The New Mandate: Necessary Policy Changes in the Wake of Police Slaying
Whereas, the greatest impediment to impactful policy change is the stunning lack of information, a dearth of comprehensive empirical data, any crafted legislation should first mandate the collection of such information, as transparency and accurate information is the foundation of just and meaningful policy changes.
Such movement has begun on a federal level and will likely be parroted by State Legislatures, but these efforts must be comprehensive and include more than merely the number of officer involved shootings.
They should detail: fatal police shootings, non-fatal, armed, and unarmed and details of the escalation to violence. In addition, officer involved shootings of unarmed citizens (deadly or not) should be appointed to special prosecutors.
Too often DA’s and police share a working relationship that may be central to the failure of prosecutors’ to indict officers accused of wrongdoing.
Equally important should be legislation that gives Police Advisory Commissions the funds to be effective in their operations with the added ability – due to varied accounts of police departments around the country that routinely ignoring requests of public information – to subpoena information – like Philadelphia’s PAC does, though it’s severely underfunded and understaffed. Local governments will need to legitimize PACs by making them official, permanent government departments.
Organized and consistent lobbying will be crucial as many FOPS’ in major cities have politically and financially powerful lodges, that should be allies in the coming winds of policy change, but may be adversaries.
The recorded deaths of Oscar Grant and Eric Garner followed by the systemic failure to hold their killers responsible have taught us that merely ‘seeing’ what happened is not enough. Investment must be made to study and investigate the cultural and policy practices that too often lead to brutalized or dead citizens.
The pre-criminalization of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, John Crawford and so many more have been central to the loss of black life… that’s a culture problem. While a student at Temple University in Philadelphia, I did a report on alternative policing tactics that featured LED (Light emitting Diodes) with the ability to incapacitate and disorient targets.
This technology can easily be integrated into flashlights and potentially even the body-cams many now support.
Information that details an average of years served by officers in OIS (officer involved shootings) may reflect the need to alter current policy: perhaps rookie officers should earn the right to bear arms in public space; maybe live ammunition should be withheld until specific criterion is met.
Twenty-one (21) may be too young to be entrusted with the lives of citizens; some departments hire officers at even younger ages. Some may retort that we send young men to war at 18; but killing enemy combatants and protecting and serving the people are two very different roles.
Roles that have now been skewed by the blatant militarization of the Missouri police departments and the heavily scrutinized 1033 Federal program that birthed such perversion of Police Departments around the nation.
J Desmond McKinson is the Scheduling Administrator and Social Media Manager for Pennsylvania State Senator Shirley Kitchen and holds degrees in English and Political Science from Temple University.