Washington, D.C.—The recent cases of police excessive use of force and the treatment against minorities in the in small, medium, and large cities, including rural areas—cannot longer continue to be ignored in the United States. Regardless if you are a “Liberal” or a “Conservative,” the fact of the matter is that something must be fixed.
Many books and journals have been written about reforming the Intelligence Community (IC), following the 9/11 attacks, but little has been written about the policing practices in the United States. Making things more challenging, police departments in the United States have been under pressure by government managers to reduce their operation costs, which absorb a considerable amount of their budgets.
Therefore, diversity training, and community policing practices including in most cases crime prevention has been diminished or completely taken out of the policing world in many police departments. Continuing education for officers addressing customer service and professionalization when dealing with people are nearly non-existent or not available.
In other words, chiefs of police all over the US are forced to adopt practices from the private sector to cut costs. While cutting costs is important in order to avoid other problems, policing in the US continues to be managed as it has been with antiquated and obsolete policing models invented decades ago. Even with the invention of recent policing models, the implementation has not shown any real successes. Therefore, it is time to think outside the box for governments in the US.
As a law enforcement professional and Latino, I know what it is to be subjected to unfair police practices. I would not want to name police departments I had dealings with in my youth but I can say that my accent and my ethnicity had a lot of to do with how I was treated. And this is not an isolated situation. It is a daily occurrence for Latinos and Blacks all over the US.
What is the problem? You may ask.
Police departments in the US take form similar to the military organizations. It is not a problem that most police departments make it a priority to recruit military personnel or that these small to large police departments become militarized. I have met great police officers that are former or current military and they make great community policing elements as well as officers who had zero military training before becoming police officers.
I have also met ones (military and non-military personnel) that consider their position a place for authority where the people they are to serve and protect are like inferiors or garbage and not as humans that deserve respect. Thus, the militarization of police departments in the US has caused a significant detachment from the reality.
Candidate for the US Presidency Rand Paul (R) has stated in numerous times his frustration in not only the militarization of police in the US but also in the unbalanced criminal justice system against minorities. I agree with him.
The reality that policing is not something to be use as a means to impart force against the community or people they come in contact with and in particular minorities. I am saddened to see what happens every day more for what we see in the news every week now. Latinos killed for throwing rocks or people arrested for not putting off a cigarette.
Things that normally could have much different outcomes but somehow, in the police culture of these departments, something is not working. My hypothesis is that inside these police departments and their culture: Management condones racism and excessive use of force. Period.
What about policing models and continuing education?
Police culture inside the police department shape decision making, structures and hierarchies, paramilitary mindsets, recruiting and hiring similar personnel that look like them. There is nothing on effectiveness or efficiencies that would cut crime and costs significantly—while providing a superior service to their communities.
“Serve and Protect” are two words that get painted on police cruisers but many times have no real meaning in the minds of people who live in these communities.
Could Police Unions force some change?
An argument I hear regularly is that collective bargaining serves to stop innovation in some cases. In my opinion collective bargaining should be not only negotiating a salary but also continuing education for these officers. Therefore, police unions could force some change by using their negotiation skills. This could be part of a complex solution to the policing crisis.
Community policing and racist Field Training Officers.
Community policing models and other friendly models must be implemented. The Field Training Officers who have been accused or sued for racist policing practices or use of force should not be training new officers. I see this on many local police departments in the Chicago Land area. This kind of thing must be stopped. The new officer immediately gets indoctrinated with a toxic policing culture that only leads to problems.
It is possible to change a racist culture inside police departments but that needs to be addressed in a “Holistic Approach” and not simply by placing blame on the people the police come in contact or the police.
The training on community relations must be learned by police and not placed on the community.
Lack of continuing education in diversity, racist police cultures, and lack of accountability are the roots of the problem. The people should never have to learn any methods of how they should talk to the police. If someone asked me that someday, police officers would be handing out cards that tell minorities how to interact with police, I would have never entered the field. It is happening now. Forget the training for officers… people must learn to talk to the police. Really…
Questioning the police? Why not!
The people should be able to question why they are stopped or why they are getting arrested. The officers must get back to their mission and who pays their salary.
In Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, on September 2014, 43 students were arrested by police and it appears they complied with the demands of the police, after receiving a shower of bullets and a few killed in the interaction. Nobody knows where they are now. Are we in the US heading to a similar situation or should people be able to question authority?
The policing crisis will bring “Federal Oversight” is another argument that comes up on a regular basis. If that is the case, it will for sure change the landscape of policing.
However, it is still possible to bring transformation and a policing model that works for these police departments, while coming face-to-face with the realities of their individual police cultures.
What works for some police departments many times may be found in successful police agencies next door. It is time to address the root of the problem in racism inside police cultures.