Reconstructing Public Safety
Working Together for Law Enforcement Reform
This newsletter is the last of our series on police reform. You can read the first three parts below.
Part I: “Moving Beyond Slogans and Rhetoric”
Part II: “The Brutality of Balkanization”
Part III: “Enough is Enough”
Part IV: “The Blueprint for Blue Reform”
The Simple Solution Trap
Headlines can mislead. Law enforcement reform is a complicated issue that will defy simple solutions. It demands a comprehensive, far-sighted and inclusive approach.
Reforming law enforcement will be hard. Slogans, legislation and budget changes have their place, but enduring reform will require much more. The nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies cannot be changed overnight or in a vacuum. Change will require new service models. And new service models cannot thrive unless we first transform the bureaucracies in which many law enforcement agencies are embedded—states, cities, counties and other public agencies.
Wouldn’t we have more law and order—and justice—if we could see our law enforcement officials as people who represent us, care about us and work for us?
Barney Fife, in one memorable scene from the Andy Griffith Show, showed us how law enforcement works best—when we see and respect the badge as a symbol for our community.
Do images of heavily armed police in riot gear really enhance the reputation of those who serve us? Do they really make us feel safer?
Let’s work together—peacefully and respectfully—to reconstruct our law enforcement system and ensure justice for all Americans.
Police reform will have to overcome many obstacles—agency fragmentation, unfair expectations, obsolete patrol models, paramilitary cultures and weak accountability, to name a few. Another barrier could be a splintered, undisciplined reform movement. Our best hope is to pursue reform with the resolve of John Lewis who, in his last words, urged us to, “Walk with the wind and let the spirit of peace and everlasting love be your guide.”
In 1989, the City of Eugene launched a mobile crisis intervention unit—Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS). CAHOOTS, funded by a public safety levy, dispatches response teams (nurse/EMT and crisis worker) to non-violent situations (e.g., mental health and public intoxication episodes) to resolve issues (e.g., medical needs) and link better resources (e.g., detox center). CAHOOTS teams handle 20% of police 911 calls and many other calls and generate significant annual savings.
Other Views & Links
The Great Crime Decline, Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
5 Facts About Crime in the US, John Gramlich, Pew Research Center
Police Chiefs Most Open to Reform are the Ones Leaving, Alan Greenblatt, Governing
The Hell of Being a Black Cop, Reddit Hudson, New Republic
Amid Calls to 'Defund,' How to Rethink Policing, Barry Friedman, Wall Street Journal
Police Reform Wasn't the Only Big Change in Camden, Paul Vallas, Wall Street Journal
The City Planners' Case for Defunding the Police, Brentin Mock, Bloomberg
Civic Way System
The Civic Way system for strengthening governance helps leaders identify civic problems, solve those problems, improve governance and track civic progress. Civic Way’s advisors know how to help civic leaders adopt these templates to their needs.
Sample templates and other guidelines are available on the Civic Way website.
Civic Way is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to helping communities revitalize democracy and governance from the ground up. If you want to be part of the Civic Way network or learn more about our work, please visit Civic Way at https://www.civicway.org/.