Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
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Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
How to Fix America’s Police
Abolish the blue supremacy cult.
August 6, 2020
Conscious Americans of conscience struggle to break the malicious forces that occupy our cities and subjugate our citizens. We battle at the dinner table, on the streets, in the media, and in our legislatures. Meanwhile, Americans who have sworn to uphold the Constitution violently assault and kidnap civilians exercising their first amendment rights.
America has reached its Rosa Parks moment.
Police have been murdering innocent people from their very inception. Most, but not all, of their victims are black. The cops are proud of it. They laugh about it. When the public objects – and expects our elected officials to do their jobs – we are gassed, beaten, shot with “non-lethal” projectiles, arrested, and murdered. And the cycle repeats.
There isn’t any comprehensive data on unjustified police murders of civilians. There are plenty of reports, but none differentiate between valid and invalid killings. Tanisha Long, an organizer
with Black Lives Matter Pittsburgh and SW Pa says:
"The numbers don't exist because the data is reported by the police themselves and they are mostly considered ‘justified’. Activists have tried to keep count but it’s near impossible to do with accuracy."
And there’s the rub. The powers that be don’t want reliable statistics – because then they’d have to address the problem.
In the United States, the doctrine of qualified immunity grants government officials performing discretionary functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known".1
That means that when the cops murder your family, you can’t even sue them. They get away with it.
There is no way to track the employment or legal records of violent cops. None. And Republicans refuse to create one.
As usual, they hide their criminals well.
Therefore, cops rarely face consequences for their illegal acts. They just keep doing it because nothing stops them. Our immoral and gutless police chiefs, mayors, governors, legislators, and district attorneys – particularly Steven Zappala – are personally responsible for countless injuries and deaths because they refuse to do their jobs.
THE BLUE SUPREMACY CULT
"In modern English, a cult is a social group that is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal." (Wikipedia)
American police are a cult. They demand, and we give, autonomy and veneration for their behavior regardless of laws, rules, or the concepts of common human decency. They claim the right to do whatever they want to do. They punish us if we don’t comply. Their “thin blue line” ensures that they will always protect each other, and never protect us.
Inexplicably, too many Americans excuse it. Until now.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD COP
My son was five years old when the Brentwood PA cops killed
Jonny Gammage in 1995. That day, I started teaching him not to
trust cops. They don’t trust each other. So there’s no reason for us
to trust them.
Every time a cop stops a car for a bogus excuse, and then searches
the car without cause or a warrant, s/he commits a crime.
Every time a cop plants drugs on kids when breaking up a teenage
drinking party, s/he commits a crime.
Every time a cop kills, beats, molests, rapes, harasses, or threatens innocent civilians for her/his own entertainment, s/he commits a crime.
Every time a cop files a false report or lies in court, s/he commits a crime.
Even if a cop never did those things, every time they watch their cop buddies commit those crimes, and don’t report them, they are accessories to those crimes. All cops cover up their buddies' crimes. They brag about it.
And that makes every one of them criminals.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 665,280 American cops in May 2019. If most of them are “good cops”, then at least 332,641 “good cops” would be condemning these atrocities.
But we don’t hear from them.
Gangs of armed, uniformed, paid thugs roam the streets of every city and town in this country, killing people for sport.
We must end it.
"Regarding so-called Black on Black crime: America is a violent nation. We are not the only community dealing with senseless violence. When a fellow citizen commits a crime, it's the job of law enforcement to locate and the justice system to prosecute that person. When white people kill each other or are unjustly murdered, there are rarely any protests nor do people start talking about "white-on-white" crime. Systemic police brutality is protested because police are held to a higher standard than a common citizen. The badge and gun give police authority that the average citizen does not have. Police killings of unarmed, non-violent citizens should be protested." – Community Activist Jewel Burton –
THE BIG THREE
Three big words get most of the attention lately.
No responsible adult suggests completely abolishing all police officers or departments. As bad as they are, there are circumstances where we still need them. But we don’t need them in all circumstances. And we surely don’t need their bad attitudes. We need comprehensive reform – from the ground up.
Since the 1960s, American cities have been increasingly stocking their police departments with military weapons – tear gas, assault rifles, submachine guns, flashbang grenades, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, all packed into armored personnel carriers. Their military-grade attitude casting the American people as their enemy breeds all of this.
Criminal justice professor Peter Kraska has defined militarization of police as "the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model."2
Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill created the Community Oriented Policing Services Program, which has given $14 billion to our cities to pay for this stuff and to distribute surplus military equipment.3 That’s how the little Rambos got their toys. And naturally, boys want to play with their toys.
Policing in America has … become the one-stop response to our communities’ public health and public aid problems. Police officers must enforce traffic laws and respond to domestic disputes, …. manage mental health crises and drug overdoses, … deal with homelessness and school discipline. Police officers, of course, are neither trained nor equipped to be part of our social support systems, and so it’s unsurprising that they often make them worse.
Even when it comes to crimes of violence, it turns out that law enforcement often fails to protect people. Less than 4 percent of an officer’s time is spent investigating so-called violent crimes, and police don’t even do a particularly good job at that.4
Many people claim that defunding will strip all money away from the police, essentially abolishing them. Again, no.
We have allowed policing to become too big a job. So we must divert some of that money to tasks that cops shouldn’t be doing. That will leave the police available for their real job.
HOW TO FIX IT
Few will admit it, but the image of little Rockies – fighting against the entrenched establishment for truth, justice, and the little folk – fits most protesters. Yes, I’m one of them. Our streets are a battleground for Rambos vs. Rockies. These are big things. Life is not like your TV; stuff takes time. We won’t get it right at first. There will be some hit and miss. We can’t give up. We can’t roll over and play dead anymore. People are dying.
Politicians’ solutions are no better than cold dishwater – toothless citizen police review boards, new rules, training, and empty promises, all to be ignored, blah blah, blah. They won’t do the one thing we need to do. We must stop hiring psychopaths, racists, and thugs to be cops. This is not a training issue or a rules issue. This is a hiring issue. We hire the wrong people to be cops. When you hire defective people, you get defective employees.
First, we reform our very concept of policing. We can't reform policing without reforming police. When you build something, you start with the foundation. Individual cops are the foundation of our police system. Our reforms must range throughout our entire police system – to federal, state, local, university, public school, private, and prison cops.
These are some steps in the process:
The concept has had its chance and caused more destruction than it ever prevented.
The Appeal suggests:
a. Mental health and social workers to respond to crises.
b. Violence interrupters to reduce gun violence.
c. Unarmed traffic patrols.
d. Civilian control of crime labs.
e. Fund better and safer transit service.
f. School wellness centers.
g. Dispute resolution experts for neighborhood and domestic disputes.
h. Support, not police, for people experiencing homelessness.
i. Integrated crisis centers.
j. Trained civilians for property offenses.3
We should start with this list and then refine it.
3. Hire the right people to be cops.
We wouldn't have to pay $millions$ to the families of their dead victims if we hired the right people in the first place.
And, oh yeah. There wouldn’t be so many innocent dead people.
a. Stop hiring psychopaths, racists, and thugs. Require all police candidates to pass a psychiatric examination.
Then weed OUT the wrong people instead of weeding them in.
b. Require all candidates to submit employment records from all previous jobs – in law enforcement and otherwise. Then don’t hire the people with racist or violent records. Duh.
c. Conduct a thorough background check of all candidates, including personal references and social media posts.
d. Identify and hire decent human beings to do the job.
4. Train them properly. When someone commits a crime, the cop’s job is to arrest them and put them into the court system. Their job is not to kill people. Even guilty people. Don’t train them in tactics that they’re forbidden to use, like chokeholds and kneeling on necks. If you don’t want them gassing people, then don’t give them gas. Duh.
5. Identify the culprits. Always require that cops wear name tags and that their badge numbers be visible. Get body cameras that the cops can’t turn off until end of shift. All violators will face legitimate disciplinary action.
6. End qualified immunity. Maybe the cops will think twice if they know that they can lose their homes and pensions when they kill people. Let the courts sort it out.
7. Don’t allow local prosecutors to decide whether or how to prosecute accused criminal cops. They rely too much on each other for their regular daily business. Many of them are drinking buddies. Develop a system to appoint special, independent, impartial prosecutors.
8. Once convicted through due process, there must be consequences for their crimes. Firing, prison, restitution, banishment from policing, and civil lawsuits should all be on the table.
9. Establish a national database of police activities. Track violence, harassment, and civil rights violations by individuals, police departments, and cities. Make the data public.
10. Deal with the cops we have now. Remember that they chose to be criminals.
Much of this will depend on what the current union contracts and civil service rules say.
Develop plans to:
- Prosecute all deserving cops for the crimes they’ve already committed. They can face their consequences.
- Permit the remaining cops to re-apply for their jobs, under the new rules. If they qualify, they will be re-trained from the beginning. Those who choose not to re-apply may resign or retire under the existing rules.
11. Abolish the blue supremacy cult. Obliterate the Rambo mentality. Make it clear that we have new rules.
We will no longer tolerate their prior behavior. And mean it.
Other suggestions include:
- Requiring police to carry malpractice and liability insurance
Cops aren’t paid as well as doctors and lawyers and couldn’t afford that insurance.
- Requiring a degree in criminal justice
I don’t know enough about a criminal justice curriculum to have a valid opinion about it.
- Requiring police to be licensed, like doctors, lawyers, and plumbers. Then the states can suspend or revoke the licenses when necessary. Hmm. That's worth more discussion.
- More civilian police review boards
Existing CPRBs are useless. They have no enforcement or disciplinary powers. Their only purpose is to make the gullible public believe that the politicians care. Stop wasting everyone’s time.
Some states and cities have begun movement in this direction, but we need more. Everyone should be on board. The National Governors Association, US Council of Mayors, National Conference of State Legislatures, and the public should all participate.
HOW DO WE ACCOMPLISH THIS?
1. We lobby. Lobbying is not what the corporate media says it is. They lie because they don’t want you to do it. Lobbying
is the act of working to convince public officials to create the changes that you want. That’s all. It doesn’t cost money.
You don’t buy a lobbyist. YOU are the lobbyist.
Learn how to lobby at the link below.
2. We VOTE. Elect legislators, district attorneys, judges, mayors, governors, and presidents who are able and willing to grasp these issues, and to work for the public interest. Find the candidates you like and volunteer for their campaigns.
Expect opposition from the police unions. I’m a lifelong union advocate, but cop unions go far beyond their boundaries. They’re the backbone of blue supremacy. Their mission is to preserve the status quo and the conspiracy. Establish some common ground and build on it. Teach them that having honest, mentally stable, intelligent cops is in their best interest too.
Meanwhile, public anger over policing has expanded to include efforts to remove all relics of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism. There’s serious talk about reparations. Let’s hope it’s more than just fashion, that it generates a new permanent consciousness and conscience. This will be hard work. But it will create justice. And it will save lives.
We've faced, and beaten, evil before. We can do it again.
We shall overcome.
1. Wikipedia: Qualified Immunity
2. Wikipedia: Militarization of Police
3. NPR: How Federal Dollars Fund Local Police
4. The Appeal: 10 Ways to Reduce Our Reliance on Policing and Make Our Communities Safer for Everyone
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the Constitution
Welcome Your Rosa Parks Moment
Brentwood Officials are Still Covering Up Police Crime
There is No Such Thing as a Good Cop
Why We Need More Lobbyists
Learn how to lobby