Police will be safer and better if their communities trust them. Trust doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun, no matter what the old Western movies seem to say.
There are some simple ways to reduce police violence that are in the hands of local elected leaders, mostly mayors and county commissioners.
Eight Can’t Wait is a data-driven list developed in 2015 by the White House Police Use of Force Taskforce. Implementation could reduce police involvement in killings by 72 percent nationwide, a long stride toward protecting both citizens and police.
The eight policies are simple:
- Ban chokeholds and strangleholds.
- Require de-escalation.
- Require warning before shooting.
- Exhaust all other means before shooting.
- Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers.
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles.
- Require use-of-force continuum.
- Require comprehensive reporting each time an officer threatens or uses force.
There is a ninth step. Mayors, sheriffs and other municipal chief executives can set these policies immediately, without the need to change laws, union contracts or budgets. All it takes is the political will to do so. Anyone committed to change in policing should take one more step and elect local officials who would make the policies and demand accountability to ensure fair and effective law enforcement.
Police practices in Blaine County’s communities have long emphasized service. Much of that community policing attitude was begun by Jerry Seiffert, Ketchum mayor and police commissioner from 1975 to 1988 (Seiffert now works at the Idaho Mountain Express). It has been continued by mayors, city councils and county sheriffs in the years since.
While building a full-time police department, Seiffert made sure all police officers were trained in law enforcement best practices by the FBI. He also demanded, from chief on down, that Ketchum police be the city’s goodwill ambassadors to local business owners, residents and tourists.
Blaine County and its cities today are examples of places with elected officials who take community policing seriously.
Eight Can’t Wait has been completely adopted by San Francisco and Tucson. Other cities should begin immediately to do the same.
Voters who want appropriate and fair policing must pay attention to the policies of local elected officials. When citizens know and trust their police, those citizens will have officers’ backs rather than hoping for their demise.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo knew his officers didn’t have to stop vandalism or rioting because he trusted that the city’s residents would. He has been right and Houston’s recent demonstrations have been relatively peaceful in the midst of a large enforcement presence. Avecedo himself marched with protestors.
Nine steps in the same direction for every police force in America should begin now.