“For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.”
-Sir Isaac Newton, Third Law of Motion, 1686
Since 2014, this invitation has been conveyed to upwards of thirty mayors, police commissioners, police chiefs and other officials in communities throughout the nation that experienced police brutality of late. It was also sent to national and international associations of mayors and of police chiefs, and President Obama. Its purpose is to share a potent possibility to heal and prevent much undue harm witnessed of late to and from citizens and officers alike.
It was sent to President Obama owing to his response to presidential task force recommendations to find legislative fixes to the militarization of policing in America wherein he allotted $163M on May 18, 2015 to de-militarize police stating … “Local agencies will also have to adopt community-policing programs that require regular interaction between officers and the public.”
The initiative presented here was inspired six months earlier on December 4th, 2014 when NYC Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton announced NYC police will be re-trained. Noting other communities were embracing the commitment as well, “something more” seemed necessary if the goal were to be optimally achieved. This incentive was affirmed on May 18, 2015 with the announcement of former President Obama’s allotment of $163M.
In this light, if the goals of numerous departments, former President Obama and his presidential task force on the matter are to be achieved, we hope this document will be thoughtfully reviewed, as we believe it offers a “key” to success from which a significant reduction of violence in society as a whole should indeed follow.
**The catalyst for this new element lies in recognition that without a shift in the underlying context of a system, efforts to change (retrain) ultimately reflect “symptomatic remediation” serving as “band-aids” that do little to ultimately heal a disease.
Why? Because the established underlying context driving the symptoms continues to regenerate them, regardless of any amount of training. In bold terms (and with sincere respect having been invited to serve a large municipal police department myself), mere retraining absent of a contextual shift is regrettably akin to “putting lipstick on a pig!”
The larger opportunity here is to redefine the system as a whole. Change this, and everything follows naturally. And yes, this requires a larger vision and commitment to change than many in the profession readily understand or subscribe. Indeed, it is particularly difficult for men and patriarchies highly invested in power, control and domination to envision and embrace.
The change? From “policing” – by nature connoting “power over”, control, subjugation of a populace – to “Departments of Peace and Public Safety” and “peace officers.” Indeed, does a mere reading of these terms not evoke a felt difference that actually “feels better” at some level?
Alas, if any of us were told we would be “policed”, this alone would foster an inner neurological and “cellular” reaction simply hearing it. Occurs as well upon seeing a police car in one’s mirror or an officer approaching despite age, gender or ethnicity, often wearing black and wrapped in weaponry and self-protection.
Our goal here is to inspire a far greater vision and heartfelt purpose than mere “policing” – i.e., where community “peace officers” reflect in terminology and core purpose the actual foundation of the profession from its early days of the “wild West” and today’s state peace officer associations.
We need to recognize that bullying and violence have become “addictive” aspects of our society. Having witnessed of late an alarming rate of shootings on school campuses and theatres by young people and a seeming increase in questionable shootings of unarmed citizens by officers followed by an increasing number of civilians shooting officers … perhaps it is time to note, as asserted by Anne Wilson Schaef, PhD, author of When Society Becomes An Addict … “Any addiction [individual, collective or systemic] absent of a successful intervention is terminal!”
We thus ask in light of the 2/26/12 shooting of unarmed 17 y.o. Trayvon Martin, 9/14/13 Charlotte NC shooting of unarmed 24 y.o. Florida A&M honor student and football player Jonathan Ferrel (10 times by 27 y.o. officer Randall Kerrick), 7/17/14 Brooklyn NY w/Eric Garner’s death from a strangle hold applied by NYC officer Daniel Pantaleo, 8/9/14 Ferguson MO 18 y.o. Michael Brown shot by Officer Darren Wilson leading to protests in 170 cities nationwide, 11/22/14 Cleveland OH shooting of 12 y.o. Tamir Rice carrying a pellet handgun shot w/in two seconds of police arrival, 12/2/14 Phoenix shooting of unarmed Rumain Brisbon, and 12/4/14 demonstrations across the U.S. in response to grand juries deciding not to charge officers involved in the Ferguson MO and Brooklyn deaths … followed as they were by a number of civilians shooting officers and citizens … might these combine to signal that we presently face what addiction recovery programs describe as our “bottom”?
The message here seems to be we either acknowledge a systems problem, intervene and commit to recovery … or die. And alas, at a societal level with regard to this phenomena – “dying” on that scale is NOT an option!
We believe an unprecedented opportunity exists now to redefine the profession in a manner that provides greater health and wellbeing both to communities and officers alike. For indeed, operating day after day as a “cop policing the public” as if every citizen is a potential suspect or criminal does NOT serve the wellbeing of officers any more than it serves the public.
This prevailing reality needs to change yet won’t until the entire purpose, vision and “raison d’etre” (reason to be) of this service are redirected to a higher level. In doing so, we suggest “new energy” set in motion by the redefined context will prevail throughout the community from which a wave of enhanced “caring” will certainly transform life and therein save lives. We intuitively know this to be true at some level, do we not?
And yes, as early as 1686 renown physicist Sir Isaac Newton’s “Third Law of Motion” asserted, “For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” Point being – aggressive violent systems produce the same energy in return.
** In sum, we invite a “paradigm shift” sufficient to redirect us from a growing addiction to “policing” mentalities that increase control of citizens reminiscent of “Big Brother” totalitarianism portrayed in Orwell’s “1984” (himself having served as a police officer) – into true Departments of Peace and Public Safety “reorganized and retrained” to provide to communities officers of men and women truly committed to serving peace. And yes -at a level many may yet be able to envision … this single step offers perhaps the greatest means by which to eliminate violence in society.
** How so? In order to achieve a paradigm shift one must employ a catalyst of sufficient potency to set in motion and sustain the shift. Upon examining society for such a catalyst, it is clear this will NOT come from homes since they are not a cohesive foundation and many include bullying and violence themselves. Nor will it come from public education alone since it, too, is part of the problem, nor commerce and politics (each very much part of the problem), nor theology (warring to this day), or the military.
** INDEED, the single greatest common denominator we have in all communities is a prevailing desire and ever-growing need to foster greater community relations. This said, the most potent “catalyst” for a paradigm shift in this arena sufficient to reduce violence and further greater peace at all levels seems to lie distinctly with what we presently term “policing” (even “community policing”).
Change its context to “Departments of Peace and Public Safety” providing ”peace officers” in enough communities to serve as worthy models – and combine this with an initiative in public schools that addresses “bullying” NOT as a fundamentally as a kid’s problem, rather at its core an “adult problem that has become systemic in society – and a ripple will be set in motion potent enough to redirect this nation, if not our Earth itself!
SO … we wind up back at former President Obama having committed $163M to support this very possibility. Which departments and communities will have the vision and courage to step up to model this much-needed change?
Let us redefine policing!
Redefining Policing from “Bullying Police” to “Peace Officers”