Toward Better Policing on George Floyd’s Death Anniversary
It is the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. How can we make policing better here in America and elsewhere?
There are efforts in many cities, states, and at the federal level to enact laws to improve policing. The general thrust of the laws is that police need to be held more accountable for their actions. There are calls for better training. And there are calls to replace at least in part funding for a police force that is heavily armed to tackle a few potentially violent conflicts with funding for a community alternative to handle the routine majority: A misbehaving child at a school, a noisy neighbor, a fraudulent banker, a computer criminal, a drunkard, a car thief or a car accident, a struggling mental health patient, a tenant dispute, a peaceful protest, or someone passing a counterfeit bill. A limited example is here.
Policing problems are a reflection of systematic problems and attitudes in our society that appear to have nothing and everything to do with policing. To the extent we need policing, recruitment demands vigilance.
A Brookings institution report notes that about 80% of parents in America approve of corporal punishment of children. This is a high number relative to many other nations. Physical punishment or assault is often the result of anger and an inability to stay in control of the situation. Clearly, as a society we need to move away from seeing physical assault as an option. If parents find it acceptable for children to be assaulted, is it any surprise that the police resort quickly to assault and more when faced with even a minor act of disobedience? Recognizing anger and suppressing it before we begin acting out of anger are not easy tasks, but they are required and learnt characteristics for anyone recruited into a position of authority with access to deadly force. Police with an inability to control their anger in practice do not serve their force or the citizens well.
Only about 12% of police in America are women. Do women police have better control of situations and resort less to assaults than their male counterparts? If so, actively recruiting more women to the police force might have immediate benefits.
If I am in a position of authority and it is a Vijay or Violet that is disobeying me, perhaps I am less likely to assault or endanger them than if they were Alpha or Beta. Maybe it is human nature to be able to understand more quickly the natural actions of someone who is like us and to be more measured in our reactions toward them. If so, police recruitment should reflect who they are policing more often.
The death of George Floyd tells us that what happens with a system that recruits and empowers police mindlessly even when no weapons are involved!
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