Why is it so hard to improve American policing?

Source: Frederic Lemieux, The Conversation, July 8, 2016

….The ideal today is “democratic policing,” a concept developed by scholars like Gary T. Marx at MIT. Broadly, this refers to a police force that is publicly accountable, subject to the rule of law, respectful of human dignity and that intrudes into citizens’ lives only under certain limited circumstances.

Partly in response to this ideal, policing in America has evolved considerably over the past 50 years. There have been changes in hiring, how relations with civilians are managed and what technologies are used.

The 20th century has seen a slow but steady integration of minorities and women within police forces. Different managerial models aimed at improving relations with citizens have also influenced policing over the last 40 years. The most prominent among these are community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing and intelligence-led policing.

Policing has also been deeply transformed by the rapid integration of new technologies leading to computerization of police forces such as the profiling of crime hotspots, access to a broader range of weapons like tasers and the deployment of surveillance technologies like drones and closed circuit TV.
Some of these changes have been positive, but as recent events show, many problems remain. Why hasn’t more progress been made?….

How Police See Us, and How They Train Us to See Them
Source: Greg Howard, New York Times Magazine, July 8, 2016

….In a vacuum, the United States of America is not a war zone. Falcon Heights, Minn., is not a war zone. Dallas is not a war zone. The nation’s thruways are not war zones. In a vacuum, police officers shouldn’t kill the very citizens they swear to protect. But the police, especially officers who commute to patrol communities not their own, are — or can act very much like — an occupying force…..

A Police Department That’s Embraced Reform
Source: Leon Neyfakh, Slate, July 8, 2016

Under Chief David Brown, the Dallas PD has made tremendous strides in curbing excessive force and reducing officer-involved shootings.

Training to reduce ‘cop macho’ and ‘contempt of cop’ could reduce police violence
Source: Frank Rudy Cooper, The Conversation, December 18, 2015

It must be a terrible burden knowing that you might have to make a quick decision about whether to yell at someone, shock them, or shoot them dead. That is the weight inherent in the job of a police officer. Nonetheless, we appropriately expect cops to maintain a peacekeeping mentality – to remain calm, patient and controlled even in life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, patient and nonaggressive policing will be rare unless we train officers to overcome the rules of what I call cop macho….. While the debate over police abuses has focused on race, I argue we need to consider how the desire to act in ways society deems manly has influenced policing…..

How video can help police – and the public
Source: Mary Angela Bock, The Conversation, July 5, 2016

…..One of the most dramatic ways camera proliferation is changing our lives is in the area of law enforcement. Dashcams have been around for years and are increasingly popular. President Obama called for local departments to start equipping officers with badge cams. Citizens, too, have cameras, usually in their smartphones, but increasingly on their own dashboards. Yet even with all this footage, we are often in the dark about what really happens during police encounters.

For the past three years I’ve been studying the police accountability movement and the role that video has played in fueling activism by citizens concerned about criminal justice policies in their communities. “Cop-watching,” as it’s known informally, cannot be understood without also studying the way the law enforcement community uses video. As a result, my work has taken me to courtrooms, police stations and city streets where citizens and police are watching each other through their camera lenses…..

Police should put away the military gear and build connections with young people
Source: Arthur Romano, The Conversation, August 12, 2015

….While the protests bring awareness to the crisis of police overreach and brutality, thousands of dedicated people are working for greater police accountability and more community involvement in shaping policing practices.

As a researcher and educator in the field of conflict resolution, I witness firsthand these efforts for change. Unfortunately, these positive steps are being squeezed by lack of funding and support and are harmed by a misguided emphasis on militarized policing…..