Reclaiming our Police Forces

A couple of articles worth reading on the subject of Law Enforcement. One of the real important reasons for ending the drug war, in my opinion, has been to reclaim the positive relationship between police and their communities. The drug war in particular, along with militarization, has turned the police against those they are supposed to serve, and vice versa.

bullet image Why We Need To Stop Exaggerating The Threat To Cops by Radley Balko

When cops are told that every day on the job could be their last, that every morning they say goodbye to their families could be the last time they see their kids, that everyone they encounter is someone who could possibly kill them, it isn’t difficult to see how they might start to see the people they serve as an enemy. Again, in truth, the average cop has no more reason to see the people he interacts with day to day as a threat to his safety than does the average resident of St. Louis or Los Angeles or Nashville, where I live. [...]

Of course, there are other factors that have contributed to the psychological isolation of police. One example is the move from foot patrols to squad cars or, more broadly, from proactive to reactive policing. When cops walk beats, they become a part of the communities they patrol. Residents see them out and about. They learn names, faces and places. When police patrol in cruisers, they’re walled off from neighborhoods. [...]

So we have cops whose interactions with the public are negative the vast majority of the time, who are constantly told they’re fighting a war, and who are constantly reminded that their job is highly dangerous and getting more dangerous, and that they could be killed by anyone at any time. When they start to see the people they serve as the enemy, they begin to treat them that way. The people in the communities treated that way then respond in kind. Thus, we get the hostile, often volatile cop-community relationships we see in too much of the country today, in which citizens don’t trust cops enough to help them solve crimes, and cops feel so threatened and isolated that even well-meaning officers won’t report fellow officers who break the law.

bullet image Saving Law Enforcement Organizations From Themselves by Diane Wattles-Goldstein (LEAP Member). Diane writes about a loathsome statement made by a police union member in support of officers who conducted body searches merely based on the supposed smell of marijuana.

So the Drug War marches on with more victims, collateral damage to a futile attempt to control human nature. All the while, supposed criminal justice professionals like Roberts continue to influence a profession that I loved, changing our course from protecting those we have sworn to serve to victimizing them at unknown cost to our humanity. Professor Roberts, I would simply ask you that if this were your wife, your daughter or someone you loved, would you be so callous? I think not. So I offer a bit of advice that I used to tell my officers: Before you say or do something, ask yourself if your mother would be proud of your words or actions, and would you be happy to see it on the front page of the news? Clearly, with this remark, you failed both standards, and would have done well to remember that even if you are not a real police officer, as the head of their union you don’t just represent yourself, but also a profession that you have brought to a new low.

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