The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opinion: We need police; also need review of procedures

 

Last updated 6/16/2020 at 3:11pm



As protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer continue across the country, police procedures and budgets everywhere are coming in for a reexamination.

Our advice in this debate is focus on a few facts. We need the police even as we also need to address underlying issues in how communities are policed and how and why progress leaves some communities behind.

So beyond the rhetoric, proposed reforms shouldn’t center on disbanding police departments, but what they can focus on is reducing confrontations that too often end in violence when other alternatives exist.

Unfortunately, crime is a facet of human nature and therefore needs to be dealt with. Communities need officers who can serve and protect with honor and fairness and reject the urban warrior mentality that fuels tensions between police and communities.

Most Americans don’t want to do away with police protection, but want officers held to a high standard of conduct and removed for bad behavior. As a result, broadly speaking, reforming use-of-force policies, hiring, firing and training practices, and police interaction with communities have to be priorities.

There is enormous value in putting into place cultures and protocols that encourage serving and protecting over confrontation. In 2013, Camden, New Jersey, sent the entire force packing and reconstituted it with a larger countywide force of officers retrained to police with a community-service or guardian mindset.

Camden had been among the most dangerous cities in the nation. The change put more officers, not less, on the streets. Crime, violence and police abuses dropped as new training manuals and policies emphasized shooting as a last resort. City officials say officers received de-escalation and force minimization training before, but that the new policy better underscored the department’s new focus.

The endgame should be to create a better, more responsive police force in every city. At the top of our list of reforms is the duty to intervene, which requires officers to stop other cops from using force recklessly or otherwise abusing their powers.

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall reminded officers of this responsibility this month with a direct order, and police chiefs everywhere should do the same as well as follow it up with training and other provisions to ensure that this responsibility is ingrained into general police practice.

An officer who puts on the badge should know what is right and wrong and should have protections against retaliation for calling out fellow officers who violate rights. And cities and police departments must have the authority and the will to discipline officers who deserve to be suspended, dismissed or prosecuted.

Too often, police unions make it harder to properly discipline officers. That’s unacceptable and helps create a destructive culture of unaccountability.

There must also be a commitment to collect statistics that might reveal uncomfortable truths about traffic stops and other interactions. Transparency can enhance accountability and hopefully eventually help build trust.

Let’s not squander this opportunity to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Collecting more data on police interactions will serve as an ingredient to developing better policing policies.

— The Dallas Morning News

 
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