Now is the time to fix our policing problem.

By: Michael D. Jacobsen

When the riots over the death of George Floyd broke out, I was angry; not just at the police who once again used far more force than they needed to, but also at the people burning down their own cities as a form of “protest”. In fact, I began to write an article about how the people are being once again manipulated by the media so they stay in control of their emotions. I wrote quite a bit about that. Then I stopped, and realized that rather than pointing out how once again the media is manipulating people, I could use this as a reason to write about how policing in the United States really does need to be reformed. This is something that needs to happen.

The amount of times the police have overstepped their bounds is staggering. I could write a very long article detailing some of the worst offenses, and I would not even cover 1% of all occurrences. Let’s just leave it that police brutality happens to people of all colors and, contrary to popular belief, it does not happen more frequently to people of just one race. It is truly a problem that happens to us all…myself included.

To add to the vast problem of police brutality, we have a court system that is also in need of serious reform, but that will be for another article. To be fair, police officers do have a very difficult job to perform. At times, they may have to resort to measures that some of us would consider uncalled for. While there may be times when these actions could be considered justified, many times they are not. This article will try and provide some suggestions as to how we might all stop the seeming rise of police brutality on the average citizen. While there are many more things that could be done, I am going to limit this list. I suggest that even if these basic steps are taken, we as citizens and those who are police will have much better lives than we can imagine.

Step number one: Better police training. While most people spend at least 2 years training for their job, police often spend around 6 months on training, which is paid for. Before they become an officer. Now, I am not going to call for officers to go through a 2-year course, nor will I say that they should not receive some sort of compensation for the training that they will receive. However, if a person chooses to become an officer, a free ride should not be part of the ticket. I also feel that 6 months is not enough time; possibly a year should be the minimum. We can add to this that a lot of police training is to make the officer feel that any citizen might attempt to kill them at any time. This is not a very good attitude to have towards people who are just trying to go on with their daily lives. I understand that an officer is placed in a stressful situation any time they have to enforce the law. However, an untrained civilian will have a much harder time, as they have exactly zero preparation for this event. It is stressful, and regular people make mistakes. Officers need to be aware of this, rather than just start shooting at people who do not know how to respond. A good example would be to place more emphasis on the Field Training Officers who are supposed to be a major part of a rookie officer’s training. This seems to be a rather important aspect that is currently overlooked. Officers in the field have much more insight into how people in their jurisdiction want to be treated, and the knowledge to de-escalate a situation should be emphasized. Confrontation and forced compliance should not be a first response. This can easily prevent potentially dangerous misunderstandings from occurring.

Step number two: Take the time to train officers in some form of  martial arts. This may seem a bit odd, but showing officers another means of defending themselves, or of subduing a suspect, will result in less people getting shot. This is a much better alternative, as all officers currently seem to know how to do is pull a trigger. Having an understanding of the human body, its limitations, and being taught the discipline on how much force to use and when while officers are trying to restrain a suspect will result in far less deaths occurring in these understandably stressful and uncertain situations. Currently, most officers are taught the basic take down techniques, and not much more than that. This leads to incidents such as what happened with George Floyd, in which police did not understand the force that was being applied, and what was actually needed to keep a person restrained without causing injury or death.

Step three: Stop militarizing the police. Too much military equipment and vehicles are being made available to the police forces. This also causes yet more of a perception to the officers that citizens are the enemy…”us against them”, if you will. Why do police need to be issued military equipment, unless it is desired for them to view citizens as military targets? There are some small examples of people breaking the law using military hardware of their own, but this exception is hardly the norm. The police do not need to have, for instance, mine resistant armored vehicles (MRAP, for short). What is the next step…APC’s, or perhaps tanks? Most military hardware has no place in police law enforcement over a civilian population. Yet, it seems to keep growing, year after year. The days of the friendly neighborhood police officer who was trusted in the neighborhood and who was looked up to as an excellent example of an outstanding citizen are long gone in this time. This needs to stop.

Step four: The severe limiting or end of no-knock raids. There is no worse fear than being asleep in your house next to a loved one, and suddenly being violently awakened and thrust into a violent break-in situation. Unless you have been in the military, which it is doubtful that most American citizens have, you cannot respond reasonably to this form of home invasion. In any form of a real situation, I truly think that the average person who is roused from sleep will not be able to correctly decide if the person bursting through their front door is actually a police officer or a home invader. This results in the homeowner defending themselves, and is followed by the police shooting them. It almost strikes me as a scripted execution, because most people will respond in the manner I have described. Police know this, and it is repeatedly done anyway. It needs to end, or at the least be used for dire emergencies only. This is far from what we currently have.

Step five: Make sure all officers are issued body cameras, and make sure they cannot turn them off before an encounter. Transparency has always been an issue. Yet often times, cameras go dark during arrests. If this is not a red flag that something wrong is happening, then I do not know what is. Penalties for this sort of violation need to be mandated against officers that turn off their cameras during an encounter with citizens. Otherwise, all trust is lost between police officers and the citizens they are being paid to protect and serve. Lip service to this problem must no longer be tolerated.

Step six: Use a private agency to go to people’s homes to fill out reports for insurance purposes. One of the main problems that we hear about are that officers are overworked and are too tired to make proper decisions. We do not need to have trained officers become nothing more than glorified report writers. Not only will this keep officers from needless hours of writing reports for insurance purposes, but it will also save the taxpayer money as we can contract this work out to people who do not need to be paid as much as trained police officers, while also providing a means for additional jobs.

Step seven: Mandatory drug testing for officers. This would seem like something that we should already have but, in many areas, we do not. In most cases, potential officers are only screened prior to becoming an officer. While it would be rather presumptuous to assume that many officers abuse drugs, it certainly should be something they are screened for. After all , they are tasked with protecting us. If they are under the influence of any kind of drug, it puts us all at risk. In the case of officers charged with wrongdoing, these charges are not filed until weeks later, therefore giving the officer ample time to drain any drugs from their system before any sort of arrest might occur. This has happened enough times that drug screening has been used in certain circumstances, but it is not nationwide or mandatory. When officers are under the influence of drugs, we are all at risk.

Regardless if all of these steps, or at least some of these steps are enacted, I think that we can all agree that any of these actions would be a step in a positive direction for citizen/police encounters. Some of you may feel that this does not go far enough, but I certainly feel that this would be a very good start. I have discussed police reform in past articles, and while I am sad that such dire problems occurred to make this again a subject, I hope that people will understand that we truly need to look into our policing problem and make some headway toward a solution, rather than more arguments and anger.

And that, my friends, is The Uncensored Truth.

Thank you for reading.

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