On Policing

Welcome to the On Policing series.

PF On Policing logo final versionOn Policing captures the thoughts of some of the country’s most important voices on contemporary policing. It is intended to stimulate debate about the state of policing and the myriad of challenges involved in controlling crime, disorder, and terrorism in a democracy like ours. The opinions are the authors’ own and may not represent the official position of the Police Foundation. All comments are welcome – especially contrarian ones. We reserve the right to remove hateful or profane posts.

Please refer to the essay entitled “An Introduction to On Policing” for an in-depth introduction to the series by the Police Foundation’s president, Jim Bueermann. If you would like to contribute to the On Policing series, please send your 500-1000 word essay to onpolicing@policefoundation.org.

 

 

 

Race and the Police

clarence-edwardsBy Clarence Edwards

Race continues to influence how people of African descent in the United States are treated by law enforcement. Racism has been a systematic feature of American society and all of its institutions since this nation’s inception. Acknowledgement of the role implicit and overt biases have historically played in creating disparate law enforcement practices and the resulting frictions between African Americans and the police is a reality that should be immediately addressed.

The assignment of Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and even African American police officers to police poor, predominantly black neighborhoods who have had little or no social contact with members of this group or specific training in how to effectively interact in such environments is an ongoing recipe for disaster. Police officers from each of the aforementioned groups sometimes bring negative attitudes and or stereotypes to these communities that can adversely affect their decisions and the fairness of their enforcement actions.

Some police forces in this nation have historically played critical roles in maintaining positional power for whites. This has created a very difficult chasm to overcome when police departments attempt to implement community policing initiatives. Read More & Share

Law Enforcement: The New Caregivers for the Mentally Ill?

bernard-melekianBy Bernard Melekian
Santa Barbara County Undersheriff

One of the greatest public policy failures of modern times is the dismantling of our nation’s state mental health systems and the failure to replace them with any meaningful treatment options. The elimination of the mental health hospital system was as disastrous as it was well intentioned.

In the 1970’s, when I was a young police officer, the stated plan was to replace the state hospitals with neighborhood mental health clinics. Officers could take people they encountered in difficult but not criminal situations to these clinics for an assessment and treatment if required. For those persons who didn’t qualify to be held for 72 hours, they did get counseling, medication or just a place to sit quietly. It was an incredible resource for police officers. Sadly, funding for the program was eliminated. Worse, nothing came along to replace it.

What is left is a system that all too often consigns people to the street and eventually the correctional system, usually the county jail. Our jail and prison facilities have unfortunately replaced the mental health care system. Read More & Share

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