Before you even begin with the problems of police, you have to start with the problem police are asked to solve- and what is it? Most would say “crime.” And that would be the end of the discussion, however “crime” comes in many different costumes, and generally, police come in one. It’s the old adage- if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
The number one crime in Dayton is a combination of institutionalized racism, segregation and economic and political minimization of at least half the population. But, if you want to simplify it, it’s no longer even black and white- it’s just poverty. Poverty drives a sub-economy, empowers criminal behavior, and destroys social capital at a faster rate than we can police it.
There’s a quote from Mark Twain that I’ve never been able to escape: “Principles have no real force except when one is well fed.” And while most think he’s only talking about food- and food insecurity, I expand it to include intellectual and social capital- role models, ideas, access to information and even recreational opportunities. Mind, Body, Soul.
But, on to police.
The Mayor has a five point plan. The NAACP has a 8 point plan. Black Lives Matter Dayton has a 10 point plan and new groups are pooping out of the woodwork with others:
Demands for Dayton Police Reform
- Ban no-knock warrants and use of chokeholds
- Eliminate pretext traffic stops and sniff and smell stops
- Dismantle the shot-spotter program
- Reimplement residency rule for newly hired police officers
- Reestablish the five districts police model
- Demilitarize the police
- Establish limitations on qualified immunity and Police bill of rights
- Reorganize the police department
- Establish reparations program
- Institute online customer satisfaction survey for public comments
Some seem to think that the key is diversifying the force. Dayton entered into a “consent decree” to fix the departments abhorrent track record on minority hiring over 25 years ago and we’re still a lily white department. Last year, during the Oregon District massacre, the Department earned itself a lot of love from the community, even though the department is still the same broken mess it’s been forever. Reality is- once they become cops- they mostly turn blue, no matter what their amount of melanin in their skin.
The crazy thing is, somehow, Nan’s idol, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has managed to do in 6 years in NYC what Dayton hasn’t been able to do at all:
Since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, the Police Department has become “majority-minority”: White officers now make up less than half of the 36,000 uniformed members of the force. The number of Hispanic officers has grown to make up 29 percent of the force, while the percentage of Asian officers in the force doubled to 9 percent, according to the department’s data. (In the 2010 census, about 29 percent of city residents were Hispanic and 14 percent Asian.)
But the department has struggled to boost the ranks of black officers. Black people make up about 24 percent of the city but only 15 percent of the force, a number that has remained flat since 2014. And even though more black and Hispanic chiefs have been elevated to leadership roles under Mr. de Blasio, two-thirds of the officers in the department’s top ranks, from lieutenant to chief, are still white, the data show.
Dayton voters (or the chumps at the Board of Elections who probably cook the election results) have never selected me to serve, but, I’ve laid out the fundamental failures of our police force hiring process forever. Throwing away the stupid civil service tests isn’t enough, Dayton has to stop running our own police academy where the inbreeding of bad culture ferments in the our own petri dish. (While the normal excuse for the stench down there around Guthrie Road is the Water Treatment Plant, the police academy could be equally to blame.)
Every other department in the State accepts lateral hires from other departments, every other department accepts graduates of the State’s own police training academy. Dayton’s hillbilly mafia in charge of the department closes ranks and circles the wagons by insisting on teaching policing their own special way. It’s expensive. It’s proven to exclude minorities, and ending it is the first step toward change. Unless we start teaching people for every department in the county as well as providing continuing education and training, much like we do for the bicycle patrol program, this is the major stumbling block to progress.
Cycle forward to the events of the last few weeks where peaceful protesters were met with the riot gear clad antagonists who thought it was OK to tear gas and shoot at citizens exercising their constitutional rights of protest. While the Mayor and the NAACP talk about their plans, there should have been action: whoever gave the order to attack our citizens should have been fired.
The right approach was to deescalate the tension by admitting the protesters were entirely correct in their protests. George Floyd should have never been arrested in the first place, a ticket would have sufficed. And no one kneels on anyone’s neck ever. The cops should have been marching alongside the protesters- but that requires actually believing in “To serve and protect.”
Some have said that the cops that met the protesters weren’t all from Dayton. Well, here you have the other problem. We’ve got too many chiefs, too many departments and some of them, don’t report to anyone we elect. It’s time to eliminate the private police forces of the University of Dayton, Premier Health, Kettering Health, Sinclair Community College, MetroParks, Wright State, etc. When you throw in the Keystone cops of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office on top of all the rest- you have a chain of command and communications coordination nightmare. And while former Sheriff Phil Plummer once said “if you’re not happy, don’t re-elect me” the reality is, much like judges, the Sheriff’s office almost always is unopposed thank’s to the political monarchy of Montgomery County (where the political party chiefs do deals to get their friends and family re-elected.)
There are some things we know, but we don’t do. When Miami Valley Hospital wanted to protect their investment – they provided my neighborhood with a “community based police officer” and along with that came a social worker. The social worker lasted about 3 years, the CBP officer almost 20. Having an officer that’s connected to the community makes all the difference in the world- having a social worker to work on things like domestic violence calls, drug issues and child endangerment and voila- things change.
Oakwood has another innovative solution- in that all their public safety officers are three in one solutions. Paramedic, Firefighter and Police. It’s a lot more expensive to train and retain, but, it means a first responder is almost always the right responder. This isn’t a realistic solution for Dayton, but it is a way to make sure your police don’t get overly caught up in being a paramilitary response team. Changing mindsets of officers about how they are to serve the public is a challenge. Sometimes outside the box solutions like Oakwoods make a difference.
While changing rules about engagement, deadly force, choke holds, and pushing de-escalation techniques is well and nice, all those things have been in our toolbox for years and haven’t really changed anything. Take away the military surplus and they still have more firepower than should be necessary.
What is missing is a nationwide database of defective cops. Much like the “Do not fly lists” and “don’t sell Hannibal Lecter a gun” lists, we need a way to stop bad cops from jumping from department to department, like the loser who shot 12 year old Tamir Rice on a Cleveland playground.
Also missing is clear rules about citizens and cameras. Any cop who tells a citizen to stop filming, who blocks the view, who threatens to arrest, or tells them it’s illegal should be fired and banned from police work. This should even apply to loser rent-a-cops at a local library.
The final part of the problem is “qualified immunity” which is used as an excuse for all kinds of bad behavior by public officials. Somehow, citizens are often forced to pay for challenges to this doctrine. This applies to everything from Sunshine law violations to use of force and flat out corruption. While we have whistle blower laws in place, often times it’s almost impossible to find a lawyer in a city who is willing to go after the local government due to conflicts of interest or just flat out fear. It’s time to stop electing county coroners and engineers and clerks of courts, and instead elect a chief ethics officer to serve as an ombudsman/public protector who is willing to go after police or prosecutors or politicians (the three P’s) who aren’t following the law. It should be a non-partisan office, with a set budget and a team of independent prosecutors who work to make sure that the “culture of corruption” has an enemy.
And one last thing, while a lot of people are complaining about the fireworks every night, I’ve not seen anyone suggest some of this is to just throw off the “Shot Spotter” tools the police recently invested in for North and West Dayton. It’s probably got the algorithms as confused as all get out.
There are lots of other issues to address when it comes to police practices, but, if you really want to slow crime, the best possible solution is probably instituting Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income proposal. A little prosperity does wonders to keep the police away.