Policing the Police | Reflections & Quotes

Posted on July 10, 2016


[UPDATE, July 10. The Mayor of Newark, through the city’s Communications Director posted a statement in the comments below. I encourage all to read it as it is an important voice in the conversation in which all truth and all facts need to be brought to light.]

Policing the Police. Frontline [2016].

policing the police

— reflections—

This week was one of the most palpable for the Black Lives Matter movement and the challenge of law enforcement. It’s hard, no, impossible to put into words the various emotions that are coursing through our nations veins, adding to the already unstable mix of anger and adrenaline. My condolences to the family and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens, all who lost their lives this week. Adding to this tragedy is the heart-wrenching irony that the Dallas Police Department has been hailed as one of the models for how to reform law enforcement in ways that are truly making a difference (see Washington Post and Slate). Their adjusted policies, and increased accountability and transparency, is a model of leadership, with results. While still not perfect, the strides that have been taken are in stark contrast to what is seen in the Newark Police Department as depicted in this film.

Policing the Police is sometimes frustrating to watch, even if it is insightful. It appears at times that attempting to have a conversation is futile. Why? The quotes below help to illuminate the reason. I offer them for all of our considerations with my comments.

— quotes —

This is the key difference. Being surrounded by police is not feeling safe for someone like me. I don’t know what the agenda is, etc. The idea of complying may be your second thought. Your immediate thought is “I’m in jeopardy.” I think that fundamentally,…the difference is that if you’re surrounded by police officers, do you feel more safe or less safe?

At times it felt as if the Newark Police Department’s attitude is that you of course should feel safe merely because we are the police. This posture completely betrays the reality of relationship and trust that is far more authoritative than a badge and uniform.

I’ll admit that I have fear. Fear is sometimes your best friend. We have to run to those shots. Most people can’t understand/comprehend what that is about.

Yes, sometimes fear is a gift. But the hope is that law enforcement training helps to mitigate that fear in ways that help to preserve life, not scrutinize it for the worst possible outcome.

If I only came out just to be policing, that might be an issue. You have to be a part of the community. You have to be a stake-holder in the community.

This quote by Sgt. Rasheen Peppers is the most hopeful of the production. It is also one of the most frustrating. Why is this methodology not being more widely practiced? What are the roadblocks towards more “community-engaged” policing?

What is the biggest challenge in creating the kind of police force that [is “community-engaged”?] Changing the culture. That’s the biggest challenge. Getting officers to buy in to a new way of policing, that policing has evolved. That’s the hard part with anyone who is stuck doing something one way for 20 years. “Look, this is how it should be. We’ve done it wrong. Now we can get it right.”

Yup. Mindset, thinking, perspectives, bias…these are not mere dials that you turn. These are embedded neural pathways that must be rewired.

See also, The Problem with “Broken Windows” Policing, and Policing in America: 10 Questions With Jelani Cobb.