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BERNARD COLUMN: Policing and the black community

By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired corporate executive

I have multiple family members who have retired from law enforcement. In particular, policing local communities can be a tough and unrewarding job.

Policing should not be political. But in recent years, every social issue seems to be politicized in our great nation and perspectives are skewed depending on if one is progressive or conservative. There are major differences by political party, with 71% of those leaning Democrat saying criminal justice system treatment of minorities is a big problem versus only 10% of those leaning Republican. Those numbers are from Pew Research in 2018. There are also differing views of law enforcement in the black versus white communities, with 87% of blacks saying policing is unfair to black Americans versus only 60% of whites who felt that way. That’s also from Pew Research in 2019.

Along those lines, no rational progressive or conservative expert believes in the ridiculous notion of “defunding”, as expressed by a few outliers. And, contrary to what Minority Leader McCarthy incorrectly declared in his 7-22-21 press conference, defunding the police has not been widely implemented (if at all) by Democrats nationwide and is most clearly not the reason for rising crime rates in 2021. Highly political and misleading statements like these only add to the confusion among the public as to what works and what does not.

A recent VOX article listed a large number of practical and affordable suggestions for police reform via changing policies and practices. These include better police training regarding race relations and profiling, zeroing in on trouble spots/individuals and situational conflict avoidance. Plus, improving pay to recruit a higher caliber of officer. Also, holding police accountable for their actions (rather than giving them qualified immunity), as well as providing incentives for behavioral improvement. 

Other sources have additional suggestions, including reforming police unions, increasing transparency, removing police investigations from the traditional lines of authority, having better information submitted and compiled on police misconduct, stopping the militarization of local police due to the federal distribution of surplus equipment, stopping the use of choke holds and similar maneuvers, and emphasizing community policing to reverse the adversarial relationship that now exists between police departments and minority communities.

The one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that better data is needed as to the effectiveness of each of these actions. And wider distribution of subsequent research findings is the key to getting true long-lasting positive changes proposed and implemented, hopefully in a bi-partisan manner.