Right now it’s quite popular to be “anti-cop.” Then again, that should be expected. All the media ever reports about are the bad things that corrupt police officers do while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of law enforcement officials perform their duties how they’re supposed to. Not only that, but a lot of the “internet media” is highly dependent upon page views to generate revenue. (Side note: to be fair, Forward Progressives hosts advertising as well.) The problem is, many less than ethical websites have realized that they can exploit this anti-cop sentiment by sensationalizing any story (or non-story) that’s even remotely related to a police officer.
But while I’ve seen plenty of “this is why cops are horrible” stories, and plenty of blame being tossed around as to why, I’ve seen far fewer people actually offering some kind of solutions for these problems.
And while some of these issues run deep (especially when it comes to racial tension), many of them can be solved by taking a few simple steps.
So I thought I’d list five simple steps I think we should take as a society to try to help eliminate some of these problems. These obviously aren’t going to fix all of the problems we have, but I believe they’re a good start.
1. Body Cameras/Dash Cams: This should be a given. Imagine how many questions some people still have about the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson that could have been answered had Darren Wilson been wearing a camera and his squad car been equipped with a dash cam. Though I still know that when it comes to video evidence, some people will see what they want to see regardless of what the video shows. But this would at least help eliminate much of the “our word vs. theirs” that’s present in a lot of these questionable interactions.
2. Third-party investigators overseeing all accusations of police brutality and every cop-related shooting: I’m not anti-cop (I understand it’s a hard job and most aren’t crooked) but I really don’t trust anyone, or any group, to police themselves. That’s just too much of a conflict of interest.
3. Better community involvement: I think this is one of the issues that’s often overlooked. “Back in the day” police officers were ingrained in the communities they patrolled. They knew the people and the people knew them. Now there’s much less of that – although to be fair it’s still out there, just hardly ever publicized. The best way to build trust among a community and the police officers patrolling it is by making sure that the people of that community know these officers better. Not only would more extensive outreach programs help police officers better understand the cultures and communities of those they’re supposed to be “serving and protecting,” but they would help build trust among residents of these communities that those officers are there to help, not harm.
4. Get rid of problem officers: I understand being a police officer isn’t easy, and sometimes finding people to do the job isn’t easy, but there’s absolutely no reason to keep violent or unethical officers on staff. A hiccup here and there isn’t a big deal. But if they have a “history” of questionable violence and even possible unlawful citations, they need to go. Police officers are supposed to be there to uphold our laws, not break them whenever they feel like it. Those officers who feel like they’re above the law don’t need to be serving it.
5. Pay them more: Depending on what source you use, the average salary of a police officer is somewhere between $45,000-55,000 per year. Not terrible money, but nothing to really brag about. I feel about this the same way I do about teachers, fire fighters and anyone who works in a job that’s vital to our society. If you want the best of the best working in these positions, you have to offer a salary that’s going to bring in the best talent. And that’s just true for any job. If a job pays well, it often draws in more applicants. More applicants then means you can be far more selective about who you hire to do that job. And when you can be more selective about who you hire, you often ensure that you’re getting the best of the best to perform that job. Now I’m not saying that everyone is solely motivated by money, but it’s undeniable that money is a big factor for many when choosing a career. Imagine college students rushing to get degrees in Criminal Justice because they know upon graduation they could start out making around $50,000 per year and after just a few years if they do well it’s not unheard of for them to be making over six-figures. Money should not be the sole motivator in career choice, but it certainly plays a huge factor.
Now, will these fix all of the issues we’re seeing among police officers in our communities? Of course not. But I think these five steps could go a long way into drastically reducing a lot of them.