This group’s ability to time its topics so well with breaking events is starting to scare me. We’ve discussed issues related to police use of violence several times recently, including in September 2014 on the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But, there have been some big developments in the field just in the past few days.
Today (Friday 6/3), the Chicago city government released previously undisclosed information on 101 controversial instances of officer-involved shootings and violence, including 68 dash/body cam videos. This was just the latest effort to respond to public outrage over that city’s police department’s use of force. A mayoral task force recently condemned the CPD’s “code of silence” and “institutionalized racism.” Public protests are ongoing and the USDOJ is investigating the CPD as it has many other municipal police departments. Here in San Diego, the SDPD just recently released videos of several controversial use of force.
More broadly, police use of force and racial bias have been on the front burner nationally for 3+ years now, and different types of reforms have been tried in at least some of the USA’s 18,000 (!) law enforcement agencies. Things like increased use of body/dashboard cams, revamped officer training, greater transparency, and civilian oversight boards.
Yes, change is hard. The police have difficult and complicated jobs. Police culture is notoriously slow to change. Law enforcement has powerful political protectors and allies (inc. unions and politicians) that resist change. Still, I agree with Linda. We should not let this moment in the spotlight pass without reflecting on what we’ve learned about how to make the police in this country both more effective and humane.
I’ll see you on Monday.
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
The problem, if you want background:
- Police brutality is systematic not anecdotal. From The American Conservative Magazine (!).
- Bad training problem: Police training over-emphasizes fear. Recommended.
- OTOH: 15 things cops wish you knew about police work, by an ex-cop academic.
Reforms Are Happening:
- How states are moving to police bad cops and how that’s working out. A 2014 Frontline report (transcripts not video). Recommended.
- Chicago’s dreadful situation.
- “Better training” is not enough. We need a new definition of acceptable force and real oversight to enforce it. Recommended.
Of special interest – Civilian Oversight boards:
- They play an important role; but law enforcement hates having them.
- San Diego has one but it has no real power. Recommended.
Next Week: Bernie, (The) Donald, and the meaning of populism.