One of the things I strongly emphasize in my book is that police need to practice courtesy “to a fault.” It is one of the four “obstacles” that “arrest” the development of police. This is also what two police officers from Kansas, Chip Juth and Jack Colwell, are saying in their book, “Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect.” (See below)
Basically, respect is what it is all about – by police practicing “unconditional respect” toward everyone they encounter (and that means everyone regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity or sexual preference) they will not only be safer, but will gain the cooperation and support from the communities in which they work.
The following is a news article describing a recent event in New York City that points to the problem. In this case, there is strong evidence that what the officer did was not only disrespectful but criminal as well. In the following story, the officer failed to notice that the person he chose to assault was not just the ususal neighborhood troublemaker ( wearing “T-shirt and jeans”), but a person who was trying to help, calling 911 to say that officers needed help.
And, of course, how was the officer to know the man was a State Supreme Court justice?
Judge Says He Was Struck by a Police Officer in Queens
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, New York Times, June 5, 2012
Thomas D. Raffaele, a 69-year-old justice of the New York State Supreme Court, encountered a chaotic scene while walking down a Queens street with a friend: Two uniformed police officers stood over a shirtless man lying facedown on the pavement. The man’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was screaming. A crowd jeered at the officers. The judge, concerned the crowd was becoming unruly, called 911 and reported that the officers needed help.
But within minutes, he said, one of the two officers became enraged — and the judge became his target. The officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was his violent treatment of the suspect, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The judge said the officer rushed forward and, using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge’s throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army…
[The officer’s] actions, the judge said, were inflaming the crowd, some of whom had been drinking. But among others who loudly expressed their concern, he said, was a woman who identified herself as a registered nurse; she was calling to the officer, warning that he could seriously hurt the unidentified man, who an official later said was not charged…
Asked whether he intended to sue, Justice Raffaele said, “At this point, no, I don’t.” He added: “I do feel that it’s important for this person to be disciplined. I don’t know if he should be an officer or not — what he was doing was so violent…”
My point is that if courtesy was the police practice (even to a fault) — always unconditionally given, then mistakes like this will not occur.
Ordinarily, poor people and people of color are quite familiar with this kind of conduct from police. White males who dress in suits and ties, less so.
Remember, policing is always more about relationships than technologies (sorry, CSI lovers!).
Nevertheless, I maintain in my book , Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police,” that courtesy must be a hallmark of police in a democracy – and as Huth and Colwell maintain, practiced unconditionally!
See also the follow-up article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/nyregion/justice-thomas-d-raffaele-is-said-to-identify-officer.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y
Huth and Colwell’s book can be found on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Unleashing-Power-Unconditional-Respect-Transforming/dp/1420099744