Moving — now — toward police reform

Stop executing black people Fibonacci

Photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license

We need police reform, but, bottom line: police reform is not enough. Just like passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act or the 1965 Voting Rights Act was not enough. Not enough — because reforming police practices, policies, training will not end racism. But saying police reform is not enough does not mean that such reform is not needed, not essential, not potentially life-saving. Police reform is not THE solution, but reforms are some of the necessary steps along the road to solutions.

I started to write a post about policing and reform. That’s not enough. Police reflect the society that gives them guns and tanks and armor them and sends them out like armies of occupation. So I decided to write two posts: one about police reform, which is needed, and a second about why police reform will not (by itself) solve anything.

First, from from Ijeoma Oluo via Vox and Twitter, a list of steps you can take, right here, right now. Second, ten steps laid out by Campaign Zero. And finally, an eloquent statement from Kenyon, MN police chief Lee Sjolander about how policing ought to work.

Ijeoma Oluo via Vox and Twitter lists some questions to ask and steps to take as an individual advocate for police reform in your own city:

1) Do you know your city’s police accountability procedures?

2) Do your police have any provisions for citizen oversight?

3) Is there a civilian oversight panel to review police shootings and misconduct?

4) if you do not know this you can google your city with police accountability/review procedures

5) what is the threshold for indicting police for misconduct? Example: in Seattle (where I live) you have to prove willful malice.

6) Do your police have body cameras?

7) When you do your research, if you don’t like the answers to these questions, if they do not hold police accountable, here’s what u can do

8) Demand your city council member make police reform a priority. If they won’t, vote them out – recruit friends to do the same.

9) Demand that your mayor do the same. If he/she won’t vote them out & recruit friends to do the same.

10) Do not give money or votes to any candidate who will not make police reform a priority. Make sure they know that is a requirement

11) Demand that your sheriff and local DA’s office do the same.

12) just google your city name + city council – all the contact info should be there.

13) along with phone numbers, email addresses – all the info u need to remind them that black lives WILL matter whether they want it or not

14) Do this today, do this tomorrow, do this every day like your life depends on it – ours actually does.

Campaign Zero believes that, “We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people.” Sounds like a simple enough goal.

Their website has details on all of the ten steps, and information on how to act and what demands to make at federal, state and local levels.

James Densley, an associate professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University, addresses the training and demilitarization pieces in today’s Star Tribune. In part, he says that current training emphasizes use of force rather than de-escalation techniques:

“[T]reating everyone with fairness and respect (what criminologists call “procedural justice”) comes second to putting hands in pockets or pulling the trigger. PPOE students complete about 50 hours of firearms training on average but only five hours of de-escalation conflict resolution training, most of which is classroom-based and focuses on the “letter of the law” not the nuances of mental illness and other concerns.”

Finally, a human and humane perspective from Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander, whose message, posted on his department’s Facebook page, has been republished in the Washington Post and The Atlantic:

If I was your chief, and we worked for the same agency, serving the same great community, I would attend rollcall, and here is what I would say…

We have calls for service that we need to respond to. We have a grateful public that needs us, we have responsibilities… Yes, there are those out here who do not like us, or what we represent. It’s been that way long before I or you became officers, and it will be that way long after we’re gone.

I, as well as the public we serve have certain expectations, and we would all like them met when you can.

Here are just a few…

We expect you to be kind, we expect you to be fair, we expect you to be professional, and we expect you to do the best you can on every call for service.

We expect you to know the difference between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law, and when to use your best discretion.

We expect you to leave people better than you found them when you can, and never take away someone’s dignity.

We expect you to be well-trained, and to know when, and when not to apply your training.

We expect you to be human. That means it’s ok to laugh, cry, and be scared at times.

I want you to remember why you chose to answer this public service calling. I hope it was to be part of something bigger than yourself, I hope it was to serve the public that we love, and I hope it was to build relationships with coworkers, as well as our public.

I hope you chose this calling because you love having a front row seat into the lives of people, love problem solving, and know that what you do makes your family and friends proud.

Yes, we are all sharing in some dark times right now. But, we still expect you to be brilliant at the basics and do your job to the best of your abilities.

As your chief, I also wanted to add these expectations. I expect you to patrol your areas with a smile on your face, kindness in your heart, calmness in your soul, and a wave to those you see.

I expect you to get out of your patrol car, and visit. I want you to listen to the compliments, the concerns, take them all in, and remember, it’s not “us vs. them.”

I expect you to show others that we are better than these tragedies and we are striving to be better in so many ways.

I expect you to be safe at work, and at home. I hope you visit with your family openly about the current state of our nation, and how if we give into fear, violence, propaganda, etc. we will not be part of the solution.

If you, or another member of our public service family is struggling, I expect you to get help, and I expect you to help others. I promise you, there is no shame in seeking help and being well.

I, as well as so many others are here for you. If you need me, I will be just a phone call, or radio call away.

I truly appreciate, and love each and everyone of you.

Stay safe,



1 Comment

Filed under human rights, police and crime, race

One response to “Moving — now — toward police reform

  1. Pingback: Why police reform doesn’t matter | News Day

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