Good Policing in a Racist World

by David C. Couper

After George Floyd’s life was extinguished and watched by millions of people throughout the world, I needed to add another chapter to “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off…” — “George Floyd: Where To From Here?

That’s a good question. It is also one that has been asked throughout the years every time a young, black man is shot and killed by police. Will this tragic event cause improvement? Less deaths? It is also the question asked after every tragic mass shooting in one of our schools or other public gathering. Where to from here?

Police in our nation will never be improved through legislative efforts. I’m sorry to report this but my observations over the past 50 years confirm this statement. Legislation has never worked. Police will be improved only when citizens in local jurisdictions come together with police and elected officials and decide what must be done to improve the current situation and put agreed-upon improvement plans into operation.

Hopefully, a nation police improvement movement would eventually create “pockets of police excellence” across the nation; places other police can learn about what works. It is the point I make in that new chapter in my book. It won’t be easy and I am afraid it won’t happen in my lifetime.

Through success in improving the trust and support of our police a new breed of young officers would come to understand the system in which they work and learn methods to improve the way in which they do policing — a style of policing that understands it must learn to operate fairly and equitably in that system.

They must also come to understand that our current system of criminal justice, policing, prosecution, adjudicatory, and imprisonment is significant racist. Now most all thinking police know this, but I suggest now is the time to call out the system, support necessary changes, and, in the interim, deliver police services that are clearly fair and equitable!

This will require police officers who are smart, well-trained, have high Emotional Intelligence, and thoroughly understand the role of police in a free, open, and diverse society.

These officers must be university-educated, licensed, and trained for a minimum of three years before they are allowed to carry a firearm and make arrest decisions. Correspondingly, these officers must be highly-compensated.

One of the things they will have to know is Critical Race Theory: the unvarnished history of our nation’s responses to race over the years. They must understand “white privilege” in our culture and how it negatively affects all of us.

The key to fair and equitable policing rests in those called to do this work, no one else, this means understanding our nation’s race history, the importance of being controlled in all uses of force, being empathic with good listening skills, and able to manage one’s emotions in stressful situation.

As I said, this will take time. So we had better start today.

P.S. One of the strongest arguments that we have a racist system can be found in the following data on who gets killed by police. We can fix this if we desire to do so.

Race and Police Shootings: What New Research Says - Bloomberg

This piece has been republished from Improving Police.

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