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OP ED: Police connect to their communities but it’s not enough

by Ezekiel J. Walker
OP ED: Police connect to their communities but it's not enough
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Policing in America has undergone major changes since 2020. While we most often see the viral videos of police misconduct, brutality, and outright murder, police forces across the US have implemented various strategies to attempt ingratiating themselves to those they are sworn to protect and serve.

In Dallas, Texas, police chief U. Renee Hall cites gun accessibility and her force’s relationship with its community as hurdle to her city’s progress. “There’s some brokenness in the amount of guns that are on our streets,” Hall told CBS News. “There’s some brokenness in the relationships between police and the community. And so what are we going to do about it at this point? It takes work, and it takes owning where we are flawed and fixing it.”

In a country where detectives are stretched line due to the overwhelming amount of gun deaths, Dallas Police Department reported it solved more than 70% of homicides — 20 points higher than the national average.

Hall cites relationship-building as a cornerstone approach, “One of the first things my team and I did (was), we met with them and told them, ‘I don’t want to go to any community where we have great relationships. I only want to go to those communities where our relationships are challenged.’ I started there.”

Determined to make her police force representative of the community they’re sworn to protect and serve, Hall mentions, “We went from 17%, 18% Latinos, Hispanics, in the police department under my leadership to about 24% because the largest portion of our community were Hispanic.”

H.R.1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 continues to collect dust under Biden

In Champaign, Ill, police officers, including chief Tim Tyler, met with the community on Tuesday for the department’s latest “Coffee with a Cop” event at a local restaurant. “We can’t do anything without the community,” Tyler told WCIA. “We’re not from space, we don’t land in. Police officers are from the community, a lot of my police officers live in the community.”

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, many American cities have instituted programs that allow the community and police to interact and discuss matters that affect their livelihood. In Lakeland, Florida, the Lakeland Police Citizen Advisory Board was formed in June of 2020 to focus on “discussing new agency programs, past police/citizen interactions, and providing insight on community needs to LPD staff. The goal of the board is to have an open dialogue with members of the Lakeland Police Department, allowing for continued development to enhance quality of life for our citizens and those visiting our beautiful city.”

Per the News & Observer, in Durham, North Carolina, city leaders announced a new $2,000 bonus to encourage more bilingual people to become police officers, emergency workers and other local government employees. With more than 40,000 Latino residents in Durham, according to the most recent census, only 1 in 14 police officers can speak Spanish.

The N.C. Congress of Latino Organizations, which organized the meeting, said there have been about 300 complaints from the members of different Latino groups it represents. Residents have said they felt ignored, looked down upon from some officers for not speaking English well, or have not bothered to call 911 due to a lack of Spanish-speakers.

NAACP offers its own solutions to American policing

Recently, the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, in partnership with Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, released “Advancing An Alternative to Police: Community-Based Services for Black People with Mental Illness.” This brief examines the incarceration, institutionalization, and police violence that Black people with mental illness, and all people with mental illness, face in law enforcement encounters when community-based mental health services are not available to respond to their needs.

According to the LDF, “it is critical that we expand culturally competent, community-based mental health services. The services needed include clinical services, such as ACT, and mental health crisis services, but also non-clinical services, such as supportive housing, peer support, and supported employment.”

As cops attempt to ingratiate themselves to the communities they police, for many the only lasting change will come when stories like Jayland Walker being fatally shot 60 times as White mass murderers are peacefully apprehended are a thing of the past.

Police departments in America are not full of bad apples, they’re full of bad farmers. While strategies and plans are implemented to harvest community trust in cops, they themselves will have to plant more seeds to rid their historic reputation of only producing strange fruit.

2 comments

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