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Re-Envisioning Policing in America

Since the murder of Michael Brown Jr. and the almost daily news detailing the murder black and brown folk in the media, there have been numerous proposals to reform policing. We’ve seen that police, while on camera and under increased public scrutiny have not changed their behavior. The movement for black lives, ally groups and commentators, including myself have called for training, restorative approaches and even demilitarization– which I believe to be important and necessary.

What might work in the meantime, as we move toward transformation of our system, is attaching police behavior to their individual officer and department pockets. What seems to get people listening is disrupting or the possibility of disrupting the flow of money. The same approach has to be taken with police departments. While this has been iterated in by Brandon Anderson of creator of the SWAT app, and Bucknell economics professor Marcellus Andrews – connecting police behavior to the insuring/ability of police and their departments to operate in communities. One candidate has a different take on this approach.

KillingTrayvons-300x450Cori Bush, democratic candidate for US senate, has articulated a proposal that argues for independently funded police oversight boards that operates differently.

In the proposal, each oversight board (that is completely controlled by communities), who would elected by the community, would do the following:

* review individual officer and overall department behavior of the communities they operate in.

* license police officers and to operate in communities based on such reviews

* If police behave badly they would have authority hold the fees police paid and offer funds in escrow to victims of police violence

* Offer police recertification courses

* collect fees to operate, adjudicate police misbehavior and support restorative programs

* support in community safety through restorative programs

* maintain counseling, violence de-escalation professionals, restorative practices staff to be called out for mental health concerns.

* Create programs where community members can interface with non-police officials- there is often fear of contacting police in lieu of dehumanizing and violent experiences with police departments and related personnel. Link to proposal.

This approach to re-envisioning policing in America comes at a time when ideas are needed to transform how we think of security in this society. Recently, the Dallas police chief suggested that joining the police is the best way for protestors to change their communities. This reasoning suggests that threat of violence and coercive force is the only way to secure communities and provide opportunity. Jennifer Mittlestadt in her new book argues (Rise of the Military Welfare State) that the American social safety net was replaced over time with the military. The opportunities created as part of the FDR’s great society were explicitly dismantled by the Nixon administration. The same logic that opportunities/and even citizenship come only from the military is also diffused in this idea of joining what has become militarized police.

In my own family and among many of my friends, the way for many to escape poverty was through the military and police force. Civil Rights and anti-war activist Rustin Bayard lamented the fact that the military/use of violence was one of the few spaces for economic possibility. Since the early days of the American experiment, enlistment was the one of the only avenues for citizenship and acceptance. While complicated, Dubois called for Blacks to join the military to be more accepted. Sadly the recent speech by Khazr Khan, although beautiful and important reiterates that the only way people would be accepted in this country

In most places in the world, the concept of security includes access to substantive opportunities that allow people to make their own life choices. The ability to make such choices often falls along income and racial lines.

This proposal acknowledges where values in this country lie. Money is often the determining factor for how people behave. Police are rarely held accountable, as we saw in the recent inability for States Atty, Mosby to secure prosecution of officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray. By connecting police violence to officer’s personal income we might see possible changes as they think their retirements/portion of salaries held up because they were unwilling to deescalate situations with blacks, while they are less likely to murder whites. Often, police murder citizens and continue to draw paychecks and evade prosecution.

Cori Bush, endorsed by a number of national, Missouri State elected officials is a registered nurse and a Ferguson activist from the who looked out for the health and well-being of protesters since the uprising began.

Because of her creative look at policing, connecting funding to other concerns like mental health and community opportunities.

Dr. David Ragland is from North St. Louis, MO and is a Visiting Professor of Education at Bucknell University. 

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