Police Conduct

I had an incredibly poignant conversation with a young friend yesterday. Our conversation was centered around the ongoing imbroglio surrounding the Police killing of 18 year old Ferguson Missouri Resident Michael Brown.  My friend was adamant that there is not enough outcry when blacks kill blacks. He feels fundamentally that the black community has a higher expectation of police than we have of ourselves. So we had an interestingly cordial exchange. I agree with my longtime friend that this cannot be it.  We simply cannot be upset at police while giving our own killers in our community a pass.

However ,Black on Black crimes are punished by the system, as long as law enforcement find evidence these perpetrators are brought to justice. America’s Prisons are filled with over 2 million people. The vast majority of the incarcerated are African-Americans. The issue for the black community is that whenever there are alleged police excesses the community has to take to the streets just to get an investigation started . There must be equal protection under the law. We cannot have the same expectation of Police that we have of Gangs. Police Officers are sworn to protect and serve.That is why they are held to a higher standard of conduct and accountability than criminal Gangs. The way some cops have been acting there seem to be little distinction between the two . Law abiding citizens have an absolute right and  expectation that the police will not abuse or kill them.

Unfortunately for the African-American community, after the protests we go back to the way we were. We go back to accepting disrespect from Police. The issue of Police abuse is now a serious epidemic across America. It will not change , because white Americans do not see police in the same way Blacks do. Many in the black community believe if there are more black cops the community’s relationship with police will be enhanced. I disagree, it’s a band-aid approach which will only fix the optics. How many times have we seen black cops abusing black people , or not doing anything about their white colleagues who commit abuse in their presence?

The issue for the black community is one of  respect. Police do not respect the community, the community do not trust the police. Crime is higher in black communities because of the enmity which exist between the two groups.I have had  police officers tell me they are encouraged not to have a friendly relationship with the community they serve. In many cases these are top down decisions  which have dire consequences for minority communities and officers alike. When the community is opposed to officers it places officers lives at risk. It puts residents lives at risk.

The attitudes of Police brass and unions will have to change if there is to be an improvement in the way police are viewed. A toxic relationship between police and citizens serves no one.

Anyone living in or around New York City during the tenure of Rudolph Giuliani will recall the horrific incidents of callousness carried out on black and brown citizens  by NYPD cops, attributable largely to the rhetoric coming from Giuliani who clearly had a deep seated disdain for people of color. ,Patrick Dorismond, Amadou Diallo , Anthony BaezAbner Louima,.

The list of those killed and abused is long and varied. Unfortunately this did not end when Giuliani left office, the killing of young African American men continued under Bloomberg, and into the present Administration.

Perhaps the most powerful advocate for a professional police force was Sir Robert Peel, a Minister of Parliament who served as Home Secretary for the United Kingdom in the 1820’s. In 1829, Peel established the Metropolitan Police Services in London. With the founding of London’s police force, Peel became widely regarded by criminologists and historians alike as the father of modern policing. British police officers are still known affectionately as “Bobbies” in honor of his first name, Robert.

Public Opposition

The concept of a centralized, professional police force was a tough sell initially, and was met with a tremendous amount of resistance. There was a fear that a police force would essentially behave as another arm of the military. As result, there was an understandable reluctance to agree to be controlled by what many assumed would be an occupying force. In order to overcome this opposition, Peel is known for laying the framework for what a police force should be comprised of how a good police officershould conduct himself. While there is debate as to whether he ever clearly enumerated his ideas in any sort of list format, it is generally agreed that he created what are to this day considered to be the primary principles of policing.

  • The purpose of the police force is to prevent crime and maintain order.
  • Police depend on the approval and trust of the public in order to effectively do their jobs.
  • The ultimate goal of policing is to achieve voluntary compliance with the law in the community.
  • Police must be unwavering in their duties and adherence to the law, maintaining impartiality and avoiding the temptation to be swayed by public opinion.
  • The use of force and physical control is to be used as a last resort, only when other forms of persuasion have failed.
  • Police officers must remember that they, too, are members of the public and that their purpose is to serve and protect the public.
  • The true measure of the effectiveness of any police force is not the number of arrests or police actions taken, but the absence of criminal conduct and violations of the law.

 I wish to publish this for the benefit of cops today. These are the principles by which police officers must be guided. Consent of the citizens not citizen domination. Unless of course American police officers still do not see African Americans as citizens.