Long-time contributor to the LA Progressive, Mark Naison, who is also a professor of African American Studies and History, offered these ideas as he reimagined the ways in which law enforcement could function:
In the spirit of John Lennon's 'Imagine', here are my thoughts about reinventing law enforcement
Imagine if every dollar spent on armored vehicles, stun guns, and tear gas for urban police departments were invested in sports programs, music programs, and summer jobs for youth.
Imagine if CompStat were eliminated and police officers were rewarded for resolving conflicts peacefully rather than chalking up arrests for nonviolent offenses like loitering, jaywalking, fare beating or selling goods on the street.
Imagine if honest, justice-seeking police officers were rewarded, rather than punished and ostracized, for exposing fellow officers who put everyone at risk by engaging in racial profiling, or using excessive force in vulnerable communities when making arrests.
Imagine if police do what they are asked to do by elected officials and the general public. If a cross-section of our society wants police officers to conduct themselves like an occupying army in communities of color, that's what we are going to get
Imagine if we want a different form of law enforcement, we have to push long and hard to get it.
That is what is at stake in the current protests
We thought we'd expand on some of Mark's imaginings.
Trigger alert: The video below is disturbing. It was captured when Tulsa police encountered two Black children they claim were “improperly walking along the roadway” along a quiet residential street with no sidewalk. These kinds of videos are often experienced as "shocking" to everyone except the African American community who is all to familiar with this kind of behavior.
This week, an article written by LA Progressive contributing author and former LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey went viral. Its focus is the unjust treatment of Buffalo, New York, police officer Cariol Horne who was terminated for trying to stop a fellow officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, from choking a handcuffed suspect. This story gives insight into why so many police stand by and do nothing when a rogue cop has gone off the rails. You can and should read Cheryl's article. You can find it here: Cariol Horne.
Before he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation of the dangers associated with supporting a "military industrial complex". In a speech he delivered three days before leaving office, Eisenhower expressed concern for what he saw as a growing danger in the United States. Remarking that the nation never had an armament industry before WWII, he lamented the fact that a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions is increasingly seizing power. Not mentioned in his speech was the many ways the military industrial complex would negatively impact the lives of the average civilians—not the least of which is the militarization of our borders and our local police departments. Today, military-grade weaponry, tanks, drones, and various other types of combat equipment is standard fare in our local police departments. Armed for combat, police today have taken on the persona of soldiers at war. We need guardians not gladiators.
For those unfamiliar with the term CompStat—short for Compare Statistics—this highly controversial precursor to "Stop-and-Frisk" is a crime analysis and accountability system. It was initially praised as being the most revolutionary public-sector achievement of the last quarter-century, only later to be condemned as the source of irredeemably flawed statistics.
According to Wikipedia, CompStat is both a management philosophy and a set of organizational management tools currently used by police departments across the country. Introduced by the New York City Police Department under the direction of Police Commissioner Bill Bratten—who served two terms as the New York City Police Commissioner (1994–1996 and 2014–2016), was Commissioner of the Boston Police Department (1993–1994), and Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (2002–2009)—the system's critics argue that CompStat's flawed data supported a racist approach to policing that led to over-policing of Black and Brown communities.
Mark Naison's post, imagining what law enforcement could be, is a great conversation starter. Shawn King's recommendations for stopping police brutality takes you beyond conversation. Read it here. The Black Lives Matter Movement, The Movement for Black Lives and other justice-seeking police groups have come up with a list of ways to defund the police arguing we'd be better served if we invested more in community. Learn more about defunding the police here.
The unprecedented civil unrest that have dominated the news since the murder of George Floyd could mark a turning point in the ways this nation uses police. We'll keep reporting on this issue.