In the past few years, the tragic deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers have led the grassroots movement, Black Lives Matter. This movement has highlighted many of the economic and societal problems that still exist as hurdles for many African Americans to gain true equality in this country. One of the big issues that the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted is the tense relationship between police and minority communities in many areas in this country. There are areas, however, where police and local communities are working together to try to improve police/minority relationships. One place is in Cincinnati. Here is an excerpt of an article by Nathalie Baptiste for the American Prospect magazine:
The history of police brutality has left generations of black communities wary of police. Blackwell says he tells his officers, ‘Don’t take it personally when you get met with aggression and mistrust. It’s not personal. It’s generational.’ In short, generations of blacks have come to expect the worst—and this apprehension will change only slowly as police conduct changes.
…A key goal is to build ‘relationships of respect, cooperation, and trust within and between’ the police and local communities. To this end, Blackwell created the Quality of Life Enhancement Team. This unit patrols neighborhoods and talks to residents, with the hope that its presence will reduce crime. In the past, police officers would come into neighborhoods with heavy-handed tactics—even if the residents were the ones who asked for their help.
Blackwell rejects the zero-tolerance approach to crime-riddled neighborhoods. ‘Anyone jay-walks, anyone spits on the sidewalk, or ride your bikes on the sidewalk—we’re just going to write everybody a ticket. That’s how some agencies do it. That’s not good policing.’
A number of programs promoting education and community relations make the Cincinnati Police Department stand out. Blackwell stresses service as an integral part of policing. After police officers get their badge for the first time, he has the new officers participate in a weeklong service immersion program. ‘They are going to remember what’s most important, and that is to serve people, to worry about not just crime and criminality, but life and livability,’ he says. As part of service immersion, new cops feed the homeless, and volunteer in schools, soup kitchens, and nursing homes.
Activists and police in the Watts area in Los Angeles have worked to improve the relationship between the police and the African American community since the Watts riots of 1965. Here is an excerpt of an article by Jennifer Medina for the New York Times:
Confrontations between African-Americans and the police are once again convulsing the country; in Ferguson, Mo., where protesters gathered over the weekend to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown and the riots that ensued, a gunman fired at the police on Sunday night and was shot, and other gunfire and skirmishes broke out. But Watts — once a symbol of urban strife and racial tensions — stands as a stark contrast. There were fewer than a dozen homicides in the neighborhood last year, compared with hundreds in 1965. Community leaders like Mr. Joubert, a former gang leader turned peacemaker and respected mentor, say relations with the police have never been better.
…Every week for the better part of a decade, Mr. Joubert and other local leaders have met as part of the Watts Gang Task Force, exchanging information with the police and trying to find ways to quell tensions in the community, whether they stem from a gang fight or a police interaction.
In some sense, the changes in the area are evidence of the uniqueness of the neighborhood, which covers just more than two square miles. It is, as some residents put it, the smallest neighborhood with the biggest reputation.
The city’s Housing Authority has poured more than $10 million into special projects there in the last several years. The Police Department has dedicated 10 officers and a sergeant to each of the housing complexes, with officers generally signing on for a five-year commitment to patrol the area by foot each day. The police officers have begun a football league for 9- to 11-year-olds and work as coaches on their days off.
I have heard many conservative commentators make the false claim that the Black Lives Matter movement is anti-police. The many videos of bad interactions between the police and African Americans, though, shows that the abuse that many in the African American community have been complaining about for years are legitimate complaints. The issues that the movement are highlighting should be the focus of reform within the police departments that have strained relations with minority communities. The efforts of police departments in Watts, Cincinnati and other cities to experiment in community policing techniques shows that it is possible to improve the relationship of the police and the minority communities in which they serve. It is mutually beneficial to both the police and the African American communities to work together.
E.J. Dionne wrote an article that sums up how I feel about the Black Lives Matter movement and the police. He wrote:
Too many young African Americans have been killed in confrontations with police when lethal force should not have been used. We should mourn their deaths and demand justice. Black Lives Matter turned into a social movement because there is legitimate anger over the reality that — to be very personal about it — I do not have to worry about my son being shot by the police in the way an African American parent does.
At the same time, too many of our police officers are killed while doing their jobs. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 1,466 men and women in law enforcement died in the line of duty over the past decade. We should mourn their deaths, appreciate the dangers they face and honor their courage.
…politicians and, yes, even political commentators have an obligation: to try to make things better, not worse. There is always a choice between the politics of resentment and the politics of remedy. Resentment is easier.
…The movement for police reform was not the invention of some leftist claque. It was a response to real and genuinely tragic events. Silencing protesters won’t make anything better.
In the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Richmond, the relationship between the people and the police strong and the statistics indicate that the policies instituted by Chief Magnus are significantly reducing crime. Katie Couric visits to find out why things are different
Many police departments, including the one in racially diverse Long Beach, California, are using a technique called community policing to both fight crime and improve relations. Elizabeth Lee has the details from Long Beach
In the public housing projects of the Watts neighborhood in Southeast, Los Angeles, police seem as determined to make friends as they do to make arrests. Two decades ago, the LAPD was best known for incidents like the 1991 beating of Rodney King, which led to riots against police brutality. John Blackstone reports.
Video has emerged showing men claiming to be undercover NYPD officers being prevented from arresting a teenage girl by community members, sparking outrage and raising new issues about how community policing might curb instances of police brutality.
In this short documentary, parents reveal their struggles with telling their black sons that they may be targets of racial profiling by the police