My colleague Rob Davis recently wrote a terrific blog on “PERF’s report: Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force.” It’s a compelling perspective on a trend of violence we have to stop and an excellent starting point for reengineering how all of us, including our police, look at use of force. Once again, PERF has done an exceptional job of initiating a much-needed discussion to serve as the beginning of deeply needed reforms. A great first step is to look at what other world leaders, such as the United Kingdom and Europe, are doing to deal with mental health, the homeless and suicide by cop.

  • My thoughts here are intended as a starting point for discussion, perspective and education on how we all join the fight against violence. Regardless of the offender or victim, firearm violence is at the root of our problem. Police officers are getting shot and killed at an alarming rate. Allegations of officers unconstitutionally using force against citizens are continually in the news. And every day in major cities, our youth are killing each other as well as innocent bystanders.  
  • Our communities are made up of law-abiding, good people, with rare exceptions. At the same time, our police departments are made up of dedicated, caring, law-abiding officers, with rare exceptions. Why do we as a society allow the criminal radical fringe on both ends to drive the debate? Where and how do we start curbing the violence? 

The starting point to solve this issue begins with a two-step approach.

The First Step: We Need to Invest in True Community Policing Programs in our Neighborhoods

It’s critical that we get back to the premise that police earn their authority to enforce the law from the communities they serve and that relationship can be a positive one. The vision is a relationship of collaboration: police officers and the community working together towards a common goal. How can we achieve this? We must rebuild trust between the police and our communities through programs designed to build trust, partnerships and transparency. A great example of how we can do this is laid out in “Building Communities of Trust: A Guidance for Community Leaders,” a critical resource recently published by  IACP, with sponsorship from DHS, FEMA and the DOJ, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

This approach is not new, but was recently revisited and detailed in the report President Obama commissioned, “Task Force on 21st Century Policing.” Hillard Heintze Vice President Marcia Thompson gives a good overview of the task force in her blog “21st Century Policing Today – A Blueprint for Police and Community Engagement.” The task force focused on six topic areas, referred to as “pillars,” designed to improve policing policies and practices and rebuild trust in police.

Wait, don’t bail because he’s “not your president.” The violence problem transcends everyone’s personal politics. The President’s Task Force report represents the thoughts of some of the brightest minds in law enforcement and social justice in our country, from Republicans to Democrats and from social advocates to community members, progressive police chiefs and regular cops. It’s certainly not the whole answer, but it’s absolutely a great blueprint.

The Second Step: We Have to Address the Firearms Issue

If we cannot reduce the violence in our neighborhoods, we can’t fix policing. We need a serious overhaul of the entire criminal and social justice system in relation to gun violence.  Over the coming weeks, our law enforcement advisory team here at Hillard Heintze will explore this challenge – through a lens focused on the six pillars of the task order. We’ll look at each of these to help identify what we can do as citizens to help champion our future. The blogs will:

  • Introduce you to communities that are doing things that work
  • Outline similar strategies that can help frame how you can help your community
  • Explain what you should expect and demand from your police
  • Suggest what you can do as a corporation or part of our government

The Statistics Are Revealing

In the United States, the homicide rate with a firearm is 3.21 per 100,000 people, compared to the United Kingdom where it’s 0.07 per 100,000 people[1]. As demonstrated by the map below, when we compare many of the world’s most dangerous places to U.S. cities, many U.S. cities are more dangerous.

The old adage, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is wrong, but not completely. The reality is “Guns don’t kill people, criminals with guns kill people.” The proliferation of illegal firearms and our reluctance to stomp it out is our greatest problem.

So, if we really want to impact violence, maybe it’s time to focus on changing our kid’s decisions about picking up a firearm and how we can change a criminal’s behavior by taking a real stand against the illegal use of firearms. We have to change the paradigm that this violence can be solved by the police. We can’t ask that. We can only solve this problem by taking a multi-faceted approach that brings community programs, solutions and support to those who need them and simultaneously prosecute and incarcerate those who choose to perpetuate the violence.

 

In the weeks ahead, we will also highlight ways to curb firearm violence ranging from community strategies designed to keep our kids from picking up guns in the first place to unequivocally making those criminals accountable for illegal possession and use of firearms.

It’s time to come together in a multi-pronged nationally supported strategy that drives change home to every block, neighborhood and community. If you’re not a subscriber to our blogs, please sign up now to join the discussion.

 


[1] Masters, Jonathan. “U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 24 June 2015. Web.