Categories
society

What Do Police Say about Police Reform?

I tried to find out what police say is the way to reform police. Didn’t find anything.

Did find a report from the National Institute of Justice circa 2000 that showed at least some police in some departments were aware of the problems. See National Criminal Justice Reference Service: National Institute of Justice: May 2000: PDF: “Police Attitudes Toward Abuse of Authority”. It’s based on a National Police Foundation survey.

At least moderately surprised it wasn’t completely one-sided. But would still be interested in hearing what police think is the way to reform, given lots of reporting that they’ve often viewed retraining with derision.

At that time, for example, majorities thought police were permitted to use as much force as needed, that going beyond allowable force was unacceptable. A fifth acknowledged officers in their department at least sometimes used more force than necessary. About half acknowledged the omertà followed by some law enforcement officers.

They also asked about controlling abuse. While about 93% said their departments already took a strong anti-abuse stance, about 85% thought a chief taking a hard-line against abuse would help prevent it. About 90% also said immediate supervisors were important in that effort. But only 55% thought changes in methods of supervision would be effective.

Worse, supermajorities answered that training in ethics, interpersonal skills, and in cultural awareness could reduce abuse—but these are the very sorts of training that are often dismissed as wastes of time or as jokes or unrepresentative of the real world by police.

There is a racial breakdown of results, which shows an expected divergence in views between white officers and Black officers. That divide is muted but still apparent on questions around methods like community-oriented policing and citizen review boards.

But these are 20-year-old results, and they don’t tell us too much about what police think reform should look like. They do tell us, at least then, many saw problems that justify reform. More importantly: lots did not. That is an obvious place to begin efforts of reform: it’s a lot easier to make a system better if more of those involved aren’t in denial about the problems.

This also fits the general pattern that those in the best position to make reforms are silent or in denial of the need, which will ultimately mean a longer road to reform, and reforms that aren’t as well-tailored to the problems as they could be.


Police have a lot of problems. Their profession has the highest suicide rate. The problems policing causes to society, particularly minority communities, is well-documented. Part of the issue is the sort of HAL 9000 effect—that their primary directives are often contradictory, which makes them do a job that often fails to have a full-on successful outcome.

That is, if you have to protect people and punish people, that’s not workable. If you’re protecting them, then the criminals aren’t punished. If you’re punishing the criminals, then they’re not protected. Part of that is due to the system of prisons and jails, which is built to be punitive rather than rehabilitative. Police know that punishment is part of the job, but unlike nurses and doctors, they almost never get to see positive outcomes of arrests. They typically aren’t getting thank-you cards from past arrestees.

Anyway. Point is mainly that I’d be interested to see more data about how police think their jobs can change for the better.


The election comes in fifteen weeks.

Categories
society

Mass Shootings versus Terrorism

We’ve seen the countless mass shootings occur throughout the country, and we’ve seen the GOP basically shrug, time and again. Their big answer has been more people with more guns. And yet, in responding to the attack in Paris, their tune is very different.

Keep the refugees out. Only let Christians in. Track all Muslims. Troops in Syria. And, of course, at least one suggested that the French should have carried more guns.

Numerous governors, including those whose states have witnessed mass shootings, have said they will refuse to allow Syrian refugees admittance to their states.

What is the deal? Are terrorists’ bullets scarier than mass shooters’? Is it that the terrorists constantly agitate and announce their desires, where we don’t hear about mass shooters until after the fact? Are terrorists more effective than lone shooters?

Honestly, a lot of it seems to come down to ideology over ideology. Terrorists, it is thought by the GOP, are built of terrorist ideology, something that is infectious, something that could spread. They don’t have enough of a grasp on mass shootings to say whether there is any contagion there.

They see a terrorist like they see a weed in the garden. If the weed stays, it will choke off everything, spreading itself. But they see mass shooters as a rabid dog, wandering into the garden, stomping on the flowers, but once you catch it or kill it, it’s contained.

But to someone outside the GOP ideology, this just seems bizarre. You have terrorism here, with these mass shootings, which they won’t lift a finger to stop. But you have these other acts of terrorism, and suddenly they can’t do enough to prevent it. They want to move heaven and earth to stop refugees.

The solutions aren’t really much clearer for dealing with terrorism. But the implementation, who deals with it, and the types of rallying cries the GOP can give differ quite a lot. For example, they could offer free guns to Americans for every Syrian refugee admitted. They haven’t, but I doubt it will take them long.

Dealing with terrorism and refugees will be a job for the military and federal law enforcement organizations. Preventing mass shootings would likely require at least some local intervention, possibly some gun control measures. Anything that burdens gun owners just can’t rouse the same sort of energy from the GOP.

Anyway, I just think it’s an important instance of hypocrisy to keep in mind. The political convenience and inconvenience are very important factors in what happens with an issue, and it just so happens that Americans love guns a lot more than refugees.