The Road Ahead

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THE ROAD AHEAD: Ferguson and Beyond

I was recently asked in an interview what was the ONE THING that could be done that would help improve our nation’s police. I said that it was NOT body cameras, or better technology, or even more training. No, it was the improvement of the character and intelligence of the police officer that would help bring about the change we need.

And the way to do this would be to broaden the world-view of those officers.

That was my experience when after a couple of years on the beat, our government passed legislation to fund college educations for working cops like me. The combination of being a university student by day and a cop by night confronted and expanded my world-view about people, race and culture. It could do the same for prospective and newer police officers today who do not have a four-year college degree (as many of you know from following this blog is that my bias is for a liberal arts education).

Improving our police and making them more democratic and responsive to their communities will take time and leadership. It won’t happen quickly. There are no short-cuts. But it can be done!

But if it is to happen it will take a new breed of police leaders who are well-educated and trained; have a broad world-views, understand and practice the principles and values of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and respect the dignity of every human person.

The way ahead for our nation’s police is higher education – not police science or criminal justice programs, but a traditional and rigorous liberal arts curriculum consisting of courses in sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, literature, languages, and sciences.

The road ahead must develop the intellectual abilities of our nation’s police officers and teach them a modern, collaborative, and non-coercive leadership  style (see Quality Leadership).

The next level would be to put this brain-power and leadership skills into operation.

I would like to see a national commission re-visit and re-affirm the American Bar Association’s Standards Relating to the Urban Police Function and then have the government give incentive funding to police departments who exemplify a style of democratic policing consistent with a free society such as ours; in short, Model Police Departments. These departments (hopefully scattered throughout the country and consisting of both large and small-sized agencies would be designated as Police Centers of Excellence. They would be expected to be teaching organizations whose officers would be available to help other police departments learn and improve through various on-site visits.

What do you think? What are the one or two things that you think need to be accomplished?

What would you tell President Obama and the 21st Century Policing Task Force he recently created?