In the wake of the crisis capped by the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the subsequent non-indictment of the involved police officers, the American polity is suffering further polarization. Amidst the national debate surrounding policing and race, there exists one consensus: Reforms to law enforcement are necessary.
A recent Washington Post poll reveals that across the political and racial spectrum there is particular agreement on two measures. The survey found 86 percent of respondents in support of requiring police officers to wear video cameras while on duty, and 87 percent want independent prosecutors handling cases in which police kill unarmed citizens. Brown could enact reforms to its Department of Public Safety that would serve as examples for larger scale reforms.
While the efficacy of body cameras and independent prosecutors might seem questionable within the context of the Brown community, law enforcement reforms anywhere should emphasize community policing. As defined by the Department of Justice, community policing relies on the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues. The DOJ proposes an organizational transformation that underscores the need for improvements in transparency, hiring and training, decision-making, and community culture and relations.
To be sure, DPS has implemented policies that connect officers with students: active use of social media, public events where police and students can interact, bike and foot patrols, the Safewalk service and crime awareness presentations. But as discussions of possible reforms arise around the country, Brown should consider some of the recent proposals. While many students trust and often chat with officers around campus, simple steps could enhance cooperation. Giving officers body cameras, increasing interactions with students, and making procedures more transparent would go a long way in building a relationship with students. Working together not only helps police prevent and investigate crimes but also makes students more comfortable reporting crimes, particularly in cases of sexual assault.
Though extensive and far-reaching, community-policing reforms represent relatively inexpensive measures that can significantly improve the respect and cooperation between civilians and police officers. Moreover, effective implementation ultimately increases the capacity of police and improves accountability. The active implementation of community policing at Brown, coupled with a methodical analysis of its results, can set a precedent for broader reform.
Brown has demonstrated a strong commitment to community policing. Many students know officers’ names, a phenomenon that is rare beyond college campuses. But due to the immediacy and high-profile nature of this debate, Brown should continue to act as a leader in addressing this national issue. Proactively expanding upon community policing would not only keep Brown safer but would also serve as a model for larger communities and American cities.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Zoila Bergeron ’17, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15 and Katherine Pollock ’16. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.