Why Would Anyone Trust the Police These Days?

Optics Policing


Anyone in their right mind in America now has got to be asking themselves why in the world they would feel safe in their neighborhoods or on the streets of their cities.  There has to be fear in their hearts, not because crime is rampant, but because once again it is clear that the police are out of control.  It’s not a new thing, but no matter the outrage or convictions, the police seem resistant to change.  Common sense makes it simple.  If they won’t change, then how all of us view the police has to change, and that’s happening.  A blue light anywhere around you now means duck-and-cover.

If the parade of police killings that culminated in the national witnessing of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis wasn’t enough to force a major culture shift within police forces, the latest murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, might finally be the tipping point. I say “might” because nothing so far seems to have effectively delivered the message that they have to change.  Maybe this time they won’t be able to ignore the fact that their brutality and excessive force isn’t working.  That seems to be the conclusion that the American public is coming to realize.  A recent poll by the Washington Post and ABCC found that…

For the first time since the Post-ABC poll began asking about the issue in 2014, just under half of White Americans say they are confident about police avoiding excessive force or racial bias. About two-thirds of Hispanic Americans lack confidence in police on both fronts.

That’s the highwater mark.  The support for police has fallen in the Black community to only 20%.  Frankly, I’m surprised the support is even as high as 20%.

Will they get the message?  I’m not sure.  So far in Memphis, they acted to disband the so-called Scorpion unit, a special squad sent to high crime areas and allowed more flexibility around violence.  The whole country can now see how that worked out!  Memphis has now shut that group down, but this isn’t a lesson that they should have been taught by the Nichols murder.  Over several decades similar police units established by politicians to answer spikes in crime have been found to practice excessive force and been closed in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philly, and other cities.  Studies have also found that these polices don’t really even reduce crime, they just turn communities against them.

The problem with the police is greater than special squads; it’s systemic.  Some mayors and police chiefs are going to have to answer the call and lead the change.  The system is broken, and there can be no effective public safety without community support.  At the point we’ve reached now, where almost no one trusts the police in many communities, and they lack majority support everywhere, something has to give.  Policing isn’t a form of urban warfare where the police operate as armed warriors without restraint.  Our communities and members don’t want to abolish the police, but they are going to demand wholesale changes and a revolution in the way the police operate from top to bottom.