Police departments across the country suddenly find themselves facing the justifiable threat of losing substantial amounts of taxpayer funding.
Whenever the conversation of law enforcement reforms picks up steam, as it has many times in the past, police unions step in attempting to change the narrative. Where they have succeeded in the past, they may not succeed this time. The American public has become keenly aware of what police unions do, and what they are responsible for — including the consistent interventions during the investigations of police misconduct and murder.
After years of attempting to have meaningful discussions about police reforms including all parties, we are now left with no other option than to seek out the help of city and state leaders to entertain the idea of large-scale police reform. Naturally, when police unions hear the words “police reform” they jump on it with their propaganda template to build their case against it.
One thing is certain, “police reform” does not mean abolish the police, however, it can mean tearing down the current structure of policing and modernizing it. Let’s face it, in 2020, we shouldn’t be running our law enforcement apparatus in the same way the U.S. did when it gave white folks the right to police black people in America. The notion of abolishing that specific culture of policing should make sense to most. But police unions don’t see it that way.
Police reform means eliminating the excessive overfunding of police in America. Does a town in podunk Kentucky need a SWAT team? Not likely. Do cops need to have military weapons and vehicles? No, they don’t. Do cops need to conduct no-knock raids in full military gear and assassinating people in their own homes like America is in a war zone? Hell no. Do unions need to drop the non-existent “war on cops” narrative? Yes, they do. It’s a lie. It’s propaganda.
False narratives are deflections and lies that have historically prevented us from ever achieving tangible police reforms. Police union rhetoric almost always wins and with the “law and order” policy positions of both Democrats and Republicans, it’s no wonder we find ourselves in the police-state that we are currently in. Ending the incarceration for-profit criminal justice system, state-sanctioned murders, and protections for corrupt cops is long overdue.
Reforming the police means creating a safer environment for communities and police. It means reallocating funds to take many burdens off of police officers.
Law Enforcement Complaints
The biggest complaints you hear from rank and file members of law enforcement revolve around the need to act as mental health experts, social workers, medical professionals, and education specialists while being tasked with ensuring citizens receive proper care. The job of being a cop is more complex than ever and it’s because we, as a society, would rather put more cops on the streets instead of funding programs to address underlying societal issues.
The discussion then becomes more about the limits of an officer’s abilities. One discussion that’s being had involves reshaping departments made up of more specialized teams to handle specific non-violent situations. For example, removing armed officers as first-responders to mental health calls, students in violation of dress codes at school, etc.
Instead, a small team of specialized resource officers would be better served to address these cases over uniformed cops who are on a hair-trigger already. I have argued quite successfully that police training caters to the “us versus them” mentality. Others say it can be summed up by the mantra, “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” Each calling into question an officer’s ability to carry out any of their duties and certainly not on non-criminal complaints.
Why balk at such measures? Aside from the love of Blue Privilege and qualified immunity which allow cops to wreak havoc without consequence, there is no logical reason to be against the reforms that are being proposed. Adding civilian oversight committees and officer accountability measures in the field will not only improve the public’s safety but officer safety as well.
Police training instills a combination of fear and aggression that has only increased in volatility over the last several decades. While we’ve heard that police training doesn’t teach the “knee in the neck” maneuver, outside training agencies do. These same outside agencies’ members and trainers are also known to have white supremacist views. They vehemently defended the use of hate speech by active police officers online and failed to see how that compromises their ability to do their job. This is training that helps to reinforce animosity towards the public at large.
As the public becomes more and more aware of how officers are trained, the outrage becomes more palpable and with good reason. Policing in America has historically been used to protect white comfort and the corporate interests of the wealthiest (white) Americans. There is no better example of that than the Dakota Acess Pipeline protests and when cops are tasked with targeting the homeless because some influential billionaire doesn’t want to see them.
Is that what cops wake up in the morning and look forward to?
Of course not. That’s why America needs police reforms that are based more on public safety at the local community level while also ending the hateful and antagonistic language that threatens the public’s safety every time a city takes an action against officers.
Unabated Police Brutality and Misconduct
Over the last several months, particularly during the coronavirus lockdown, nearly all crime dropped significantly, meanwhile, police brutality cases were steady. What we see is a pattern that shows cops using specific rules and ordinances to target communities of color while taking it easy on white communities. We’ve all seen the photos and videos of police arresting and beating people of color who weren’t social distancing while handing out masks to white folks doing the same. When I say police are here for white comfort, that’s what I’m talking about.
We saw the same thing when hate groups gathered at statehouses armed and ready for war if they couldn’t get a haircut. But when America rose up to put an end to police brutality and the extrajudicial state-sponsored murders of people of color in the name of George Floyd, they were teargassed, provoked, brutalized, and even had the national guard come in to address what were 90% peaceful protests, with few exceptions — many of which were provoked by white supremacists or the police themselves.
The hateful rhetoric and nonsensical ramblings of police union bosses help maintain the inherent issues that have driven law enforcement since its inception. They help dictate policies and procedures in how to handle certain scenarios, regularly recommend problematic training using companies that boast about their militarized tactics, and even recommend training in how to interact with people differently in America’s inner cities, which are largely Black and Latino.
Most of the systemic issues within America’s law enforcement apparatus are well known. Very few of us have been calling for reforms for over 20 years. We’ve seen various attempts at reforms that were instead just half-measures used to placate reformers. However, rather than improve the relationships with police and their communities, they made them much worse.
One of the biggest issues with police misconduct is that there is no system in place for an officer to report another officer without exposing themselves. Union contracts allow for officers to know all the details of any person filing a complaint on them before consequences are handed down (if any). There is nothing stopping an offending officer from sharing that information with others putting the complainant at risk whether it’s a cop or a citizen.
That’s a scary proposition for any cop.
Reforms in this area would be of great benefit to communities anytime police misconduct becomes an issue. Having cops anonymously file complaints against coworkers or their superiors would seemingly turn the issue of bad cops on its head. If citizens have complaints against an officer, that are then validated by another officer, then misconduct cases might actually be heard instead of swept under the rug as they so often are.
If not all cops are bad, why wouldn’t police officers want these types of reforms? It would certainly validate the “not all cops are bad” narrative, wouldn’t it?
Getting Behind Police Reforms
Every argument police often make can be easily resolved with reforms. Instead, their unions have them believing that they need even more legal protections. As it stands, it’s nearly impossible to hold the police to account unless we, the public, provide conclusive evidence of their wrongdoing. Which is why it’s become so important to document police encounters.
The American public is not the enemy of the police, but union bosses, trainers, and even cops in leadership positions continuously tell them otherwise. Police are not under attack. Their tactics and the systemic issues with policing and criminal justice are. Will it affect how officers do their jobs? Of course, it will. That’s the point. Our communities need to feel safe in the presence of police instead of feeling like they are an occupying force. Only reforms can change that.
Cops, especially the good ones, should willingly get behind reforms just based on their logic alone. To better protect themselves and the communities in which they serve and protect.
No more half-measures, no more bloated police budgets, and no more militarizing our police. The only thing these accomplish is an escalation in the relationship cops have with the public, which was never good. The time for reforms is long overdue and cops should back them up.