Police Reform: Practical Measures
Is police reform necessary in 2020? The resounding answer from the public, and from experts who have studied the issue for years, is yes. But what do we mean by the term police reform? In order to make it happen, we first have to define exactly what it is we want to accomplish. So let’s start with the problems in policing.
Issues in Policing
While there are many issues that require serious contemplation when it comes to policing, let’s narrow it down to the problems that directly impact the public. Certainly, police pay, benefits, and hiring requirements are linked to the quality of officers on the street. Additionally, laws giving police officers generous leeway when it comes to use of force have resulted in countless tragedies. Finally, the fact that officers must address a variety of people and situations, ranging from outright dangerous criminal behavior to mental illness, often with limited information, puts a strain on their ability to handle calls for help appropriately. Well-documented instances of racism have incited fear and distrust across the country. These issues, and more, impact a climate in policing that has led to injustice, pain, and even death in communities that the police are sworn to protect and serve.
A National Discussion Emerges
The problems here are vast and complex. Certainly, there’s no silver bullet to address policing in America. Even so, it is widely agreed that the time for change is long overdue. What needs to happen? Here are some suggestions from the experts:
- Civilian review boards: Because so many people, especially in communities of color, distrust police, more transparency related to use-of-force and other issues is essential. Communities often believe officers are not held to account for their actions. Civilian review boards- particularly if they have power to recommend disciplinary action– are a step in the right direction.
- National Registry for Police Misconduct. This could keep bad cops from finding new jobs after they’ve been fired.
- Racial Bias Training: After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a grant from the Justice Department provided training for officers. The core of instruction focused on police interactions that often led to behaviors that demonstrated discrimination, leading to trust issues with the community.
- Flood the Community with Resources: Changing the perception of police, both within departments and among communities, could depend, in part, on the way police frame minor issues. For example, in Minneapolis, officers stopped ticketing for broken tail lights, and instead provided vouchers to make needed repairs.
- Policies: Policy changes are a must across the country. Already, many departments have provided de-escalation training, but that is only a first step. Tactics like neck restraints need to be banned.
- Sustained training: Scott Thompson, former police chief in Camden, N.J. aptly notes that, “Within a Police Department, culture eats policy for breakfast.” When departments rely on initial training to sustain behaviors and a positive culture throughout the careers of their officers, they are doomed to fail. Officers need regular boosters in community relations, de-escalation, and anti-discrimination, not simply a class after getting into trouble.
- Rooting out corruption: It’s time for the good old boys culture in policing to give way to conscientious, community-driven law enforcement. Many departments are making progress. Others have a long way to go.
Justice in Communities
Have you been mistreated by police here in Las Vegas? Do you need a legal advocate to fight for justice on your behalf? At Lobo Law, that is precisely what we are prepared to do. Schedule a confidential consultation with our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers today.