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Community Policing After Minneapolis

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Charles Mason 
July 12, 2020

As public administrators, we must seek to uphold the rule of law, for, without it, there is only the law of the jungle or the Rule of the Mob. Do not get me wrong; not all laws are created equal. Just consider the 3/5ths Compromise of 1787. However, as a seasoned security, law enforcement and correctional scholar-practitioner, I found the actions of those law enforcement officers in the death of George Floyd disturbing. Law enforcement is a pillar in our society that upholds a fragile interplay of many diverse agendas. Some would hope to topple this delicate structure for their own personal power and plans. Therefore, let us reset our aim as public servants to maintain a society for the greater good of those we serve. Therefore, let us reassess the platforms that we can change and bring about accountability to those who help us in many facets of our community—the police.

One way to reassert more control of officers and their departments is through certification through the state or federal government. Part of this effort would be to develop an officer’s skills overall and to educate them on how to better engage with a resisting subject. The state, along with the federal government, helps with the cost to develop and maintain this certification program. Whatever the price for the certification mandate would be far less than what is being spent for the reaction to the victim’s death.

The reason for this move is because agencies, and therefore officers, seem inadequately trained in necessary fighting skills. This enhanced standardized training for members of local, state and federal law enforcement officers would replace chokeholds and multiple officers piling on the body of a subject for any length of time. After watching fellow officers applying chokeholds instead of a Vascular Neck Restraint (VNR) or watching multiple officers conduct a takedown while trying to control a subject, it was as if I were watching aliens landing in the Rose Garden. I just could not believe that a small agency which I worked for had better trained officers. Our agency still makes mistakes but the training improves to address those errors in policy and procedure. The administration applies discipline to those who fail to abide by those rules, for the most part. Not all, but that is not the point. The question is, how have we failed? It all comes down to mindset. I have heard other officers say that they did not need any ground fighting skills because they would never let a subject take them to the ground. Therefore, the training was there, but the urgent need was not.

This leads me to the subject of leadership or the lack thereof. First, this failure is not totally the responsibility of the leaders in their agency. Some are powerless do to the overreach of well-meaning politicians who lack the knowledge or understanding of law and order. Then there are the police unions and their pros and cons. Unions can limit the reach of any corrective action for those placed with the burden of maintaining order within the ranks.

Back to the current problem—in my many years of work, there had been many training sessions in injury and death by asphyxiation. One crucial point was the mechanism of death. It is significant when seeking a forensic answer to the cause of death. To answer this question, we must gain an understanding of how the individual died. I would venture to say unless there is a just cause for deadly force, a reasonable person would have known or should have known that placing one’s knee on a person’s neck, while they are lying in a prone position, could potentially cause serious bodily injury or even death. Therefore, my question to those still practicing the art and science of law enforcement, has the lesson truly been learned? If not, true professionals must protect their profession by legally and administratively removing those who are or will be a recognizably actual or potential threat to that profession.

Now more than ever, community policing is a critical idea and one that is necessary as we rebuild a positive relationship between law enforcement and those they serve. There are and will be continued challenges. Some challenges are still to be identified. However, at some level, there will always be a divide due to cultural issues and societal differences; nevertheless, as a public administrator, we must bridge the gap. This comes by facing the facts at hand—reforms are coming. Now we must learn how to incorporate the right ideas while resisting the bad. I heard a talking head commenting on the police reforms during a NPR show that the police should be utilized simply like the fire department; they should be kept at a location until a called upon, then and only then would they respond.

What We Should Not Do 

  1. Defund police forces.
  2. Disband police forces—this is an Anarchist’s dream.
  3. Federalize the police.

Let us remember, we should not  make permanent decisions for our temporary emotions.

Author: Charles Mason MPA is a Doctoral Candidate at Walden University in Public Policy and Administration with a Specialization in Criminal Justice. He has over 30 plus years in local law enforcement, state corrections and military service. He is currently a leadership and development coach at Mason Academy. He can be reached at [email protected].
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DRCharlesMason

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