We’ve witnessed another case last weekend of police violence and community outrage.
This time it happened in McKinney, Texas where a white policeman wrestled a black female teenager to the ground and pulled his gun following unrest at a swimming pool.
We’ve seen too many of these confrontations—too often with fatal results.
–Baltimore officers are indicted in the death of Freddie Gray
–Cleveland agrees to federal oversight after police shoot to death 12-year-old Tamir Rice
–Los Angeles police kill mentally ill Ezell Ford
–The police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri sparks riots
And too frequently these cases involve white police officers and black victims.
These incidents have spurred a national discussion on the status of police-community relations and how to improve them.
The Department of Justice COPS program (Community Oriented Policing Office) promotes stronger ties between law enforcement authorities and citizens. The United States Conference of Mayors published a study in January with its own recommendations.
Cities like Redmonds, CA, Columbia Heights, MN, and Chatham, NJ already have adopted their own successful police and neighborhood programs.
These communities are leading the way. But it’s a small beginning.
More can be done
America never will have improved community-police relations until the police department and community mirror each other.
In towns and cities with racial and ethnic diversity, the police force should have the identical racial and ethnic ratio.
Police officers should live in the same neighborhoods where they work.
The children of police officers should go to the same schools as neighborhood kids.
Officers and their families should shop at the same stores, go to the same churches, and belong to the same community and neighborhood organizations.
The police department should have monthly meetings with neighborhood leaders and residents to discuss current issues and agree to collaborative solutions.
Officers working with neighbors should co-sponsor community programs aimed at saving at-risk kids. Police and residents should coach midnight basketball teams, be Big Brothers and Big Sisters to children from dysfunctional families.
The police department should have Ride Along programs where neighborhood children and adults spend a day with officers walking and riding the beat, interacting with the community, attending the morning and evening department briefings before each officer’s shift.
Police should invite neighbors into their homes.
The key is that both police and the community live together and work together with a shared commitment to the success of neighborhoods where everyone is a friend and neighbor.
It’s time to do this.