Keeping Our Streets Safe

An essential part of keeping our streets safe is innovating effective reforms in law enforcement – changes that honor and respect the hard-working servants of the law while restoring trust in the police by addressing issues of racial bias and police brutality.

Narrow the focus of police deployment so officers are not relentlessly called upon for all types of problems — only those that involve criminal complaints. This will require increasing the use of mental health response teams to defuse volatile noncriminal incidents.  In domestic violence cases, merging police officers and social service workers to supervise and assist both victims and defendants has proven to be effective. This team approach will protect the safety of victims and help keep families stabilized whether they live together or apart.

Recognize that while almost all police officers are good individuals, the police institution does not have the wide acceptance and trust required to provide for the utmost safety of all citizens. Several initiatives could be introduced which may restore trust in police.

Reduce potentially fatal police motor vehicle and pedestrian confrontations by eliminating unnecessary motor vehicle stops. This can be accomplished by the increased use of ticketing technology to reduce the need for police stops of motor vehicles.

Pedestrian and outdoor socializing can be made safer and more comfortable by reevaluating the use of jump out squads and similar trust-busting tactics in the effort restore trust in police.

Modernize and increase community policing with the underlying principle that trust will only come at the neighborhood level and it will be a two-way street between the community and the police, so both sides must earn each other’s trust.

Put citizens first in the legal system.  Reduce the excessive use of qualified immunity by insurance companies and defense attorneys. This can best be accomplished by leaving that question to the jury after consideration of all the evidence as to whether the police were acting lawfully and in compliance with the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Police officers and as well as citizens are also entitled to their day in court when accused of police brutality. Qualified Immunity should not be a defense attorney and insurance company’s legal tool.

Address issues of racial bias and police brutality. Diversity Training alone will not change attitudes, attitudes are formed at early age. Civics classes need to be restored and modernized to enable all citizens — including future police officers — to learn to value and respect each other in all our interactions. To address racial bias, we as individuals, communities and institutions must look at the issue directly and admit that bias of all kinds exists in all individuals.  Bias is something we should strive to eliminate in our interactions with others particularly when one set of individuals holds the balance of power such as police officers, teachers, and potential employers. To address police brutality, we must require that the least amount of force needed be used in every police encounter. The exercise of power with bias, whether known or unknown, causes dramatically unfair and even fatal consequences. To meaningfully address the issue of racial bias which exists the world over does not mean to solve it. But it is important to do regularly. It is a building block of true civilization.

As a nation of immigrants, various prejudices were inherent with the formation of a new society. Based on the bias in those beliefs, we developed a cultural environment that features systemic biases, including racism.  As each generation greets new circumstances, our education system, professional development intuitions, recreational programs and workplace incentives, could all be programmed to retool our nurturing process.