If I were back in uniform, I would wear a mourning band today over my badge. That’s how grieved I am as a former police chief in America today.
The shooting of Walter Scott was not an accident, but an execution. I know citizens, especially those of color, wonder how many police shootings are like this–you know, the cover-up, adding or removing evidence, and the phony justification, “I feared for my life!”
Have you seen the tragic video taken by a citizen bystander? Without it there would have been a good chance that this would have been just another police shooting. Watch it HERE (if you can). I can’t look at it again. It makes me sick and it ought to make every decent police officer in America just as sick as I am.
There’s unfortunately more to this video than multiple shots in the man’s back. After been shot and dying, he is handcuffed. No one immediately gives him medical aid. Does it remind you of Ferguson–Michael Brown’s body lying in the street and no one showing any concern or compassion?
Enough is enough! Every week, 20 or more persons are killed by our nation’s police. Almost half of them are people of color. Their bodies are images that seemingly go unnoticed by police and their leaders. I am outraged.
I am outraged because this goes on without abatement. I am outraged because my former colleagues won’t stand up and do the right thing by making changes NOW in their policies and systems of using force. I am outraged by muzzled cops and timid leaders.
What’s to be done? I have almost 500 posts on my blog “Improving Police.” It has, thankfully, attracted hundreds of police and citizen followers. On it, I talk about what must be done — a blueprint for action! Here’s a quick summary:
I expect this from our nation’s police, their leaders, unions and professional organizations:
- A strong, authentic commitment to the preservation of life; be peacekeepers and guardians. No more warriors in blue.
- Immediately (and I mean right now) treat everyone (and I mean everyone) with dignity and respect.
- Tell their community what you are doing to reduce/eliminate your use of deadly force; especially with regard to unarmed suspects.
- Review, revise, and re-train your current system of deadly force use and get rid of the negative attitudes imbedded in the old system about the sanctity of life.
- Train officers to de-escalate and better manage conflict situations. Emphasize the best weapon police have is their brain; encourage its use.
- Remind yourselves that because it may be legal to use deadly force in certain situations it may not be moral — the right thing to do.
- Always act honorably and be accountable, honest, and respectful even to those you believe don’t deserve it.
- Assign officers at the neighborhood level and expect them to know their neighborhood, listen to its problems and work with residents on solutions.
- Constantly share with your officers what you expect. They must be the change you want to see happen and encourage good, decent, behavior throughout the ranks — beginning with yourself.
These are essential elements in policing America. I suggest that following these elements will result in more positive, respectful citizen contacts. Slowly, but surely, from these positive and respectful contacts the trust which has been lost will be regained. When police remember to honor, protect, and respect others, this will happen.
We are a great nation that believes life, liberty, and the rule of law — a great nation deserves a great police. As people of faith, we can help our communities produce and support them.