Nan’s blog, ALL THE GOOD NAMES WERE TAKEN, recently put out a blog post about police overreach – definitely food for thought.
I spent two years as military base-police where I worked with civilian police, and one year I volunteered as a diver for body retrieval with the Clay County Sheriff's Department in Florida. From this experience I can tell you that more than a few of the cops, who I have known, were insignificant and insecure until they put on a badge and gun, then they view themselves as alpha dogs. These are the cops you need to be afraid of - and there are a lot of them.
Police work, like the military, attracts people without a lot of professional options. The job especially appeals to people who desire to be vested with the authority that a badge and a gun provide for their own self-aggrandizement.
Cops have absolute power and absolute power corrupts. Then add militarization of police departments and you have cops out of control - cops who feed their ego by abuse of citizens.
Just like racism, you cannot get the cowboys out of policing until a whole generation of police have been replaced. There has to be a transition of better qualified and better educated people into the police departments, and the present contingent out.
This is my solution to the problem:
· Raise the pay drastically.
· Require a minimum of an associate’s degree in law enforcement to be considered for employment.
· Require applicants to pass a general knowledge achievement test, comparable to the high school exit, exam with a C or higher.
· Require applicants to undergo psychological testing
· Have a twelve-week training course for accepted applicants that focuses at least 50% of the time on community and demographic understanding.
· Require that every office spend 10% of his or her duty time (four hours a week) in community involvement.
· Have a standing policy that any officer that fires a weapon resulting in the loss of life, regardless of the circumstances, will be permanently transferred to an administration police, state or civil service position of equal pay and benefits where he or she will not be armed.
· Have all police forces placed under and regulated by the Department of Justice.
· Demilitarize the rank and file police force.
· Have a special military trained SWAT (not members of the rank and file) whose only job is deployment for hostage and terrorist situations – never used for crowd control.
· Have an independent civilian oversight board that aggressively investigates all accusations of police corruption and police abuse of power. This board should have the authority to suspend from duty and to recommend indictment of any officer so charged.
· Offer early retirement to all officers within five years of vested retirement.
The answer to police reform is not to change the attitudes of business as usual for the existing police departments – that can never be done – the existing force must have more stringent oversight from the department of justice, and the goal should be, over time, to replace the existing force with better educated more qualified career officers.
I have heard cops brag about the number of speeding tickets they have issued in a day, and brag about ticketing cars for five miles over the limit. These cops are not serving and protecting; they are harassing the community. An Ideal police officer would stop a car driving over the limit, warn the driver about the need for speed limits, and only issue a ticket if the driver was blatantly driving at excessive speed: in other words, serving the community.
This is all bullshit of course, because it would take aggressive action of Congress to enact and enforce this type of change; and politicians will never take on a difficult, controversial issues that could piss off the police lobby and affect their own tenure.