Who is going to Police the Police
I keep seeing a steady stream of media reports asking “Who is Going to Police the Police?”
Depending on what part of the country, state, city, or town you are in, you either think it is needed or you don’t. Depending on what news story you just read or viewed, which defendant or defendant’s relatives you heard, you either think it is needed or you don’t.
Let’s forget the bigger cases the media has highlighted and look at a smaller one.
Take for instance the case of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch’s with the Seattle police department who on July 9, 2014, placed William Wingate under arrest, an elderly black man, for no apparent reason.
Office Whitlatch later made comments on Facebook where she complained about “black people’s paranoia that white people are out to get them.” The committee of Professional Accountability for the department recommended that officer Whitlatch be more careful when posting on social media.
Here are the details:
Whitlatch arrested Mr. Wingate claiming that the golf club/putter he was using as a cane had been swung at her by Mr. Wingate, regardless of the dashcam video clearly not supporting officer Whitlatch’s account. The worst part about this case is that I am more than sure it also fell into the hands of Internal Affairs with the Seattle police department and no action had been taken, in fact the Office of Professional Accountability didn’t even see the video until January the following year by way of a citizen showing it to them. Taking a look at this incident a step even further (like I have to, but why not put the cherry on top right?), several within the department and the Office of Professional Accountability already had concerns with Whitlatch and sort of sat on it like a bird does waiting for an egg to hatch!
The point is, regardless of the bigger cases we have all seen so many times in the news and on social media, smaller cases like Mr. Wingate’s happen all the time and all over, they clearly illustrate the issues we face with having police oversight.
It’s not well regulated, not well managed, absolutely no one is held accountable, and for lack of better words serves as dis-service in a lot of cases.
On the other hand, when a criminal is arrested or shot and killed during the commission of a crime, of course they are or their loved one’s are going to cry police misconduct. That is just a fact plain and simple. No one wants to take accountability for the actions that led to his or her arrest or death.
While I believe that both IA and police civilian oversight committees are needed and could be beneficial if run more effectively, we should also take a look at police departments who really do get it right.
Take for instance the Arvada, Colorado police department. Back in 2010 I believe they had an issue which made all of the local news in which several officers were involved in excessive force. It was actually captured on video to boot.
The Arvada police department prides itself on recruiting, hiring and retaining model officers that are a benefit to it’s community rather than brutes who wear a badge and gun who go around and instill fear into the citizens of the community.
The department wasted no time what-so-ever in starting an investigation into the accusations of excessive force, they didn’t wait for CNN, Fox News or any other major national news channel to get it, the citizens who caught the incident on camera didn’t cry racism, they didn’t claim the entire department was an issue, they filed the complaint just as they should have, what the officers did was inappropriate and they wanted them to face the consequences of those actions. And, they did. Most resigned knowing in the end, they’d have no other choice.
The reason I bring this case up is because for problem departments as we look to oversight and reform, we need to also be looking at the departments who get it right most of the time as leaders and policy makers. Not just bring in some former chief of whatever city or town. To accomplish an effective way to make sweeping changes, at less cost to taxpayers, start recruiting chief’s in departments to serve as a board to review the issues and help come up with ways to resolve them.
We can’t rely solely on reform and police oversight if we are not looking at the departments who are doing it right, we are defeating the purpose of reform by modeling it off of what Joe Blow on the fed level thinks this or that department needs and hiring one guy who made some changes that worked in Chicago.
Remove the agenda’s and take departments who are doing it right to take a look at one that’s not doing it right and you’ll get less personal agenda bullshit and more of the actual nuts and bolts of what the real issues are as well as clear and effective ways to clean that shit up. The departments that are doing it right, should serve as part of a board to assist when we encounter a department in dire need of police reform.
Citizen oversight is a great idea, if it’s managed right. In Mr. Wingates case, the director of the Office of Professional Accountability faced no recourse for the failings in Mr. Wingates case or for sitting on the fact that they knew about issues with the arresting officer prior to that. Ever hear that saying “Shit Rolls Down Hill?” or this one that I love “Crap in is Crap Out?” Well, that’s managment in a nutshell. If management is crap so are the majority of the employee’s, the rest of the employees may be bright and great but they are miserable and will leave eventually, mentally sooner rather than later. Trust in that anyone working today knows this is true.
This is the issue with police oversight, too many oversight committee’s are lead by crap leaders who have become complacent or rely on excuses for poor oversight. Crap in, Crap Out, start rolling heads when one fails, use it as an example. We need to hold anyone sitting on any police accountability or oversight committee to much higher standards and when those standards are not met because things slipped through the cracks or they liked someone, fire them. Plain and simple.
IA in a lot of departments is actually a lot more effective than the oversight committee’s made up of citizens and here’s why: they know the department they investigate, they know police practices and procedure and they actually do investigate just about everything that is reported to IA. They are bound to investigate any and all matters and they take it very seriously they just need to learn to work with oversight groups and include them. The reason we don’t trust them…can anyone guess why we want citizen oversight? It’s because they are all cops.
We don’t trust them because of that, we are accustomed to if we don’t get our way we cry some more for a different outcome. IF it’s not working, change the way you’re doing it type of approach. The problem with that approach here, somehow we have forgotten that we don’t always like the outcome, we don’t always get our way and that’s just that.
When looking at many of the big cases to hit the media where individuals were shot and killed by police, relatives didn’t get the answers they wanted locally, so they took it to the Federal level. After not getting the answers they wanted still, they kept crying for police reform. For what I ask? If at the Federal level no fault on the part of police could be found just what the hell is the family asking for exactly? Not to shoot, sit and have a coffee and cake with the criminal wanting to harm the officer?
We do have serious issues with policing in this country, I highlighted this before in my Ferguson Effect pieces, yet, not all police officers are the problem and not all departments are run by gun toting thugs.
If we want police reform, we should let the departments who are running things right have a much bigger say in it, we must allow for them to become the one and only authority on how it’s done, they learned how to work with the citizens of the communities they police, they are great teachers if allowed those departments a better chance in the spotlight. Using these departments and the leadership as teachers serves as a better way to clean up departments rather than hire in a new chief, no one has an agenda.
If we are to continue with citizen oversight, it needs a quick and vast overhaul on how it is to handle cases. Ensuring the leaders of citizen oversight are always held to the highest standards and are actually held accountable would be a great start. Additionally, these citizen oversight groups need to learn policing policy and procedures otherwise all you end up with is someone making recommendations based off of his or her personal feelings and beliefs which are not always in line with reality.
Until we can achieve these simple steps, we are always going to have a chink in the chain and will never obtain the outcome that which we so desire. Then again, we want police reform and oversight, it begs the question, when is it too much oversight and reform?
Cristal M Clark
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What are your thoughts