Law enforcement killing of unarmed black men and police brutality visited upon minority citizens continues to confound the United States. Despite protests, clarion calls for reform, admitted training shortcomings and deficiencies among U.S. law enforcement officers, conferences, summits, and movements to reform policing, the solution to ending undisciplined police violence and the hostile killings of unarmed minority individuals at the hands of U.S. police seems to elude us. Why should this be? The United States is home to some of the most creative, innovative, pathmarking, and course-changing thinkers the world has ever known. This challenge — police killing of unarmed minority citizens and law enforcement brutality — could be one that this nation can solve; that is, if there is a political and moral will to do so.
This article proposes a radical restructuring of United States law enforcement policies, procedures, and applications in order to address this critical challenge. After comparing some of the nation’s most innovative police reform efforts, this article will provide policymakers, legislators, officers, leaders, judges, and lawyers the most effective reform efforts and best thinking that have been implemented to date in connection with saving the lives of residents who face danger from those trained to protect and serve them. This article may serve as a signal to a potential sea change in failed police practices that have endured for decades in the United States.
This proposal unfolds as follows: Part I describes the historical evolution of policing practices in the United States, including the influence of slave catchers in the South during the slave trade and tracing back to the nation’s founding. This historical analysis will demonstrate the deep-seated bigotry and race-hatred that influenced many early law enforcement practices throughout the nation. Part II reviews the historical racial difficulties and will reflect on how they manifest today, where policing in many departments still centers around controlling black and brown individuals. Part III then surveys some of the most influential and innovative police reform efforts that have been undertaken by cities, municipalities, and states around the country, particularly those that are revolutionizing policing in a way that recognizes the historical racism and seeks to reform policing in a meaningful and human-centered way. Finally, Part IV recommends a battery of policies and reforms that may deeply influence the way policing is conducted currently and provide a better way forward. The Article ends with concluding thoughts.
andré douglas pond cummings, Reforming Policing, 10 Drexel L. Rev. 573 (2018).