Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's the plan?

It comes as no surprise to me that Al Giordano got a little provocative on Facebook last night.
The events everybody is outraged about have happened every single day for years, for decades, for centuries. Every. Single. Day. I'm so bored with your outrage which comes only because something suddenly is covered by the media. Show me a plan, a strategy, a tactic, to change the game, and I'll get excited and active and pitch in. But your expressions of outrage are depressing, disempowering, and, even worse, they've become routine...
I share his concern because I hear so many people using their voices to stir up outrage while offering precious little by way of solutions. Eventually the outrage becomes exhausting and that's when cynicism and inertia sets it. Its either that or we move on to the next outrage and blame "them" (usually President Obama these days) for not fixing it all for us.

So here are some things I've been hearing about as part of the solution:
  1. Just because the video of Officer Pantaleo killing Eric Garner didn't result in an indictment  does not mean that body cameras for law enforcement are worthless. I'd suggest that we wouldn't even know about this incident if it weren't for the video. Beyond that, I doubt that SC State Trooper Sean Goubert would have ever been charged were it not for the video produced by his web cam.
  2. Everyone should immediately check in to who their District Attorney (sometimes referred to as County Prosecutor) is and find out their position on racism and law enforcement. When it comes to the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the person most singularly responsible in each case for a lack of indictment are the prosecutors who presented the cases before the grand juries. Neither of them wanted an indictment, so it didn't happen. Often these prosecutors are elected in off-year elections. You can bet that the police unions know who they want elected and get their constituents out to vote. We need to do the same.
  3. Even with the above, I think that having a police shooting automatically trigger an independent prosecutor is an idea worth exploring. Of course to be really effective, it would have to be a federal requirement. Often federal law enforcement funds are tied to these kinds of reforms. So that might be the route to take in order to make sure it is enacted nationally.
  4. Its time we question how local law enforcement goes about recruiting and screening applicants. I'm not sure that training once officers are hired has a lot of impact. But the people who are often attracted to police work in the first place tend to NOT be the ones I would trust with the position. IOW, hothead macho guys with a trigger finger need not apply. A local police commander once told me that the best police officers are the ones who are good negotiators. That's the kind of personality/skills we should be looking for.
But perhaps the biggest impediment for most Democrats when it comes to this kind of reform is that it will probably require us to take on the police unions. We've seen what this group has done in Ferguson, so it probably won't surprise you to find out that the New York Police Union Chief praised the outcome of the grand jury investigation in the Eric Garner case. For those of you who remember the #pointergate fiasco from a few weeks ago, its important to note that the whole thing was started by the Minneapolis police union to go after the Mayor for reforms she was instituting in law enforcement.

Historically, Democrats have been reluctant to take on battles that pit them against any kind of union. That's understandable given how the Scott Walker's of the Republican Party have made them a target. So this one has to be handled carefully. That would be greatly aided when/if police chiefs, officers and unions who really do believe that it is their job to serve the public realize that these kinds of reforms are in their own self-interests. Otherwise they have to be seen as part of the problem.

Based on that list it seems obvious that most of this work is going to have to be local rather than national. DOJ can get the ball rolling with body cams and perhaps some carrots/sticks in favor of special prosecutors. But the rest will be up to us to get done in our local communities by working with Mayors, Police Chiefs, County Prosecutors, etc.

How pissed off are you about what's going on? Enough to get stuff like this done?

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