It’s now become such a common theme across the United States – at least in the eyes of the mainstream media – that CNN probably has a chyron for it on hot standby at all times. “Police reform” is among the hottest topics for debate as we move into the final phase of the general election. Whether you’re talking about defunding the police, abolishing them altogether or simply “fixing” their standard operating procedures, everyone seems to want to tell the cops how they should be doing their jobs in a more culturally enlightened fashion.
So what do the actual men and women in blue think about this? A recent survey of police department leaders across the nation conducted by the Washington Times shows a fairly consistent trend. The cops know how to do their jobs and all of these calls for “sweeping changes” by social justice warriors are not going to be acceptable. One board member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLEE) summed up the feelings of a majority of LEOs by saying, “We are accredited because all of our policies are best practices,” while acknowledging that their policies should always remain under regular review and be open for improvements.
Police departments say they won’t bow to demands by social justice warriors for sweeping changes to policing protocols that govern the use of force, traffic stops, serving warrants and dealing with subjects who resist arrest.
A Washington Times survey of police departments across the country and national law enforcement organizations found most opted for slight adjustments to standard operating procedures rather than major overhauls.
Gina V. Hawkins, the police chief in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said her department has implemented at least 30 changes since Memorial Day, when George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police. But she described the adjustments as “minor tweaks.”
In general terms, Hawkins isn’t saying anything that shouldn’t already be obvious. The police have been in the business of law enforcement for a long time. They know what works and what doesn’t work. And people with no experience in the nitty-gritty reality of maintaining order in the public square are ill-equipped to come storming in, demanding “sweeping changes” to a system they barely understand.
We’re not just talking about activists, protesters and rioters here, either. The same can often be said for executive branch officials at every level. Just as the President of the United States is the final authority in matters pertaining to the military, governors and mayors are tasked with exercising control over state and municipal law enforcement departments. But that doesn’t suddenly make the President a seasoned combat veteran or war-planner any more than a mayor or governor miraculously becomes an expert in policing the streets upon being sworn in.
One of the most glaring examples of this phenomenon came to us this week from Portland, Oregon. Mayor Ted Wheeler issued an executive order banning the use of teargas by his police departments in the face of dangerous riots. He obviously did this in an effort to placate the mobs currently running wild in his city (for all that good that’s going to do) but all he will succeed in accomplishing is crippling the effectiveness of the Portland Police force during the next round of riots.
We shouldn’t need to do more than ask one simple question. What does Ted Wheeler know about being a cop? The guy grew up in a wealthy family that operated a major lumber business. He went to college to study economics and business management and then almost immediately became a politician. His total experience with teargas was when he himself got gassed by federal agents when he took to the streets to “support” the demonstrators. I’m sure that wasn’t enjoyable, but it’s not much of a basis for making sweeping decisions like that.
Another thing that seems obvious from the results of this survey is that “one size fits all” doesn’t work when it comes to law enforcement policies. As with most all governmental matters, different places around the country deal with a variety of conditions on the ground and specific needs. This is equally true of policing. Life for members of the NYPD, with 36,000 officers, tens of thousands of vehicles and a budget measured in the billions is a far cry from that of Humperdink, Pennsylvania, population 1,029, where their five cops are best known for drinking coffee at the Sunny Mornings Diner and their dispatch desk shuts down every evening at 6 pm because Billie Jean has to get home in time to milk the cows.
Saying all cops have to wear body cameras sounds great in a press conference and that technology has been a huge boon to the cops in New York City. They are frequently in dangerous gang territory and wind up in violent encounters that need to be well documented to avoid crippling lawsuits, as well as ensuring that none of the cops have gone bad or are simply lacking in training. But those body cameras, including maintenance and video storage, can cost upwards of $1,000 per year. In Humperdink, the cops are still trying to scrape up the money to replace the muffler on one of their two squad cars. And the worst criminal event they’ve had to deal with in the past year was the time that Phil Morgan got drunk and nearly shot Betty Lou Archer’s poodle.
The point is, there will always be room for improvement in policing. But those policies need to be set with an eye toward established best practices by people who know first-hand what it means to uphold the law and maintain order. And that solution isn’t going to be found in a list of demands from a group of Antifa terrorists who have taken over the local Subway sandwich shop.