Trust. It’s a funny thing. Trust is fragile. It takes a long time to build, a ton of effort to maintain, and can be destroyed in seconds. Once it’s gone, trust can be next to impossible to rebuild, and jades us against others trying to help. Just ask a spouse that was cheated on how long it took them to trust again.
The past two weeks have seen the destruction of that trust for a lot of people in this country when it comes to the police. There have been hundreds of cases of police brutality documented for the world to see. Police dressed in military gear firing tear gas into crowds of unarmed black people, police firing at journalists, police destroying medic tents. And those just the war crimes. That doesn’t include the normal levels of brutality that black people see every day. White people are seeing this for the first time, and it’s not just from one or two cops but from nearly every city around the country. How can there be that many one-offs on bad cops? They keep telling us it’s just a few bad apples. Keep in mind that the whole phrase goes “A few bad apples spoil the bunch.” If there are bad apples in every bunch, what does that say about the bunch?
People are losing trust with cops. Well, some people. Black people didn’t trust the cops at all, and for good reason. Police are one of the leading causes of death for black men in this country. But now even white people are losing trust in the police.
We’re sick and tired of the triple standard of American Justice. We’re sick and tired of seeing rich people treated one way for a crime, white people another, and black people a completely different way. We’re sick and tired of watching shitty people with badges literally get away with murder because they came up with a good enough story to cover their asses. We’re sick and tired of reading headlines like “Young unarmed man on knees shot 55 times by police” or “Black woman shot in bed by police executing no-knock raid at wrong address.”
The law enforcement community has broken the trust of the American people. From letting rich people get away with stealing millions of dollars to firing on unarmed black protesters while letting heavily armed white people storm state capitol buildings, to their continued actions of evading justice for their crimes, law enforcement hasn’t exactly given the citizens much to cheer about.
As I said, trust is a funny thing. If one person, party, or member of a group breaks that trust, it becomes damn near impossible for the offended party to trust anyone even tangentially related. So if one cop shoots a journalist with a rubber bullet causing them to go blind, all members of the department look bad. That lack of trust hurts everyone.
Trust can be rebuilt, but it’s not easy. The offending party has to go above and beyond to rebuild the trust they destroyed. The worse the act, the more they have to do to get even a shred of that trust back.
Considering how the law enforcement community has failed the citizens of this country, the onus of rebuilding trust lies solely on their shoulders. Changes have to be made in how police work in America happens, from the top officers to the lowest officers, and from Maine to Hawaii, from the NYPD all the way down to the local township that only has one part time officer. I’m not naive enough to think that these changes will come without some outside intervention from lawmakers, but some concessions have to be made.
Here’s some changes that I’ve thought of over the last bit of time. Some I’ve thought about for a few minutes, a few days, or a few decades. This isn’t comprehensive by any stretch, but it’s a start.
RESTRICT OR ELIMINATE QUALIFIED IMMUNITY
Qualified Immunity is a legal practice that gives police the ability to excuse even the worst actions. It’s ugly. It allows for the police to challenge any complaints against them on constitutional grounds, stating that it is their right to do whatever the hell they deem necessary to do their jobs. The way it works is that unless a case involving bad police behavior happened in the same jurisdiction and had similar facts and that the police behavior was challenged on constitutional grounds, they can do whatever they want.
Qualified Immunity literally puts police above the law they are sworn to uphold. This needs to be severely restricted, if not eliminated completely. While there is an argument for some cases of keeping QI in a limited capacity, for the general police force it needs to be eliminated. The argument for keeping it rests on whether or not a police officer is allowed to break the law while upholding the law. For example, an undercover cop needs to have some leeway with the law so that they can do their job without raising suspicion and blowing their cover. Or, a police officer that sees a baby trapped in a car needs to be able to break out the window to save the baby. But QI should not be used to cover up claims of abuse, using excessive force, or stealing from suspects.
ENACT UNIVERSAL RULES OF ENGAGEMENT THAT ARE STRICTER THAN THE U.S. MILITARY
The United States Military, like every other military in the world, operates under a code of what to do, when to do it, and how to escalate when things go wrong. There are steps they have to go through before they can exercise lethal force. These are codified as Rules of Engagement.
It’ll shock most people to learn that many police officers don’t have ROE’s. This is determined by the department or maybe by the state, but many places do not have codified ROE’s.
The Law Enforcement Community (LEC) needs to standardize and adopt Rules of Engagement for every police officer, and make these rules known to citizens as well. We need to know our rights and whether or not a police officer is violating them. The use of deadly force MUST only be used as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.
REMOVE WEAPONS AND TACTICS FROM THE POLICE THAT ARE CONSIDERED WAR CRIMES
According to international treaty, the use of chemical weapons is banned. Attacking medics and targeting their supplies is a war crime. Yet police around the country in the past week attacked protestors with tear gas, pepper spray, and destroyed medical supplies and targeted protester medics.
These tactics and weapons need to be outlawed. There is no reason why weapons considered too dangerous for military use should be used on unarmed and untrained citizens.
GET RID OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT
While we’re on the subject of military stuff, the policy of giving the police surplus military gear needs to stop. Giving police officers the Army’s hand-me-downs has proven to be dangerous, and has led to escalations in violence.
INCREASE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL OFFICERS AND SUPERVISORS
The year is 2020. We have cameras in phones, computers, toys, drones, hats, glasses, doorbells, pet collars, and glitter bombs. Cameras are everywhere. Police have body cams and dash cams. But they’re only effective when they’re working. There were too many instances of cameras being turned off during the riots. This doesn’t include the body cams that would “accidentally” shut off during an incident when a police officer allegedly abused someone. It’s almost like that footage would have proven that the officer was a piece of shit.
Going forward, all uniformed police officers must have their body cams on and recording at all times. If at all possible, similar standards should apply to plainclothes cops, though there are some exceptions to be considered. All police vehicles must have cameras that catch the perimeter of the vehicle. If the camera goes down, the officer is to do everything they can to reactivate it immediately or replace it with a backup they have available. Failure to do so will result in a 30 day suspension without pay.
Any police officer that covers their badge number should be suspended pending an investigation.
To make sure that the officers hold each other accountable, if a supervisor has multiple instances of officers concealing their identity or turning off their cameras, they will be punished as well. Each time one member of the precinct or division fails to activate their camera or covers up their badge, EVERYONE will have to go through training. Everyone.
All police departments must have independent review boards composed mostly of civilians, and have unfettered access to all police activity. There will be restrictions for active investigations, but these review boards must be able to see what the police are doing. These boards must be automatically included in any and all complaints of police abuse.
EXPAND TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL PEACE OFFICERS
Did you know that the requirements to become a police office in Pennsylvania are less strict than that of a hairdresser? A police officer needs 859 hours of training to become certified while a hairdresser needs 1250. There are many other states where it is easier to become a cop than to braid hair.
The requirements to become a police officer need to expand, and should focus on weeding out the bullies and racists. Police officers should also be required to recertify every 3-5 years, and that process needs to include keeping up to date on process changes. Recertifications need to take into account their service record and focus on improving those skills. If their record shows multiple instances of violence, then their recertification should not be granted.
WEED OUT THE RACISTS AND BULLIES FROM THE POLICE FORCES
This cannot be said loud enough, but there are too many racists in police departments across the country. I’ve reported on this before but there are many white nationalist groups that have infiltrated local and even state police departments across the country. On top of that, there’s a lot of psychopaths that get a hard-on being all tough.
Going forward, reviews must be made of casework of individual officers and that work needs to be compared to similar cases. When the data is analyzed, in situations where there was a disproportionate response based on race, class, or amount of force used, those officers will be investigated. Also, tip lines must be in place to allow citizens to report when a police officer is found to have connections to hate groups like the KKK, 3 Percenters, Evropa, or Neo-Nazis.
REQUIRE OFFICERS, DEPARTMENTS, AND PRECINCTS TO CARRY INSURANCE AGAINST IMPROPER BEHAVIOR
Without qualified immunity, police officers could be liable for their actions. If a police officer, say, tases a pregnant woman causing her to lose her baby, that officer could be sued and be responsible for a very large payout in court. That’s kind of hard given their pay.
This should be treated just like doctors. Doctors and hospitals have malpractice insurance. This prevents the doctor from losing everything they’ve worked for because of one mistake.
Police officers, their precincts, and departments should be required to carry their version of malpractice insurance. Not only would this punish bad cops who keep getting complaints against them, but would reward good cops and precincts as they would have more money to spend. If a bad driver has to pay more to drive on the road, a bad cop should pay more to wear a badge.
CREATE DATABASES THAT CONTAIN POLICE COMPLAINTS, RECORDS, AND ACTIONS THAT ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Right now, we don’t know who are the bad cops and good cops. Even other cops don’t know. We as citizens only find out about a cop having a dozen abuse complaints against them after a tragedy occurs. That has to change.
Going forward, each state has to have it’s own database that includes basic non-privileged information on the police officer such as badge number, department, how long they’ve been on the force, how long they’ve been a cop in total, why they moved, have they had disciplinary actions taken against them, who accused them, what happened, and what was the final result. These databases have to be accessible to the public, most likely through a website that returns some info for free but explicit details might require payment. I’m thinking of the deeds office as an example.
KEEP BAD COPS OUT OF WORK, STOP THE CYCLE OF HIRING IN THE NEXT TOWN OVER
It’s bad enough that it’s next to impossible to fire a bad cop, but when they do get fired or quit before they get fired, they’ll pop up in another department. There was an incident around Pittsburgh within the past year or so where a cop was fired, hired at another department, and on his first day on the job shot and killed an unarmed young black man. It came out that this officer was fired for abusive behavior. Had there been an open database to search, it’s not likely he would have been hired again.
If a police officer is fired with cause, their certification should be suspended for 90 days pending review. That review will determine whether or not they should have their certification permanently revoked, temporarily suspended, further training is needed on problem areas, or their certification is restored. This information has to be available in the database listed above.
ELIMINATE THE CODE OF SILENCE FOR BAD BEHAVIOR
Cops are a different breed of people. Most of them are kind, caring people deep down who spend all day seeing people at their worst. Unfortunately, we’re not in this mess because of them, but their co-workers who are wastes of oxygen. But we don’t hear anything about how bad these cops truly are until a tragedy occurs.
Going forward, whistleblower protections need to be expanded and strengthened for police officers to encourage them to get rid of the bad apples. If an officer receives multiple complaints, their previous associates like supervisors and partners will also be investigated to see if this behavior was new, or if these other cops were covering up for them.
PENSIONS AND PROMOTIONS DEPEND ON PERFORMANCE
Very few jobs have a pension anymore, and those that do are a small percentage of their salary that is only available after the employee reaches retirement age. Cops on the other hand get a pretty nice pension. Their reward for eating a shit sandwich every day for 20 years is half their salary, and full salary after 30. This depends on the department, but a cop could retire from the force in their 40’s and receive half of their yearly base wages for the rest of their lives.
One of the factors going into the math for pensions and promotions will be the information that is publicly available. If a cop has multiple complaints of violence, that should affect how long they have to work to get and keep those benefits. Those complaints could add years on to how long they have to work to collect their full pension.
FORCE POLICE UNIONS TO ADHERE TO THESE CHANGES
These changes need to be enforced in all collective bargaining agreements going forward. If the union continues to underperform, they run the risk of losing their ability to organize.
These aren’t the only things that need to change, but this is what I came up with right now. I hope that we can get to work on changing things right away, but this is going to take a while. A large portion of Americans have never trusted the LEC, and a lot of people have seen that trust broken.
To be honest, I’m torn. I genuinely hate bad cops, I’m not torn about that. I’m torn about what this means for our country going forward, and my friends and family in the LEC. I’m torn because I see how much my fellow citizens are hurting on all sides. I’m finally understanding exactly how screwed black people have been all these years. I thought I knew, I had a pretty good idea, but I was off by quite a bit. It’s like climbing up a mountain and getting to what you thought was the summit, but was just the first base camp. At the same time, I see how hard this is on the LEC friends and family. They’re exhausted from constantly working and are now getting shit from people they never had problems with before. I’m torn because I don’t want to see any more people get hurt, but I know that we’ve got too far to go without people getting hurt.
You know what I’d love to see? Good cops calling out the bad cops. Don’t give us this bullshit about how good cops hate bad cops and then they don’t do shit about it. Publicly name and shame the assholes. Until then, those words about good cops ring hollow. It’s hard to think that good cops care about their community when they’re busy protecting the bad cops. If the answer comes back “it’s complicated”, I’d like to point over to the Catholic Priests. They used the same argument when they shuffled around pedophiles to avoid prosecution, and because of that trust in them fell like a rock.
I’d also love to see a change in how the police respond to events. Maybe, they should respond with considerable force for the situation. Out of the myriad of violent events over the past week or so, they all operated under a similar pattern. Something happened to provoke an over the top response from the police, and they responded with an over the top action. We have police officers in full body armor, riot shields, fully armed with lethal and less-lethal weapons, lining up against a group of young adults wearing t-shirts and jeans. One of the cops will claim that the protesters threw a rock or a water bottle at them, and they use that as an excuse to unleash hell on the crowd. Seriously. That’s their reaction to a water bottle. I’ve been hit with water bottles before, I never tried to blind anyone for it. It’s unsettling to know that trained police officers in riot gear have less control of their reactions than the average middle aged white guy.
We have a long way to go, and need everyone at the table. We can’t move forward as people until we recognize that black people matter, and that the police need to be better. I’m hopeful that we’ll see some change come out of this, but it’s going to be a long road. Trust has been broken, and it will take a lot of work to regain that trust. For many Americans, that trust was never there to begin with.
Thank you, and have a good one.