Police-community relationships are critical in maintaining public safety and ensuring effective policing. The communities rely on police departments to serve and protect them. On the other hand, police rely on community support and cooperation in reporting crimes in their neighborhoods and working with them to solve crimesand promote safety. A strong relationship between the police and the community requires mutual trust. In order for the community members to trust the police, they need to believe that the actions of the police reflect community values and are based on the tenets of legitimacy and procedural justice (U.S Department of Justice, 2020). However, in the wake of recent cases involving police violence particularly against people of color, the legitimacy of the police has been questioned by many communities. After the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 by Police in Minneapolis, many states in the U.S experienced large-scale protests, demonstrations, and even riots. The government responded by making efforts to reform policing. This paper examines the incident involving the police killing of George Floyd and the steps taken to resolve the subsequent conflict between the police and the community. The paper also provides recommendations on how to restore and strengthen the police-community relationship following the killing of Floyd.
The incident took place after a store clerk called the police alleging that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. After arresting him and putting him in handcuffs, a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes suffocating him to death. In response to the incidents, there were several policing reforms that were made by the federal government and in the states. The U.S Senate and House of Representatives introduced a number of bills that focused on changing police training, tools, and tactics. Additionally, a presidential executive order was issued to create a database of police officers who were fired, convicted, or faced civil suits for improper use of force. States such as Iowa and New York banned police us of chokeholds during arrests. Washington D.C. banned the use of stun grenades, riot gear, and the use of tear gas on demonstrators. California is still considering banning any holds used by police to compress the carotid artery. Most notably, Minneapolis where the killing of Floyd took place is considering dismantling the entire police department (Rand Corporation, 2020).
George was the victim of police use of excessive force. Police officer Derek Chauvin was implicated for the killing of Floyd, an incident that was video recorded by a bystander. Following the incident, the Minneapolis Police Chief took instant action by firing Chauvin along with the other three officers who watched without intervening as he suffocated Floyd. The FBI was called upon to undertake further investigation. Several law enforcement officers and elected officials in Minneapolis and across the country quickly condemned and denounced the actions of the Minneapolis officers. Several Black Community movements including the Minneapolis group “Reclaim the Block”, the Minnesota-based racial justice group “Black Visions Collective” and the “Movement for Black Lives” began protests advocating for justice for Floyd and defunding of police departments rather than police reforms. Other organizations that condemned Floyd killing and advocated for policing reforms include the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and the Policing and Social Justice Project (Speri, Brown, & Hvistendahl, 2020).
Following the police killing of George Floyd, many states pushed for new state laws and policing reforms. In New York, the legislators repealed the statutory language that prevented public viewing of police officer’s disciplinary records. In Minnesota, the Legislature passed HF1 which banned the use of chokeholds, prohibited “warrior” style police training, established an independent unit for investigating police misconduct, and adopted use-of-force standards that prioritized sanctity of life. In Iowa, HF2647 was signed into law giving the state attorney general the powers to prosecute police officers who killed civilians and restricted the use of chokeholds excepts when the officer reasonably believes there is no other way of apprehending the suspect. In Illinois, three bills were proposed whereby HB4999 removed pensions for police officers convicted of a felony, HB3926 which required special prosecution for the police killing cases, and SB3449 which required the provision of mental and behavioral health professionals rather than police officers for people who call 911 in emotional distress. Kansas introduced HCR5002 which condemned police brutality, excessive use of force, and racial profiling. Michigan introduced HB5837 and SB945 which required police officers to be trained on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, mental health resources, and procedural justice. Ohio introduced SCR14 and HCR31 which declared racism a public health crisis and HB703 which created a disciplinary database for police officers and imposed mandatory psychological assessment for officers. Saskatchewan introduced legislation that focused on improving police oversight (Arvidson, 2020). Other states also made various police reforms in light of the police killing of Floyd.
However, other groups particularly the black community organizations advocated for the defunding and dismantling of police departments rather than implementing policing reform. According to these organizations, reforms such as body cameras, de-escalation training, and implicit bias training had been implemented earlier following the police killings of Brown and Garner. However, these reforms were not effective in ending police violence against African Americans or preventing the killing of Floyd. They, therefore, saw defunding police departments as the only solution to ending police violence. After the death of Floyd, the black movements began protests with mantras such as “Fund Community Not Police” (Speri, Brown, & Hvistendahl, 2020). They believed that states are spending a lot of funds on police departments without sufficiently funding mental health, housing, education, and other community-based social services (Levinson, 2020). However, this doe not imply cutting all funding for police departments but reducing police funding. The Black Vision Collective of Minneapolis asked the city council to divert $45 million of the current police department’s budget to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the group, there is no need to continue funding the Minneapolis Police Department’s attack on black people (Levinson, 2020). The Los Angeles mayor heeded the call by reducing the proposed City Police’s budget by $150 million. The New York mayor also pledged to divert funding from the New York Police Department towards social services (Levinson, 2020). The Minneapolis City Council also promised to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and instead, create a new model of promoting safety. However, it is not clear whether the term dismantling meant remaking the police department or abolishing it altogether. A group called the MPD 150 advocated for a police-free-city where 911 calls will be responded by social workers, religious leaders, mental health professionals, and other community-based advocates instead of police (Levinson, 2020). Such a course of action would be radical and seems implausible.
One important recommendation for improving the police-community relationship and ending police brutality is community policing. In theory, community policing promises to establish mutual trust between community and police through closer alliances and cooperative efforts of police and local businesses, nonprofit organizations, leaders, and other entities. The benefits of community policing include reducing citizens’ fear of crime, strengthening the police-community relations, facilitating effective responses to community issues, and improving citizens’ trust and satisfaction with police services. Studies show improved police-community relations and improved citizen satisfaction with police services in areas such as Florida where community policing has effectively been implemented (Jrank, 2020). However, the effectiveness of community policing in promoting police-community relations is depended on how it is implemented. Poor implementation of community policing may lead to hostility between police and the community members, discrimination, and favoring particular community interests, low community participation, and resistance by police organizations (Jrank, 2020). To overcome these potential drawbacks, it is important for police to be willing to convince citizens that they are committed to improving the local neighborhood, creating productive partnerships, and earning their trust.
Strong police-community relation is crucial for maintaining the safety of neighborhoods and facilitating effective policing. However, the police have a significant role to play in earning the citizens’ trust especially after a long history of police brutality against the citizens. The recent police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests revealed the tension between police and the community. There is a need to make efforts on resolving the conflict between the two groups. Floyd’s death was one of the many African American who has been killed by police and policing reforms seems to have been ineffective in ending police brutality or repairing the police-community relationship. Community policing is a practicable recommendation for ending the police-community conflicts and guiding the path to a better relationship. However, the implementation of community policing needs to be founded on the principles of fairness, justice, and equal treatment for all irrespective of their social characteristics. Such an approach would not only help promote police-community collaboration but will reduce crime and lead to safer neighborhoods.
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