I’ve got to ask this question: “Does inaction on the part of police leaders to improve their practices and systems result in continued public discontent, distrust, danger to rank-and-file officers, and, eventually, federally-imposed consent decrees?
It’s been almost a year since Ferguson. Since that time there has been a tragic parade of police actions that have resulted in urban violence and destruction of whatever trust existed between police and those who receive their “services.” Certainly, the shooting in the back of Walter Scott by a police officer in North Charleston was an act few, if any, could justify and cried out for review and organizational changes.
You see, the problem for the most part does not impact people of means, those of us who benefit from our “white privilege.” No, the impact, the pain and grief is born by those who almost daily have negative police contacts – people of color, the poor, and those mentally ill. They are the “service base.” While we whites can be outraged by the police officer’s actions in North Charleston and other cities, we can say (silently) to ourselves, “Yes, but that wouldn’t happen to me or a member of my family.” And they would be right.
And as we well know, those who are impacted by police have little political or social power to change any police practice they find to be unfair, disrespectful, or excessive.
Then to whom does this task fall upon? Who will stand up to protect others now that things have “calmed down?” Because if nothing is done to stop the killing of unarmed men of color, I assure you it will continue.
So why am I in the game? Why do I care? I believe I have a moral responsibility as a retired police officer to speak out against bad police practices and identify things that can be improved. That’s why I chose to be a police leader. Who else can do this but those of us who know the work? And why not those few of us that are moved to observe and write about police?
Because if we care about our nation and our way of life and we want to see a better and more fair and just America, a very good place to start is by improving the responses of our nation’s police.
So I will ask again. Who will join me in this quest? Who will stand up and say what needs to be done today? Who will help me make policing a noble calling in which a diverse group of men and women closely work with the people they serve, treat them fairly and respectfully, act honorably, be very controlled in their use of force, and then be led by mature and highly-competent leaders.
This is the way to rebuild trust. This is the way to both protect and model our nation’s values. It can be done.
Here’s what you can do right now:
- Follow this blog and comment on it.
- Speak out about what needs to be done (you can find ideas on this blog).
- Offer support to your local police department: especially on implementing the recommendations of the 21st Century Task Force on Policing.
- Attend and speak out at community forums.
- Write op-eds and respond to Letters to the Editor.