Race Reckoning: Police Reform in a New Era  

We know that every issue has two sides. We also respect that not everyone has the same opinion about these very important matters. By engaging our site visitors in helpful discourse we hope to effect positive change in our society. We know that nothing valuable or worthwhile ever came easy. With that said, we present an analysis of the search for social justice.

Site Owner Forward –

We understand that policing and police reform is a big topic in America today. As a society, it is important that we openly discuss these matters in order to find the right solution. Ultimately, we need both police and the citizenry to be understood, respected and properly protected. Therefore,  we wish to perform an analysis of the current situation in an effort to spur informed debate and that will lead to a substantive change for the better.

Law enforcement authorities all around the world continually grapple with the issue of using excessive force against the citizenry. There is a very thin line between law enforcement and police brutality, some may argue. In the United States, the problem runs deeper and may be rooted in racial prejudice. The recent massive protests following the death of George Floyd; an unarmed black male served only as a reminder of an existing problem. This reawakened matter has led to a societal discourse that largely agrees that police reform is necessary.

BLM protest

WASHINGTON D.C., USA – MAY 31, 2020: Protest after George Floyd death, Black Lives Matter group standing against White House president Donald Trump

What do Americans think?

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in a new poll has revealed that most Americans support creation of clear standards that guide police officers when using force. This poll has shown that most Americans think that there should be consequences for officers who are found to have gone overboard or those who employ excessive force. Most Americans are open to some level of change in the criminal justice system. The poll also revealed that Americans are now more aware of racially biased policing compared to five years ago. In this regard, most of those who were polled consider this injustice a serious problem. In the poll, only 5% of respondents believed that no changes were necessary. Up to 40% of the people surveyed stated that major changes were needed, while 25% indicated that minor changes were enough.

On the political stage, more Democrats are obviously pushing for stricter reforms with the need to overhaul the system completely. More specifically, 44% of Democrats want major changes compared to 12% of Republicans. It is worth noting that 47% of Republicans are in support of minor changes in the law enforcement sector. Cutting across the political divide is the need for police officers to have and observe clearer guidelines and standards when it comes to the use of force. This will only help protect everyone involved. Among reform recommendations that almost all people agree about include the need to wear video cameras or body cams, prosecuting officers who are found culpable in using excessive force and those who police with racial bias.  

Some extreme recommendations to police reforms have also been made; the most notable one being reducing funding to law enforcement. Many protesting groups are calling for the defunding of the police. However, according to the poll, only 25% of Americans support this rather extreme move. Republican supporters for this idea are only few and most are of the view that there is always a bad apple or two in every profession. Many have suggested that the solution lies in dealing with bad cops instead of punishing the entire police force.

In the poll, most Americans support additional, extensive training of police officers, both on racial bias and in general. Most Americans polled also acknowledged that black Americans are more likely to be treated less fairly by police. Most respondents think that proper training on how to best respond to emergency situations where different races are concerned could greatly reduce police brutality.  

NYPD officers in times square

NEW YORK CITY – JULY 10: NYPD Police officers in NYC on July 10, 2015. The New York City Police Department (NYPD), established in 1845, is the largest municipal police force in the United States.

Importance of effective police training

In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a young black male was jogging through the mainly white neighborhood of Satilla Shores outside Atlanta, Georgia. Arbery was pursued by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis in a confrontation that led to the shooting death of the 25 year old man. McMicheal and his son have since been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

Recent information has revealed that McMicheal, a retired police officer, did not maintain proper training as a law enforcement officer. In fact, this earned him a suspension according to the records obtained by trusted media sources. Proper training for police officers not only provides the tactical know-how to physically tackle active situations; but it also empowers officers mentally to make the right call during an emergency. Proper training therefore delivers empowerment of the mind and skill to de-escalate potent scenarios.

There are people who are of the view that no amount of training can reform a bad cop. Keeping this in mind, there are other recommendations that have been brought forth on how bad officers can be weeded out of the system.

Police reform suggestions in a new era

Before considering suggestions across the political divide in the form of bills, let us analyze what some campaign groups are advocating for in terms of police reform in a new era.

  • Banning of chokeholds and strangleholds

A chokehold is also referred to as a stranglehold or a choke. It is mainly practiced in Brazillain jiu jitsu, judo or sambo. It is a grappling technique that prevents airflow, blood flow or both to the victim. If this hold is sustained for some time, it will knock out the victim or even cause death. In addition to martial arts and combat sports, this hold is used in the military, law enforcement and for self defence. In law enforcement, some officers tactfully use the choke hold to target blood flow alone and call it carotid hold. Many claim that this technique is not similar to the more forceful chokehold. All in all, there are authorities that have banned chokeholds. In the United States, activist groups have actively called for the ban of strangleholds.

Chokeholds that do not cause permanent injury or death can assist law enforcement officers subdue a suspect who does not cooperate. However, when injury or death happens, it becomes apparent that excessive force was used; or poor technique application was employed. There is indeed an obvious danger to strangleholds and reviewing this approach further could yield recommendations that may reform police for the better.  

  • A violence de-escalation policy

Another recommendation is on de-escalating situations for police officers as a mandatory guideline. This would require officers to calm the situation instead of aggravating it further. In reality, not all situations can be de-escalated; especially where innocent lives are on the line. However, there are cases where violence can be avoided calming the situation down without the need to harm people or property. Looking at this suggestion and considering the grey areas can provide a framework that could guide officers in their daily tasks.

  • A requirement to warn before shooting

Some officers draw their guns and fire without warning. In some situations, there is no time to warn an armed suspect. However, in other cases, there is enough time to warn and to seek cooperation before resulting in opening fire. In fact, shooting a suspect ideally should be the last option for an officer when other methods have failed. Many suspects may submit when a shooting warning is issued and this could indeed help officers and the members of the public avoid deadly consequences.

  • A requirement for fellow officers to intervene when colleagues use brutal force

In many situations where people have been shot dead or killed, a partner officer is almost always looking over the unfolding situation inactively. Accountability by other officers can avert dangerous use of force. In active situations, officers are more likely to listen to their fellow officers and in so doing, excessive force can be avoided. This could be a reasonable recommendation for the force.

  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles

This is another common suggestion for the police force. One can argue that a vehicle moving away doesn’t pose immediate danger to an officer. In such instances, letting the suspect go could be the best call. However, some moving vehicles may be a danger to civilians and even the officer. The suspects may also start shooting back which makes the scenario even messier. There should be clear parameters in which an officer should not shoot at a moving vehicle.

chicago police officer

A Chicago city policeman standing on the road wearing a bullet proof vest.

Proposed reforms by US Democrats

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has been proposed by Democrats in Congress. The bill was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a delegation of Democratic lawmakers. In the bill, federal police will be compelled to use body and dashboard cameras, ban surprise police raids commonly known as ‘no-knock warrants’, ban chokeholds, make offending police liable for violation of civil rights and remove federal police funding from non compliant local forces.

Furthermore, the bill calls for the limiting of military weapons in the police force. It makes lynching a crime and advocates for the creation of a national police misconduct registry. This bill is most likely to sail through in the House of Representatives where Democrats have a majority. However, it might prove a daunting task in the largely Republican Senate.

The Minneapolis City Council just voted unanimously to disband the police department. The department will be replaced by a public safety system that is community led.  Whether this will result in the desired result has yet to be seen. Though, this move could signal grassroots reforms that might acquire momentum even without federal guidance.

This kind of uncertainty poses grave risks for all. Regardless of the approach, stakeholders agree that something must change and soon. All in all, most Americans are eagerly waiting to see real change in the police force; citizens envision a force that honors basic human rights for all people. Police reforms in a new era can only be realized through bipartisan and racially neutral cooperation for the greater good of society.



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