Many of you know that I am a person who has put a number of years into the discipline of policing a free society — and I do say “discipline” because policing consists of the multiple disciplines of psychology, sociology, law, emergency medicine, rhetoric, martial arts, history, education, and philosophy (and a few other as well).
And since my retirement, I have been watching, analyzing, writing, and listening to and about police matters. I have recently come to a conclusion about what is going on and a prediction for the future — deep-down, I do hope I am wrong!
Since Ferguson, I have felt a sense of urgency in the nation — and I know that when I write and talk about that urgency has rubbed many of you the wrong way. Agitated or not, police need to look outside themselves and into the cities and communities they serve.
Here’s what I think is going on…
- The future of American policing today rests on how well and how quickly its police can regain the trust and support of poor people and people of color.
- Trust and support are essential in order to fairly and effectively police a multi-cultural, free society like America.
- Without that trust and support, policing will have to use fear, force, and repression to maintain a semblance public order, not the consent and support of the people themselves.
The rebuilding of trust and support must be “job one.” It must begin quickly and accomplished in a reasonable period of time.
The following are steps must be immediately taken:
- Conduct meetings throughout the community and discuss what the community believes are the problems and needs. Deeply listen to them. Then pledge to return with an action plan at a time and date certain and address those problems and needs. That action plan will most likely require the following actions:
- Pledge to eliminate/severely reduce the use of deadly force against unarmed persons. Review and change policies, training methods, technology, beliefs and attitudes in order to do this.
- Train and develop within the department an ethos of respect for others, fairness in decision-making, skills in conflict management, and appreciation for diversity and its strength.
- Work closely with the various communities served. Work together and collaborate with community members. Ask. listen and act on what is seen and heard. Get into the business of collaboratively solving problems.
- Assign the most mature, educated, well-trained, and diverse police to communities with the greatest need for police services.
- Commit to continuously improve all that police do.
If this is not accomplished soon, police will find themselves isolated and set apart from those whom they serve and reduced to being pawn of partisan politics and agents of the wealthy. They will no longer be considered guardians of all the people and models of our nation’s core values and way of life.
I hope I’m wrong.