Reform, Not Defund
Police must change—here’s how
By Allen Warren
African American communities believe policing is prone to abuse. They distrust police. All too often, African Americans put all police in one box labeled, “The police are generally bad for Black people.” However, not all officers are bad. Good officers get painted with the same brush as bad officers.
The opinions African Americans hold about police are generally based on firsthand and perceived experiences. These opinions continue because members of the African American community often know little about the individuals who police them, about the police department or about law enforcement procedures.
In many cases, African Americans cannot distinguish one officer from another. A recent survey of 100 African Americans in Sacramento revealed that only four people knew the names of five or more officers.
The current system of policing has many problems. But two issues stand in the way of fair policing. One problem is officers who take a good, honest and balanced approach to policing are not given credit for their excellent behavior.
The second problem is officers who have complaints filed against them are allowed to continuing working with little or no consequence. Sometimes, they get promoted.
One way to create a more harmonious relationship between police and the community is through increased transparency and accountability. Transparency and accountability allow the community to evaluate officers and provide information about police performance. This approach provides methods to give positive or negative feedback about officers. The feedback could be useful in determining who should stay on the force, who should be promoted and who should leave.
Transparency and accountability can be quickly established. Practices are common in the private sector—as common as a sign with a phone number that says, “How’s my driving?”
The time is right for us to reflect on how law enforcement should evolve. Many state and national proposals are in progress, including elimination of qualified immunity for officers. Other proposals, such as “Defund the Police,” seek to reallocate funding from local police to other civic departments.
The Sacramento Police Department should remain intact. However, city funds should be allocated to agencies that help address mental health, domestic violence, human assistance and homelessness. While recognizing the need to adequately fund police, the city must ensure the police budget is appropriate to sustain its operations.
The goal is to create a more harmonious relationship between law enforcement and the community through transparency and accountability. To achieve this goal, I proposed three city ordinance amendments:
STANDARD BUSINESS CARDS
Transparency and accountability can be quickly established when residents know who is policing them. To this goal, the city should require every police officer to provide a business card to individuals who are stopped for any reason. The business card would contain the officer’s name, badge number and an 800 phone number with a statement that says, “How’s my policing?” Additionally, the statement and phone number should be posted on police vehicles. Caller information should be automatically recorded and stored with the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission and Sacramento Police.
OFFICER WEBSITE IDENTIFICATION
This amendment would mandate the creation of a website to identify police officers by Sacramento Police Service Areas or City Council districts. The website should include a biography and photo for each officer. These small bios will make it easier for residents to know, understand and connect with police.
MANDATORY SUSPENSION FOR SHOOTING UNARMED AND NON-THREATENING PERSONS
This amendment would provide for mandatory unpaid suspension for officers who shoot unarmed and non-threating persons. The intent of the suspension is to discourage the use of force, to end the unnecessary killing of unarmed individuals and prevent officers from shooting individuals in the back.
If transparency, accountability and good community relations are genuinely desired, these are positive and efficient steps in that direction.
Allen Warren is city councilmember for District 2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.