by improving police
What is good policing? How do you know if your police department is providing it?
There are over 16 thousand police departments in our nation and there are over 600,000 police with no national standards. This means policing is local in our nation and, therefore, the improvement of police must be taken on at the local level.
• Quality policing begins at home.
• Citizens determine the quality of their police departments.
• Quality policing is dependent upon public approval.
A few years ago, Michael Scott and I wrote a short piece on these qualities. If you are unsure about what you should expect from your police, read on:
Qualities of Police in a Free and Democratic Society
David C. Couper and Michael S. Scott
Police recognize the nature and extent of their discretionary authority and must always be accountable to the people, their elected representatives, and the law for their actions, and be as transparent as possible in their decision-making.
Police must be able to collaborate, as appropriate, with community members and other organizations in settling disagreements, choosing policing strategies, and solving policing problems. This collaborative style must also apply to the way police departments are led and managed. This means police leaders must actively listen to their officers and work with them in identifying and resolving department and community problems.
• Educated and trained
All police officers with arrest powers should begin their career with a broad and advanced education in the sciences and humanities. Training should consist of rigorous and extensive training courses in an adult-learning climate that teaches both the ethics and skills of democratic policing.
• Effective and preventive
The mark of a good police department and the officers who work within it is that they continuously seek to handle their business more effectively and fairly, emphasizing preventing crime and disorder and not merely responding to it, and applying research and practical knowledge, using problem-solving methods, toward that end.
Honesty and good ethical practice are essential. The search for and cultivation of these traits begin with the selection process and continue throughout an officer’s career. Only those police candidates who have demonstrated good decision-making so far in their lives should be selected.
• Model citizen
Police officers must not only be good police officers, but good citizens as well, modeling the values and virtues of good citizenship in their professional and personal lives.
• Peacekeeper and protector
The police role is, above all else, that of community peacekeepers, and not merely law enforcers or crime fighters. Their training, work, and values all point towards the keeping of peace in the community. As gatekeepers to the criminal justice system, police must see themselves as defenders and protectors of Constitutional and human rights, especially for those who cannot defend or care for themselves in our society.
The members of police organizations must be demographically representative of the communities they serve, both because it reflects fair employment opportunities and because it enables the police to be more effective in achieving their objectives.
Police officers should treat all persons with unconditional courtesy and respect, and be willing to listen to others, especially to those without social power or status. Likewise, police leaders should treat their workers with courtesy and respect their employment rights.
The preservation of life should be the foundation for all police use of force. Police officers should continually prepare themselves to use physical force in a restrained and proper manner, with special training in its application to those who are mentally ill. Deadly force should be used only as a last resort and only when death or serious injury of the officer or another person is imminent. Less-than-lethal force should be preferred where possible.
• Servant leader
Every police officer, regardless of rank, must simultaneously be a good leader and a good servant, to the public and to the police organization. Servant leaders use their authority and influence to improve others’ welfare.
Although some bias is inherent in human nature, police officers recognize that they can and should train themselves to reduce their biases and deal with all people fairly and without regard to their race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic condition, national origin, citizenship status, or sexual orientation.
By MAYA SCHENWARMAY 8, 2015
CHICAGO — HOW can we reduce the enormous populations of our country’s local jails?
Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York unveiled a plan to decrease the population of the Rikers Island jail complex by reducing the backlog of cases in state courts. About 85 percent of those at Rikers haven’t been convicted of any offense; they’re just awaiting trial, sometimes for as long as hundreds of days.
Mayor de Blasio’s plan is a positive step. Yet it ignores a deeper question: Why are so many people — particularly poor people of color — in jail awaiting trial in the first place?
Usually, it is because they cannot afford bail. According to a 2011 report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, 79 percent of pretrial detainees were sent to Rikers because they couldn’t post bail right away.
This is a national problem. Across the United States, most of the people incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of a crime but are awaiting trial. And most of those are waiting in jail not because of any specific risk they have been deemed to pose, but because they can’t pay their bail.
In other words, we are locking people up for being poor. This is unjust. We should abolish monetary bail outright.
Some will argue that bail is necessary to prevent flight before trial, but there is no good basis for that assumption. For one thing, people considered to pose an unacceptable risk of flight (or violence) are not granted bail in the first place. (Though the procedures for determining who poses a risk themselves ought to be viewed with skepticism, especially since conceptions of risk are often shaped, tacitly or otherwise, by racist assumptions.)
There is also evidence that bail is not necessary to ensure that people show up for trial. In Washington, D.C., a city that makes virtually no use of monetary bail, the vast majority of arrestees who are released pretrial do return to court, and rates of additional crime before trial are low.
In addition to being unjust and unnecessary, pretrial incarceration can have harmful consequences. Not only do those who are in jail before trial suffer the trauma of confinement, but in comparison with their bailed-out counterparts, they are also more likely to be convicted at trial. As documented in a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, the legal system is substantially tougher to navigate from behind bars. People in jail face more pressure to accept plea bargains — often, ones that aren’t to their advantage — than do those confronting their charges from home.
Those who spend even a few days in jail can lose their jobs or housing during that time. Single parents can lose custody of their children. By exacerbating the effects of poverty, and by placing people in often traumatizing circumstances, pretrial incarceration may actually lead to more crime.
Bail also raises issues of racial injustice. A number of studies have shown that black defendants are assigned higher bail amounts than their white counterparts. This discrepancy is compounded by the fact that black people disproportionately live in poverty and thus unduly face challenges in paying bail.
Other burdens of bail also fall harder on people of color. For instance, black mothers face a particularly serious risk of losing custody of their children while incarcerated, because they are excessively targeted by child protective services.
Jails disproportionately confine mentally ill people, too — rates of mental illness are four to six times higher in jail than outside — and people with mental health problems often live in economic circumstances that make it difficult to afford bail. A study released in February by the Vera Institute of Justice found that one-third of jailed people with mental illness were unemployed before being arrested.
Finally, monetary bail is at odds with the legal ideal of the presumption of innocence. If we want to grant people this presumption, we must not punish them before their trials.
There is no getting around it: We are incarcerating people for being poor, at great cost to actual human lives. We have to stop.
Maya Schenwar, the editor in chief of Truthout, is the author of “Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better.”