Replace Consolidated Police Forces With Community Policing
In an Institute for Humane Studies video on community policing, economists Jayme Lemke and Liya Palagashvili trace the history of todays citywide police forces back to Prohibition. Politicians believed consolidating small neighborhood police departments into citywide forces with unified standards would make cities better equipped to enforce federal prohibition laws.
But consolidation came with a price, Lemke and Palagashvili say. Previously, under smaller neighborhood departments, police officers were seen as long-term partners with the community with the mutual goal of making the neighborhood safer. This is known as community policing, and it incentivizes officers to act in the best interest of the people in their community, which does not always mean arresting offenders.
You have a kid out after curfew, Lemke, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, says. Does he get hauled home to mom, or does he get hauled to jail?
But consolidated forces have a one-size-fits-all approach to neighborhood safety: enforce laws through citations and arrests. Police success quickly became measured by numbers: the number of people stopped and arrested. The culture is, youre not working unless you are writing summonses or arresting people, NYPD Officer Adyl Polanco told NPR.
Police Should Be Trained To Address Their Racial Biases
Out of all the complaints leveled against the police, the biggest one in recent years echoed by the Black Lives Matter movement is that police are racially biased.
Sometimes the cause is explicit racism such as in North Miami Beach, Florida, where police officers used mug shots of black people as target practice. But other times, such biases may occur at the implicit level, where peoples subconscious biases guide their choices even when theyre not fully aware of it .
Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor, tested police for racial biases through a shooting simulation. His initial findings showed officers generally did a good job of avoiding shooting unarmed targets of all races. But when shooting was warranted, officers pulled the trigger more quickly against black suspects than white ones. This suggests that officers exhibit some racial bias in shooting.
In the real world, this could lead police to shoot black people at disproportionate rates. Real policing situations, after all, are often much more complicated: Factors such as a real threat to the officers life and the chance that a bullet will miss and accidentally hit a passerby can make the situation much more confusing to officers.
In the very situation in which most need their training, Correll previously told me, we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them.
Things Protesters Are Pushing That Could Actually Move The Us Away From Racist Policing
Protesters against police brutality and racism have gathered to demand systemic change since the end of May, holding events in all 50 U.S. states and around the world. Impelled by the police murder of George Floyd on May 25, the protests amplify a long-standing call by social justice organizations, Black civil rights leaders like Angela Davis and many others for decades: dismantle, defund and/or abolish Americas racist and heavily militarized policing systemsand replace them with community-led safety programs and public health initiatives. The movements leadership has made it clear that the protests, many of which have been non-violent due to community participation, are calling for more than updates to existing police training programs or reforms within existing police departments. Rather, they are calling for America to rethink the response to crime and safety overall. They are calling for cities to reallocate funding away from police and begin the steps to gradually dismantle the policing system altogether, as Eric Levitz writes in a recent New York Magazine article.
As protests against police brutality and racism drive policy shifts around the nation, which changes can actually bring sustained long-term improvements?
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Police Should Be A Last Resort
Sandy Hudson, a founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto and UCLA law student, has been one of the most active proponents of defunding police.
She said continued police violence and killings of Black people in North America have sparked resistance movements from Whitehorse to Miami.
If we truly want to effect change that could stop police killings of Black people, we must have a conversation about defunding the police, she wrote in a recent HuffPost Canada op-ed.
Hudson also said defunding the police is a matter of public safety for Black communities, which interact with police regularly because they live in neighbourhoods that police target.
We are experts in the ways that police can brutalize and inflict violence upon us, she wrote.
She also said up to 80 per cent of policing in Canada has nothing to do with crime, citing the same 2018 Statistics Canada report that looked at police spending.
According to the report, police responded to 12.8 million calls for service during the 2017-18 fiscal year. This includes calls related to alarms, traffic accidents, sick or injured people, overdoses and mental health-related incidents.
Hudson said examples of Black community members experiencing mental health crises who then die after interacting with police are reasons why police should not be responding to these types of calls.
Policing is ill-equipped to suit these needs, she wrote.
And Hudson isnt alone in this way of thinking.
How To Fix A Broken Police Department
Article exploring the efficacy of reforms in policing policy that emphasize transparency and integration into the communities that law enforcement officers serve.
Read the article here:
Citizens were throwing stones and beer bottles at police officers in front of City Hall, and Maris Herold didnt understand what they wanted.
She was a police officer herself, and knew that her department had made some missteps. Most recently, an officer gunned down a 19-year-old unarmed black man, Timothy Thomasthe fifteenth black man to die at the hands of police in five years. Read more…
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Mandatory Social Justice Trainings
In 2015 in Minnesota, the American Civil Liberties Union presented an analysis and recommendations for law enforcement in Minneapolis. The analysis showed that Minneapolis police overcriminalized People of Color. The recommendations included implicit bias trainings and banning racial profiling.
This is important because it reflects a larger, nation-wide trend of policing.
Law enforcement should be taught a comprehensive history of the police system in the United States and how racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia have been inherent parts of the police system. This should include trainings on how stereotypes and implicit biases are not just harmless ideas, but how they lead to violence against marginalized people. Cops should be responsible for continuing to go to these trainings for as long as they are in service.
Programs like this are incredibly important because it really feels like the police are only around to perpetuate oppression. That is not only because of the violent and racist history of policing in the US, but how our punitive justice system continues to promote harm and discrimination.
The fact of the matter is, nothing that police officers do from the laws that they swear to uphold to the split-second decisions they make in the field happens within a vacuum. Instead, in happens within the very real, oppressive context of the United States.
Defund And Demilitarize The Police And Reallocate Those Funds Into Community
Many police budgets in the U.S. are disproportionately bloated when compared with other tax-supported social services. The nationwide trend over recent decades has been to gradually increase police budgets, while schools, welfare programs and other public services have encountered widespread budget cuts. As the original Black Lives Matter protests that began in Ferguson in 2014 brought to light, police in this countryeven in smaller precinctsare heavily militarized. Angela Davis pointed this out in a recent interview, in which she discussed how Americas police departments are the most dramatic expression of structural racism.
Several citiessome of them for the first timehave started to take that first step and reduce their police budgets, to varying degrees. For example, in Austin, the city council on June 11 voted to reinvest police funds and restrict use of force after recent police violence against protesters sent at least 31 people to the hospital. San Franciscos Mayor London N. Breed also announced a new plan on June 11 under which the city will redirect some of its police funds into organizations that serve communities that have been harmed by systematic racism, and police will no longer respond to non-criminal calls or use military-grade weapons and gear. New Yorks Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised for the first time to cut funding for the NYPD. Portland plans to .
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Banning Excessive And Deadly Use Of Force
When police continue to shoot people after theyve been restrained, taser young children, use illegal physical moves, and fire an obscene amount of bullets at someone, this proves that police officers use excessive, and often deadly, amounts of force.
Mapping Police Violence shows an interactive map of how many people, the majority of whom are Black, have been killed by police. According to Killed By Police, over 1,200 people were killed in 2015 by law enforcement.
Unfortunately, police who kill people often bear no repercussions. A 2014 report stated that although Customs and Border Protection agents have killed at least 46 people since 2004, there have been no formal disciplinary actions taken.
Police officers first and foremost need better training in negotiation and deescalation tactics. Using force should be every police officers last resort. Join Campaign Zero has an extensive list of things that police departments can do in order to limit the use of force. Police departments also need streamlined policies against deadly uses of force, standard reporting of use of force.
There needs to be community-controlled monitoring and accountability practices for when officers do use force. Furthermore, there needs to be direct civilian oversight to determine disciplinary action when police use excessive or lethal use of force. The Movement for Black Lives has an extensive explanation of how this can work.
If Police Get This Right They Can Boost Faith In Cops And Their Legitimacy In Crime Fighting
Theres an underlying point in all these strategies: More effective and transparent policing really can solve the two big problems racial bias and high crime pegged to police in America today.
Whenever another police shooting of a black man hits the news, opponents of Black Lives Matter tend to fall back on a question: But what about black-on-black crime? The suggestion is that far more black people are murdered by black civilians, so thats really what someone worried about black lives should worry about.
What these critics miss is that distrust in the police the key driver behind Black Lives Matter is also a key driver of crime in minority neighborhoods. When communities dont trust the police and are afraid of the police, then they will not and cannot work with police and within the law around issues in their own community, Kennedy of John Jay College said. Then those issues within the community become issues the community needs to deal with on their own and that leads to violence.
A recent study was particularly illuminating to this end. The study, from sociologists Matthew Desmond of Harvard, Andrew Papachristos of Yale, and David Kirk of Oxford, looked at the effects of 911 calls in Milwaukee after incidents of police violence hit the news.
Better policing cant stop all crime. There are many other issues, from jobs to housing, that also have an impact. But police, if they are trusted by the community, can have a sizable effect.
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What Reforms Could Change Police Accountability
My research offers two major changes to law and practice to reduce police brutality. First, officers who have been terminated due to police misconduct should not be able to work in law enforcement again. This recommendation is receiving bipartisan support at the federal level. It is part of Trumps recent Executive Order and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that passed in the House of Representatives.
Second, we need to restructure civilian payouts by moving them from taxpayer money to police department insurance policies. This is starting to occur in some ways at the local level. New York state lawmakers proposed that individual officers carry liability insurance.
Eventually, there will be a large civil payout for the death of George Floyd. The Floyd familys taxpayer money will be used to pay them for his dehumanization and killing. Due to qualified immunitythe legislation that often prevents officers from facing civil culpabilityofficers are typically immune from the financial impacts of these civil payouts. Since 2010, St. Louis has paid over $33 million and Baltimore was found liable for about $50 million for police misconduct. Over the past 20 years, Chicago spent over $650 million on police misconduct cases. In one year from period from July 2017 through June 2018, New York City paid out $230 million in about 6,500 misconduct cases. What if this money was used for education and work infrastructure? Research suggests that crime would decrease.
Stun Guns Are Often More Dangerous Than Actual Guns
There was a time when people thought that if we could find a non-violent weapon to replace standard firearms, police violence would no longer be a serious problem. This idealism came from a good place, but it led to an extremely quick adoption of the Taser among many law enforcement departments, and stun guns have caused no shortage of trouble since their inception. At first people thought it was a safe alternative to shooting people, and many officers were carrying one along with a gun in order to have options during confrontations. Now, however, many departments are only giving Tasers to their most trusted officers, and are suggesting their men carry pepper spray instead. This may stem partly from how dangerous Tasers can actually be, but also due to how theyve been abused.
Theres not much standardization when it comes to police training, so many officers arent learning how to use these weapons properly. In one example, a Taser was used on a child and caused permanent damage. This has happened on more than one occasion, and much outcry has been raised in recent years at police using Tasers to subdue children, old people and the disabled. The truth is if someone is in those groups, or has an unknown heart condition, the device can easily lead to brain damage or cardiac arrest, especially if the person using it isnt well-trained.
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Many Dont Want To Be On Camera
A potential solution to the problem of police violence and misconduct, especially in regards to their interactions with other citizens while on duty, are body cameras that the police wear to record their actions. The camera idea has even been pushed by President Obama, who believes that they may help curb many contemporary issues. However, the idea isnt without its detractors. Some are skeptical after the Eric Garner incident, feeling that if that was on camera and the officer wasnt indicted then we might as well not bother. On the other hand, you have police officers who are against them for various reasons some good, some suspicious.
Fighting Vs Preventing Crime
For many analysts, the real problem with policing in America is the fact that there is simply too much of it. Weve seen since the mid-1970s a dramatic increase in expenditures that are associated with expanding the criminal legal system, including personnel and the tasks we ask police to do, said Sandra Susan Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice at HKS, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. And at the same time we see dramatic declines in resources devoted to social welfare programs.
You can have all the armored personnel carriers you want in Ferguson, but public safety is more likely to come from redressing environmental pollution, poor education, and unfair work, said Brandon Terry, assistant professor of African and African American Studies and social studies.
Kris Snibble/Harvard file photo
Smiths comment highlights a key argument embraced by many activists and experts calling for dramatic police reform: diverting resources from the police to better support community services including health care, housing, and education, and stronger economic and job opportunities. They argue that broader support for such measures will decrease the need for policing, and in turn reduce violent confrontations, particularly in over-policed, economically disadvantaged communities, and communities of color.
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Increase The Federal Governments Oversight Of Police Conduct
The day-to-day operations of police departments across the country are largely handled at the state and local level. The federal government does have a role in local policing, primarily through the provision of federal funding for law enforcement for a variety of programs such as crime deterrence initiatives, hiring of officers, purchasing equipment, training, and creation of cross-jurisdiction task forces. A Brennan Center for Justice analysis found that at least $3.8 billion is given to state and local governments each year in federal criminal justice grants. The federal government also becomes involved when a complaint is made to the Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights about issues relating to police officer conduct. The complaints regard either an individual incident in which an officer allegedly violated the civil rights of a community member or an incident in which an entire police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the civil rights of the community. In those cases, the DOJ conducts extensive investigations and, upon finding violations of civil rights, commences or threatens litigation against the offending jurisdictions, which often results in consent decrees that reform police practices in the jurisdiction.