Community Consideration In Practice

Analysis blog posting of 2-12-16, Community Consideration, found that it was much more beneficial for the city to fund continuing education for its police force rather than have the chief function as PR representatives “educating” the community. This may sound like pure theory, with no possible practical application. After all, the police are modeled on the military (any doubts on this check out the made for TV footage of SWAT in action, whether the real life media coverage or the made for Hollywood imitations on the plethora of TV entertainment police shows). City funding of police is heavy on continued training, not education, especially not being “educated” by the community (it is sworn to serve). Recent actions, as well as insights, by a city police chief beg to differ. 2-18-16 PBS News Hour Race Matters interview of former Montgomery Alabama police Chief Kevin Murphy by Charlayne Hunter-Gault indicate the alternative is not only preferable, but doable in practice. From the transcript:

 

“CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: During the 50th anniversary of police violence against peaceful civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, that ended in Montgomery, police Chief Kevin Murphy did something surprising. He apologized to Congressman John Lewis, a frequent victim of that earlier violence, and handed him his badge.”

Further on in the interview:

“KEVIN MURPHY: One of the first things that I implemented as the new police chief was enacting a class, creating a class. We went way back in history to the Dred Scott decision all the way through to the Emmett Till case, because I wanted the officers to experience what really happened. You know, what my observation was is, you have a 21-year-old officer who had never lived through or seen the civil rights era for what it was, the dark reality of it. And so this young officer would stop an African-American citizen and get somewhat of a pushback, because maybe this 60- or 75-year-old African-American citizen’s last encounter with a Montgomery police officer was very negative. After they attended the class, I saw a lot of promise, in that, the next time they encountered that citizen, they felt like: I understand now.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And you put this class — you got this class put into the police academy’s training.

KEVIN MURPHY: I did. And we actually had all members of the department, not just the sworn officers, but the civilians, attended as well, and had tremendous feedback. The first part of the course is classroom, then a tour of the Rosa Parks Museum. But my favorite part of the class was the conclusion, where there was a values segment. And the values segment was giving scenarios to the members of the class. It was strongly agree, somewhat agree, strongly disagree, somewhat disagree. But I was proud of the answers and the outcomes of those scenarios, because they were learning from the class that, you know, you have to be very careful in the way that you apply this power. And, you know, we’re seeing it in the country now. And I think that we were teaching that in this class, how to de-escalate a situation where a citizen was upset because they thought that they were going to be mistreated when they saw the patch of the Montgomery Police Department, and it was the officer’s responsibility to ensure that citizen that that wasn’t going to occur.”

 

Kevin Murphy had much more to say. Analysis found it very refreshing to hear the former Chief speak and act in terms of specifics, not presidential candidate promises of “change”. City priority should be community educating the police force (that is sworn to serve it), not police educating the community.

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