Updated: Jul 14, 2021
By Robert Park
We live in a sick society, one wracked with racism, xenophobia (fear of foreigners), and ignorance, and infected with tribal “identity” politics now veering intentionally toward fascism. The injustices that come from this rigged system serving the wealthy result in social dissension, dysfunction, poverty, and crime. The police operate at the miserable interface of social discord and conflict. Racism has become an effective tool for anti-democratic politicians intent on deceiving while engaging large sectors of the working class against their own best interests.
The cops are between a rock and a hard place and seem to attract more than their share of racist low-lifes. They have to deal with the sordid consequences of a sick society at the level of personal behavior. But they operate under rules and enforcement policies established by the civil authorities – officials like city councilors, city managers, solicitors, county commissioners, district attorneys, and judges. They all have blood on their hands having defended and sustained this system for generations. It is their policies that produce the police behavior we now observe everywhere, even if many of those policies were delegated to the police themselves: that was a convenient, self-serving choice by public officials. Not all cops are bad just like not all investment bankers are bad. We just need rules, laws, and enforcement to prevent bad behavior and against which to hold police behavior and their supervision fully accountable (like for banking, sort of: but racism in banking needs some work too).
Civil authorities should have fixed this problem long ago but didn’t. Racism is either too valuable for the bad politicians or too scary for the good but inept politicians to deal with. The good ones need to explain the many ways that racism actually harms most white people in America. Sometimes authorities need a push from organized labor (or mass protest) to do the right thing. But police unions are the worst – they just got thrown out of the Washington State Labor Federation for their complicity in racist law enforcement practices.
Here’s what a good police union contract would demand for the police working environment
-Stop inflammatory and predatory practices:
Invalid traffic stops or other challenges by police (e.g, racially motivated), especially for trivial problems that are very selectively enforced.
Stop and frisk
Generating the expectation of brutality (chokeholds or any other infliction of harm)
Illegal surveillance (e.g., face recognition software)
Arrests leading to incarceration for minor offenses
-Stop clear violations of constitutionally protected activities
- Rules of engagement
1. Non-impaired citizen:
Explain the problem, disclose basis for a plan of action, with contingencies
If escalating conflict: secure environment, stand down and deploy social worker/conflict mgr without forceful restraint; if probable cause and citizen attempts to leave without police permission or being identified, follow without violence or placing police at risk
If subsequently established that police action was unwarranted (no probable cause, unconstitutional, etc.): automatic payment of compensation (lump sum plus per hour) by police departments
2. Impaired citizen (drunk, drugs, mental health issue):
Establish a safe environment without forcing citizen; inflict no harm
Deploy social worker/conflict mgr
Place in a secure treatment facility with public access, not jail.
3. Social protest:
Expedited class action remedies with compensation for police violations of constitutionally protected activity
These are not simple solutions; unions committed to justice could help craft workable solutions acceptable to groups now subject to abuse by police. Under these operating requirements: 1) harm to citizens would be greatly reduced, especially for groups previously the victims of racist attacks by police, 2) policing would be much less hazardous to the police (a valid union demand), 3) public officials would be forced to modify the roles of social institutions to accommodate new demands for treatment, conflict resolution, etc., not to mention addressing underlying social problems such as un- and under-employment, fair employment, healthcare, public transportation, public education etc., etc.