The Importance of Dialogue

images-1The following letter appeared in The New York Times on November 10th. It is a response regarding police and the community from a reserve police officer and trainer who also teaches ethics at St. Louis University. I find his remarks insightful and have taken the liberty to underline what I believe to be some key points in his letter regarding the Ferguson matter and the pervasive problems which seem to plague our nation’s police. Along these lines, you might recall the “four obstacles” to police improvement that I mention in my book, Arrested Development: “anti-intellectualism, violence, corruption and disrespect.”

Winright’s letter is something that I expect from today’s police officers. The bosses aren’t the only ones that can lead. Too often, rank and file officers are silent or depend on their union to speak for them. I don’t think that is the way the police field will improve. We need dialogue and the sifting of ideas and especially from thinking officers in the ranks.

This is one example from a person with police and correctional experience and who is also an academic.


“To the Editor:

“Re: ‘On the Other Side of Ferguson’s Protest Lines, Officers Face New Threats,’ by Dan Barry, Oct. 31):

“You write that the director of a police research organization believed that the Ferguson Police Department was ‘paying a price for failing to develop a stronger relationship with its African-American constituency.’ I agree.

“Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere show that the current model of policing must change. Given the militarization of policing and the lingering race problems in this nation, an ‘us versus them’ mentality has taken hold, worsening tensions and conflict. We need something more like community policing.

“The police need to remember that they are fellow citizens in the community, not soldiers fighting in occupied territory. They should be part of the neighborhood, working with pastors, community organizers and youth groups. They ought to be proactive rather than reactive.

“I am sad to read that Marione Johnson, a Ferguson police dispatcher and a former police officer in another town, says she and her colleagues have been called names and harshly condemned. Community members and organizations should not mirror the adversarial attitude they criticize the police for having.

“Serving and protecting the community can be dangerous, especially given how guns saturate society. We as a society ought to look at ourselves in the mirror. What kind of people do we want to be, and what model of policing would truly serve and protect us? We should all respect the inherent dignity of the other.”    Tobias Winright

The letter originally appeared HERE.

Winright also recently wrote an article on militarization in policing.