by Joseph Jerome
Last fall’s Occupy protests had the unintended consequence of drawing media attention to the increasing militarization of local police departments. But even as questions have been raised as to whether police departments, large and small, actually need tanks, a larger examination of some police decision-making at the top would likely be helpful.
For the young, the poor, and people of color, individual encounters with police are becoming more and more uncomfortable and increasingly abusive despite historic lows in the incidence of crime In the wake of an AP investigation into the New York Police Department’s aggressive surveillance of Muslims, the takeaway is that if you are a young Muslim, “the government has you in its crosshairs,” writes Sahar Aziz, Associate Professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law and former Senior Policy Advisor at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Police decision-making, according to Norm Stamper, former head of the Seattle police, is the product of “archaic internal systems of authority whose rules emphasize bureaucratic regulations over conduct on the streets.” Stamper argues that the top brass treat their departments like unruly children rather than professionals charged with serving the public, explaining why police misconduct refuses to go away “no matter how many blue-ribbon panels are commissioned or how much training is provided.”
Leadership -- or lack thereof -- has long been identified as a primary challenge to maintaining police discipline. Stamper should know: he resigned in the aftermath of his violent response to World Trade Organization protests in 1999.