We need to have a conversation with our police.
We need to tell them we have high expectations. Then help them meet those expectations.
For too long now, the conduct of many of our nation’s police departments have been unacceptable. This unacceptable conduct has ranged from thwarting protesters, pepper-spraying non-violent demonstrators, questionable stopping and frisking, racial profiling, tracking American Muslims, quickly resorting to physical force when trying to solve a problem, and dishonesty (both personally and organizationally). I think it’s time we started a conversation with our nation’s police and let them know our expectations.
I spent over 30 years of my life as a city police officer. I worked on the street, taught recruits, investigated crimes, and served as a chief officer. I spent a career trying to improve the police officers for whom I was responsible. During the last 20 years of my career, I led the police in Madison, Wisc. It was there that I came to believe that police can be significantly improved, handle protest without violence, and be a model of problem-solving and collaboration. Police can be changed for the better. The record will show that this was done in Madison and has been sustained to this day.
I discovered that four historic obstacles prevent our nation’s police from being the type of police officers our democracy needs. First, the attitude of anti-intellectualism, requiring low educational requirements for police applicants, and disdaining the applicability of social research. Second, using force as the only option when solving problems or confronting dissenters. Third, widespread corruption within many major police departments which ranges from breaking the law while claiming to enforce it to the widespread taking of bribes, giving false testimony, and even selling drugs. Fourth, the practice of discourtesy, when not only dealing with suspects and arrested persons, but also with victims, witnesses, by-standers, and members of the media.
Unless we begin to do something today, it will only get worse.
In my new book, Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chiefs Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police, I describe the problem and present a way out of this morass.
Will you begin a conversation with your local police department?