In today’s Times, I read this opinion piece, “Don’t Defund the Police. Re-Fund Them, Smarter: I am a Black police officer. We need to change what it means to serve our communities,” by
Here’s the startling first paragraph:
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When I entered the police force in Virginia in 1987, I was one of the few Black officers in my department. On my first day on patrol, I was paired with an experienced white officer. As we prepared to hit the streets, he went over what he expected from me as a rookie. Then he pulled away from the curb and added, offhandedly: “Oh, if I call someone a nigger tonight, don’t get upset. It’s not directed at you, it’s directed at them.”
Throughout his career, he heard it and more:
I have personally heard some of my white colleagues mock Black people, make crude jokes or ridicule the way they speak. White officers crudely disparage high-ranking Black officers behind their backs. A sergeant once asked me if I could read or write. He also told me he didn’t think Blacks should be policemen — he said it was like “letting a fox guard the hen house.”
As always, sickening. What’s more, it’s what I have always suspected about police departments — especially, but hardly exclusively, in the South. The recent article and videos the Times published detailing NYPD violence against protesters are a thousand exclamation points to my suspicions.
Major Hughes has persuasive ideas to re-invent, in effect, policing. Here are excerpts:
The first part of that change starts with hiring. The majority of police officers do not have four-year college degrees. They don’t start their career with a foundational education that will broaden their worldview, make them empathetic to other cultures or understand human psychology.
He wants them to have that kind of broad, liberal education. And to be trained differently. I especially love what follows, because he confirms my seriously limited anecdotal observation about police attitudes:
Police are taught that the enemy is “out there.” When they arrive at work with that mind-set, they don’t know who wants them in the community, and who wants to kill them. It’s no different than troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. We are patrolling the streets of our own cities as an occupying force.
Our training also focuses on worst-case scenarios: how to arrest someone, how to fight, how to use a weapon. Instead, it should emphasize preventing escalation.
Raise their salaries to be commensurate with their education and expectations:
Police salaries are low…when you make the job attractive to people who have a college degree and aspire for something more — to create social change, to understand human psychology, to make a difference in people’s lives for the better — you get the kind of police force any community would welcome.
Train them longer and review them more carefully:
The probationary period for police officers should also be increased to a minimum of three years…Performance evaluations must focus on more than the number of arrests made or traffic tickets written.
How to deal with racism:
We must also address the racism of police departments from the inside…we should hire officers who reflect the communities they serve, by race and gender.
Localities should also have the right to enact police residency requirements and give people a say in who polices their community.
Love all of this.
Now, if somebody besides me could suggest limiting weaponry to officers who are going out into dangerous situations…