It’s difficult to view citizens as partners when you’re looking at them through a Kevlar helmet and a riot shield …It’s pretty difficult when they are coming at you with knives of throwing bricks & bottles too. Or is there no corresponding responsibility expected from the public?
It’s no wonder so many cops – like some of those in Ferguson, Missouri – view their own community as the enemy when they spend their time geared for combat. It’s no wonder why they, in return, are viewed as an occupying force.When they are viewed as such, you have a population that's not going to listen to anything.
I was the city police chief during 1999’s so-called “Battle in Seattle,” the clash between anti-globalization protesters and my police officers. I realize now that the way we looked – and the way we behaved – provoked and exacerbated the violence.Riiight. If you'd showed up in normal uniform, they'd have behaved themselves. Of course.
It may be too late to have prevented violence in Ferguson, but the community and others like it must come together now and make immediate changes to establish a baseline of behavior for law enforcement – to abide by today and to build upon for the future. The situation in Ferguson is no longer just about Michael Brown’s death: it’s about systemic racism and patterns of neglect, about leadership and the ability to influence angry, sometimes criminally motivated, individuals.What the police should do with 'criminally motivated individuals' is monitor them and arrest them when they finally step over the line. Not pander to them, or excise them on the grounds of 'society done 'em wrong'.
First, leaders in Ferguson need to put together a large, representative, credible crisis team to work with the police, communicate systematically with the community and, most importantly, elicit grassroots suggestions for resolution of the conflict.I suspect you won't like those suggestions. Or...maybe you will?
Thereafter, the city or state government should convene a group of citizens, officers, politicians and civic leaders to craft and quickly implement a statement of non-negotiable standards for the performance and conduct of each and every police officer: for example, any officer should be fired if found to be using racial or ethnic slurs or excessive force. Those local officials should create a citizens’ review board (and a process for filling it) and give it investigative authority and subpoena powers, rather than rely on the local prosecutor and police to investigate their friends and colleagues – rather than just waiting around for the US Department of Justice and FBI to complete their own independent investigations.Yup, I think you will. Because it's clear to see now why you are the ex-city police chief.