Can Policing Change?

Can Policing Change?

2021-04-20 10:29:19

Since George Floyd's death last May, dozens of states and local governments have changed their laws on police conduct. And yet, on average, police officers continue to kill about three Americans every day, almost identical to the number of police murders for so long statistics to exist.

That begs the question: Are the latest efforts to change police surveillance – to make it less violent, especially for Black and Latino Americans – destined to fail?

Not necessarily, say many experts. They believe the recent changes make sense. They probably won't be able to solve the country's problem with unnecessary violent policing for a long time. But the changes still seem to be substantial, even if it takes some time for them to have a noticeable effect.

"You can actually get a lot of common ground between police critics and the police themselves," said Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University and former reserve police officer in Washington, told us. "There are plenty of places where those talks seem to be taking place for the time being."

That common ground extends to public opinion. Most Americans disagree with sweeping police criticisms, such as calls to abolish police forces. (Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic congressman from Michigan, wrote last week on Twitter: “No more police, incarceration and militarization. It cannot be reformed. & # 39;) Recent polls show that most Americans say they generally trust the police, and little or none Mayors, governors, congress leaders or top members of the Biden administration share Tlaib's view.

But many politicians and most voters are in favor of changes in the police force, such as banning chokeholds and racial profiling or making police cameras mandatory. & # 39; Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – want some kind of reform, ”Alex Samuels of FiveThirtyEight wrote

The recent policy changes fall into two main categories. The first is a set of limits for the use of force. Sixteen states have limited the use of so-called neck braces, such as Derek Chauvin & # 39; s use of his knee on Floyds neck. And 21 additional cities now require officers to intervene if they believe another officer is using excessive force.

The changes have mainly occurred in Democratic-leaning states, but not entirely: Kentucky has limited warrants, which played a part in Breonna Taylor's death, while Indiana, Iowa and Utah have restricted neck restrictions. (Republican lawmakers in some states are pushing that on bills go in the other directionfor example, by tougher penalties for people who injure police officers, or by preventing cities from cutting back on police budgets.)

The second category concerns accountability by the police. Several states have mandated the use of body cameras. Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Connecticut have made it easier for citizens to sue police officers, as has New York City.

In Maryland, David Moon, a state legislator, said the recent changes "went only light years" than those in effect after Freddie Gray died in Baltimore police custody six years ago. The new laws "basically blew up the old system and tried to create a new structure for discipline", Moon told The Washington Post

An important part of the policy changes: states are enforcing them and forcing local police forces to adhere to them. "States had given local jurisdictions a lot of leeway to decide how to govern themselves," said Michael Keller of The Times. "Now states are starting to gain more control."

It's too early to know if all the focus on police work after Floyd's death will amount to widespread change. "Police organizations have an amazing ability to resist change when there is no real buy-in from the common man," Brooks said. But there seems to be greater recognition of what police work has in common with virtually every other human endeavor: it works better when it includes clear standards and external accountability.

"What we've seen since George Floyd's death – and really since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 – is a widespread recognition that law enforcement needs new rules and policies," said my colleague John Eligon, who police said. at length, said. "But there is still a great deal of frustration among many activists and community members I speak to who say the changes are far from going far enough."

He added, "They see tinkering on the edge that police culture isn't really changing or solving the big problem: that police in America are still killing people every day."

News from the Chauvin Trial:

  • In closing statements, the Prosecution called upon the jurors, “Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw. The defense argued that Chauvin had "not willfully, intentionally applied an unlawful force" to Floyd.

  • The jurors have begun to deliberate.

  • The judge said Representative Maxine Waters' suggestion that protesters "become more confrontational" if the jury found Chauvin not guilty could be grounds for appeal.

"The breakaway clubs have basically closed the top," said Rory Smith of The Times. "That's what makes this such an exciting and dangerous moment."

Rory and Tariq Panja have written an explanation with more details, and you can follow the story by reading Rory's newsletter.


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