When it comes to youths in the criminal justice system: First, do no harm.
Thirty-three years of law enforcement service (20 years as a police chief) has formed my perspective of Criminal Justice.
American Criminal Justice is an unjust system that criminalizes our youths so that there is nationwide over-representation of minority youth in our criminal justice system. The disappointing consequence of this over-representation is sadly reflected in the disproportional ratios in our adult prison population. Youths in particular should be diverted from this juvenile justice system, not included. This is where you initiate the "Harm Reduction" value that translates into a community implementation strategy. Every city council goal statement should begin with this primary goal of harm reduction.
Rather than demand to "defund" the police — this is an end objective for some protesting police abuses — we should visualize "reallocation" of how the budget pie is sliced. A portion of the pie would go directly to police public safety but a "reallocation" should include funding to the various public helping services that would positively impact greater community safety. In other words, visualize the police as being one part of a greater public safety whole, comprised of many other interrelated programs.
With harm reduction as our guiding goal, the following Community Objectives might include:
• Ensure all youth are well fed, cared for, educated and protected (i.e., from abuse) and guided. Mentorship can be very powerful, either as an individual effort or an organized program such as the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brother/Big Sister or Community Action initiatives, just to name a few successful youth-support programs.
• Ensure all women are protected and supported; from domestic abuse to prenatal health to poverty.
• Ensure housing for all; no one should be homeless!
• Ensure support services such as mental health, medical care, early prenatal and childcare.
Police Objectives for the community might include:
• Police administration: an officer facing misconduct discipline should not be decided by a lone hearing officer. The case for discipline — sanctions, termination, etc. — should be decided by a panel, with community representation (let's face it, the so-called "Criminal Justice Experts" have not always had the best interests of the community).
• Refine how you select police candidates and who should be recruited. For example, there are many who may not have thought of law enforcement as a career and they need to be encouraged to apply. Focus on those candidates testing well for emotional intelligence, adversity and aggressive bias. We want those who are assertive, not aggressive! We want those with strong communication skills, not just those physically fit or receptive to strict organizational discipline.
• An overwhelming number of police officers do provide exemplary service to their respective communities. We need to promote and support officer well-being to combat career-related PTSD, domestic violence, suicide and other stress-related emotional and physical impacts.
• Extend the probationary training and evaluation period for all new officers to a minimum of 24 months. Generally speaking, the true character of a person emerges during this post-police-academy training and observation period.
• Require tactical communication in crisis incidents/encounters as a primary measure for success on the street. Everyone seems to say "de-escalation" but few know what it truly means and how to translate into a training, skills demonstration and evaluation curriculum. A well-trained officer in these skills will properly apply use of force. In other words, those officers who misuse force are not suitable for police services. You should look to the human resource, not just rewrite more restrictive rules and regulations.
• Implement mindfulness-based training for all officers, recruit and veteran. Those trained in these life-skills are best suited for the rigors of law enforcement.
• Require on-going, advanced officer training for police veterans. In many agencies, once an officer is out of the academy — usually only 12 to 16 weeks — they rarely receive additional, in-depth training other than firearms and equipment operation. Ninety-five percent of a police officer's job is interpersonal communication but police are infrequently, if not rarely, trained in these vital skills.
• Mandatory accreditation. Nationwide police accreditation already exists — the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement — but it is voluntary. Like schools and colleges, hospitals and other organizations, there needs to be national standards of measurement and award of accreditation must be maintained.
• Maintain a national data base of police officer use of force and misconduct, with sunshine laws that allow the pubic to view final officer discipline. Do not shield officers who have broken the very same laws they are required to enforce.
• Require all police agencies to maintain records and data (i.e., race, gender, age, reason for the contact, etc.) on who is stopped by the police. Nationwide, this is only voluntary and many police agencies do not keep such records. This stop data should be reviewed by all to insure the disparate numbers, if any, are not the result of individual, institutional or training bias.
We, as a nation, are truly at a watershed and turning point in history. What is different from the earlier and historic Civil Rights Movement, to the Watts Riot, to Rodney King and Michael Brown is that mainstream, majority society is demanding change and politicians are scrambling to appease. The anger is great this time and will not dissipate soon, as with past police misconduct-initiated events. As a nation, we need to acknowledge this anger and rage as brewing over generations. This is sadly validated every time a young black or Hispanic youth goes outside the home or a black woman (young and old) who is frequently profiled as a potential thief and followed while shopping.
The death of George Floyd should ignite not only our passions and demands for justice but should evolve into a reconciliation for society as a whole. Because once we are united as a community and nation, we will begin to initiate and establish legitimate and long-lasting criminal justice reform.
With over 33 years of experience, Chief Ron Louie retired from the Hillsboro Police Department in July 2007. He had been the Hillsboro chief since 1992. He served as chief of the Astoria Police Department from 1987 to 1992. Prior to assuming command in Astoria, Louie spent 13 years with the Palo Alto, California, Police Department, leaving there as a lieutenant.
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