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REFORMING POLICING: SOME SUGGESTIONS

Updated on August 2, 2017

Training Needs to Be More Progressive

"If there is no peace, there will be no justice." Garnet Rogers, from Grace.

In 2016 about 1,000 individuals were shot by police. There were many unnecessary deaths which occurred this year. We need to look at people who are trying to change the situation. They are truly transformers. When we change bad practices which are unjust, we bring good karma to ourselves and our communities. Gandhi was one of those transformers who believed in ahimsa, "First do no harm." He said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." It starts with what we do in our lives to make a difference every day of our lives. It is living the concept of love.

Police Chief Brown of Salt Lake City, Utah decided that there were too many unnecessary deaths happening in policing. He decided to train his officers in de-escalation techniques. In de-escalation you use social skills and talking techniques to calm the person down, so they will not cause harm to others. With this technique, in conjunction with other new community-based practices, there has not been one death since 2015.

As a trained social worker with a BSW, I have used this technique myself in every day situations, especially on the Metro Transit buses.You will get situations where people get angry with each other and are about to punch each other. When I observe this kind of situation, I start out talking about how others will be affected if the police has to appear and the ambulance is called. Then I will talk about how it will affect them personally. I point out people are going to work or coming home. People are depending on some of these passengers to perform work or to cook the family's dinner. Others join and voice their agreement most of the time. It slows them down to think about what they are doing to others and themselves. It works very well every time in my experience.

When I was an office manager of a housing facility for mentally ill individuals who were formerly homeless, there was an incident in which a resident took out a gun in the Recreation Center. The two priests who were administrators of the facility immediately used de-escalation techniques and got a staff member who the resident liked to engage him in the dialogue. The police were called from a different location and when they arrived the guy was calmed down. The judge put him into treatment because he was a danger to himself and others. This is the standard by which you can legally provide treatment to these types of individuals.

Chief Debora Black of the Prescott, Arizona Police Department is another reformer who has a community minded focus concerning policing. She also had worked in Glendale, Arizona's Police Department. One of her officers wanted to do something to help the police connect better with the the neighborhood. When you have a good relationship with people, they are more likely to tell you when you need information about crime in the neighborhood. The officers put on a snow-cone event for the neighborhood. This helped the police develop future relationships with the community. Chief Black's focus is to be community minded and develop better relationships with the community.

What kind of training do officers have? Many attend college to get a Criminal Justice Degree. Some programs provide opportunities to develop social skills but many do not. After college coursework is completed, the potential officer attends a police academy. They first go through an oral screening process in order to weed out people who are not suited for police work. Academy training happens after this evaluation. Usually after the academy training, the officer is paired with a more experienced officer on a probationary basis for a year. Some people think this training should be updated to bring more of an emphasis on using de-escalation and other non-lethal techniques with a more community focused form of policing.

Recently Trump made remarks to police officers in which he told them that "these thugs should be thrown into the back of paddy wagons and be thrown in rough." The police chiefs all over the United States did not agree with this kind of treatment of suspects. The Police Foundation spokesperson commented: "We cannot support any commentary--in sincerity or in jest--that undermines the trust of our communities place in us to protect and serve." The chiefs and some officers responding to Trump's remarks did not advocate harm to suspects like Trump favors.

Another person advocating reform of policing is Representative Raymond Dehn, a Minnesota House Representative and Minneapolis mayoral candidate. He represents downtown and North Side Minneapolis. He is a community advocate and organizer on criminal justice reform. He is also known for his legislative work on ban the box, the environment and community empowerment. Representative Dehn says, "This year at the Legislature, I helped pass permanent, ongoing funding to train officers in de-escalation, cultural competency and identifying mental health crises." Some situations require social workers or psychologists trained in proper techniques when you have an person who has a mental illness in crisis. He favors more community based solutions to prevent crime, such as increasing funding for "workplace development programs, affordable housing development, youth development and violence prevention." Emil Durkheim's classic sociological study and many other studies show a definite tie between economics and crime. When the economy is bad, the crime rate goes up. When the economy is better, the crime rate decreases. He wants better training of officers on the local level in using non-lethal and de-escalation techniques. Minneapolis in the last year has had a number of shootings of individuals by the police where unnecessary force was used. I know that teaching social skills also is necessary for the police to have a better relationship with the community. How you approach people makes a big difference in fighting crime.

As Hindus we need to applaud the efforts of those transformers who will help to decrease the number of shootings of community members by the police. Ahimsa is one of our greatest values. Unnecessary deaths should be decreased. Reform is what needed to bring more justice for all of us.

JAI SHRI MA! JAI SHRI REFORM! JAI SHRI PEACE!

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