The problem with police abusing their power, especially against minorities, and killing blacks is not a new one. The problem with police goes far beyond the episodes of police killings. There is a huge problem with a police culture that tolerates corruption and police criminality.
Bandaids won't fix this problem. This is certainly true of the police in New York City, where there is a hundred plus year history of police brutality and corruption. The problem is deeply rooted in the culture of police, with many police being third and fourth generation members of the police force. You don't just ask them to stop protecting their "brothers." I'm not sure that there is anything you can do to change the attitude of a third generation cop whose father and grandfather are reinforcing the culture.
But New York city police are just the tip of a national iceberg of rotten police culture. Across the nation, police protect their brothers, hiding evidence, keeping secrets, allowing criminal police, including murderers, to escape justice. Sure, there are honest cops, but I wonder how many of them also look the other way when their "brothers" engage in less than legal or unethical activities. The culture is so broken, I imagine it is difficult for even honest cops to always do the right thing. It might get them killed.
In Texas, a state legislator, Jason Villalba, introduced a bill that would prohibit people from filming police from within 25 feet, or, if the filmer was carrying a gun, 100 feet. According to the Dallas Morning News, "Villalba said the bill was initially proposed by the Dallas Police Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association." Ultimately, after an apparent massive negative response from both the left and right, so significant that Villalba instructed his staff to not answer phones and go home. Why do I cite this heinous legislative effort? Because the two police organizations instigated this attempt to prevent citizen actions to increase police accountability. This is a clear example of a pathological police culture.
There is a silver lining to this story. The Dallas Morning News reports, "the concept, Villalba said, is not likely to find success now or in the future. "I think the public has spoken very loudly."
Small steps probably won't work.
I think the problem is so deep that the only way to end it is to root it out. That means a whole-on effort to end the culture. The recent NY police academy graduation was another situation where the police turned their backs, which makes it clear that the problem starts with the police academy. It is essential that new cops are not taught the old, bad cultural values. That means it is necessary to find the few, rare cops who have not been infected with the culture. They should be the ones training new police.
Starting even earlier in the process, new approaches to recruiting police sell the adventure and excitement of doing things that swat teams do. The result is that instead of attracting people who want to serve and help their communities, the police recruit people who are thrill seeking risk takers-- who also fit the profile for the genetic properties of psychopaths. That doesn't make them psychopaths, but it makes it more likely that they may be. It is essential that police recruiting practices change.
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Putting cameras on police may help, but only if they wear them, keep them recording and keep the audio on as well. In recent months there have been repeated episodes where the cameras were turned off. Even failure to have a camera running, especially in the case where an episode occurs should be cause to put a police officer on probation, at the least.
Maybe a Reagan or Moses Solution is Needed
Wikipedia reports "In 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than 1.1 million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Agencies also employed approximately 100,000 part-time employees, including 44,000 sworn officers." The numbers are probably higher now, seven years later.
Ronald Reagan fired all the striking air traffic controllers. Moses led the Jews in the wilderness for two generations because the slave mentality of the culture was not fit to enter the promised land.
Maybe what we need to do is bite the bullet and fire the NY police who engaged in the strike. Or maybe the answer is to start, police station by police station-- clearing out the police who have a history of protecting bad cops. When it comes to small-town police forces, where there can be reigns of terror, where police are used to steal from innocent travellers passing through, federal intervention will probably be necessary. It is likely that federal intervention will be necessary for a systemic approach to dealing with bad cops and bad police culture-- identifying bad police and pathological department cultures.
It's time that the USA, at a federal level, develops a systematic approach to dealing with bad police and police departments. It's that simple. A truly effective intervention would include strategies and resources for identifying problem people and organizations, rehabilitating or removing them, identifying great cops, and creating new policies to produce new police and departments that are more resistant to the pathological culture that now exists.
Maybe the way to start is to identify positive behaviors, but since a big problem is chronic lying, hiding of truth and falsification of evidence, that could be a challenge. Perhaps problem reports already on records of police officers should be given more attention with much stronger consequences.
But those options won't change the culture. There is a plague of bad culture among a huge percentage of the police. That cultural disorder must be cured. I don't have a clear answer. This article discusses the issue and puts out possible ideas. One thing is clear. We can't allow the culture to continue as it is.
Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect,
connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune
500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered
first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and
Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful
people on his Bottom Up Radio Show,
and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and
opinion sites, OpEdNews.com
more detailed bio:
Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
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