. They will spend the next year talking about what that will look like. Camden, New Jersey, a city I am most familiar with, shut down its police department and started over again seven years ago. Before the shutdown it was considered one of the most dangerous cities in America. After it was rebuilt crime rate dropped 50% and complaints against the police dropped 95%.

The mindset of police officers must be changed from a Warrior mindset to a Guardian mindset. Focus should be on a community-based serve and protect model. The cops have to stop looking at civilians as enemies.

Hiring practices. Cops should be licensed and have a four-year degree in criminal justice. They should not be hired if they have previous disciplinary action on their records for brutality against citizens. Psychological profiles should be performed to make each candidate is suitable for the type of work required of a police officer. Candidates should be screened for innate bias against people of color. There should be standardized, intensive, and expanded training. Choke holds must be banned. There should be civilians on review boards.

Cops must be held accountable for wrong doing and misconduct. End qualified immunity. As it stands now it is practically impossible to prosecute and convict cops of wrong doing because of qualified immunity, police unions, collective bargaining agreements, and legal immunity. This must change.

There should be stronger protection under the 4th amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Citizens should be secure in their homes, their property and in their cars.

Other ideas

  • Duty of police officers to intervene and to report
  • Body cams for all police officers
  • National Registry for police misconduct
  • Screen for innate bias against people of color.
  • End “no knock warrants”

Kamal Harris just introduced a Justice in Policing Act which covers the following points

  • Set a national standard for use of force
  • Expand independent investigation into police misconduct.
  • Establish a national police misconduct registry
  • Require states to report use of force incidents
  • Ban “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.

Police must be held accountable for use of excessive force, brutality, and extra judicial killings.

We don’t want a militarized police force, nor do we want to live in a police state.