The current street protests, without the looting, sprouting up across the U.S. and around the world are a necessary and hopeful, albeit unsightly, step in the U.S. coming to terms with our racial history. Street protests will certainly continue until next Tuesday, when George Floyd is laid to rest in Houston. Likely local protests will occur again on Aug. 28, when a protest is planned for Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Local protests will explode in about six months in the event the four fired police officers in Minneapolis do not receive jail time. It does feel that things are different this time. Police kneeling with the protesters did not happen in Ferguson or after previous well-publicized shootings of black men. An ABC News poll found 74% of Americans feel the Floyd killing reflects a systemic problem, compared to the 26% saying it is an isolated incident. Compare this to a poll six years ago, where 60% thought the 2014 death of Michael Brown in

Ferguson, Missoui,

was an isolated incident. In 2020, most Americans have seen the videos of police abuse and tolerance of racial injustice and say, “Enough is enough.” Highly televised protests focus immediate yet fleeting attention on racial injustice, but protests and citizen involvement will need to persist and be permanent if fundamental economic, social and criminal justice change is to happen. Maybe Memorial Day, the day Floyd was killed, should become an annual occasion for taking stock of the progress we have made. I imagine the site of his killing will become a memorial. Street protests, much like texting public officials, are a relatively easy form of citizen participation and make us feel that at least we are doing something, but they are only the beginning of policy reform. The next step is for all protesters to register and vote. The more than 50 MU student-athletes who registered to vote after their march to the courthouse and took a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to show solidarity for Floyd should be repeated by all MU students when they return in August. To have a lasting impact, protesters must organize to communicate with government officials and to propose specific reforms. A minimal two-year commitment is probably required. Policy change is hard work with more frustration and boredom than street protesting. Police and related criminal justice reforms have been very difficult to enact in part because of the pivotal position police departments play in local and state government, in part because of ideological conflict and in part because police abuse

is viewed as someone else’s problem. Of course, we need police. We need better trained and well-qualified police. We need more African-American police, and we need to make sure all citizens are treated respectfully. We need better oversight of police. A good place to start is to evaluate local police departments using the

of the

that grew out of the Ferguson uprising in 2014. The eight reforms are: Require officers to de-escalate whenever possible. I have watched A&E’s “Live PD,” where most encounters by officers, who know they are being televised, are more confrontational than I think they should be. The militaristic orientation needs to be replaced with one of community protector. Require a use of force continuum that define and limit the amount of force acceptable in different situations. Not all situations require armed reactions. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds, except where deadly force is authorized. Require warnings before shooting whenever possible. Require officers to exhaust all other means before shooting. Require other officers to intervene to stop colleagues from using excessive force. Ban shooting at moving vehicles, except when the fleeing vehicle has a shooter. Require comprehensive reporting that includes both the use of force and the threat of force. The adoption of these eight reforms is estimated to reduce police use of force by 72%. As of 2016, the average large city police department had adopted only three of the eight, and none had adopted all eight. Enforcement of these eight practices is difficult given the standard American view of regulation. Citizen review boards are usually incapable of counterbalancing the authority of police unions and the law enforcement community. An alternative that should be tried is to require police officers to carry malpractice insurance just like other professionals. Rather than having municipalities pay out millions in civil settlements for police abuse, let the insurance companies get involved. Insurance companies have reduced worker injuries, reduced DWIs and removed diving boards from swimming pools. Malpractice police insurers would require “litigation prevention

practices” like the eight reforms above. Officers with multiple infractions can expect to pay higher premiums. An obvious criminal justice reform that should have been adopted years ago is separating the police and prosecutor when police abuse is present. Local prosecutors rely heavily on good police department cooperation when prosecuting citizen crime. It is a conflict of interest for prosecutors to have responsibility for investigating potential police abuse. Perhaps, police abuse should automatically be a federal crime requiring FBI investigation. While public policy reforms are necessary, they will not redress America’s civil rights history themselves. Individual protesters, and all citizens, should commit themselves to making a personal difference in their school, Parent Teachers Association, church, workplace and neighborhood to address racial injustice. All of us need to be more attentive to unexamined practices of racism. Hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world need to ensure we redouble our commitment to achieving equal justice under the law. David Webber joined the MU Political Science Department in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994.

The current street protests, without the looting, sprouting up across the United States and around the world are a necessary and hopeful, albeit unsightly, step in America coming to terms with our racial history.

Street protests will certainly continue until next Tuesday when George Floyd is laid to rest in Houston. Likely local protests will occur again on Aug. 28, when a protest is planned for Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Local protests will explode in about six months in the event the four fired police officers in Minneapolis do not receive jail time.

It does feel that things are different this time. Police kneeling with the protesters did not happen in Ferguson or after previous well-publicized shootings of black men. An ABC News poll found that 74% of Americans feel that the Floyd killing reflects a systemic problem compared to the 26% saying it is an isolated incident. Compare this to a poll six years ago where 60% thought the death of Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson was an isolated incident. In 2020, most Americans have seen the videos of police abuse and tolerance of racial injustice and say, “Enough is enough.”

Highly televised protests focus immediate yet fleeting attention on racial injustice, but protests and citizen involvement will need to persist and be permanent if fundamental economic, social and criminal justice change is to happen.

Maybe Memorial Day, the day Floyd was killed, should become an annual occasion for taking stock of the progress we have made. I imagine the site of his killing will become a memorial.

Street protests, much like texting public officials, are a relatively easy form of citizen participation and make us feel that at least we are doing something, but they are only the beginning of policy reform. The next step is for all protesters to register and vote. The more than 50 MU student-athletes who registered to vote after their march to the courthouse and taking a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to show solidarity for Floyd should be repeated by all MU students when they return in August.

To have a lasting impact, protesters must organize to communicate with government officials and to propose specific reforms. A minimal two-year commitment is probably required. Policy change is hard work with more frustration and boredom than street protesting. Police and related criminal justice reforms have been very difficult to enact in part because of the pivotal position that police departments play in local and state government, in part because of ideological conflict, and in part because police abuses are viewed as someone else’s problem.

Of course, we need police. We need better trained and well-qualified police. We need more African American police and we need to make sure all citizens are treated respectfully. We need better oversight of police. A good place to start is to evaluate local police departments using the “8 Can’t Wait” criteria of the “Campaign Zero” movement that grew out of the Ferguson uprising in 2014.

The eight reforms are:

Require officers to de-escalate whenever possible. I have watched A&E’s “Live PD” where most encounters by officers, who know they are being televised, are more confrontational than I think they should be. The militaristic orientation needs to be replaced with one of community protector.

Require a use of force continuum that define and limit the amount of force that is acceptable in different situations. Not all situations require armed reactions.

Ban chokeholds and strangleholds except where deadly force is authorized.

Require warnings before shooting whenever possible.

Require officers to exhaust all other means before shooting.

Require other officers to intervene to stop colleagues from using excessive force.

Ban shooting at moving vehicles, except when the fleeing vehicle has a shooter.

Require comprehensive reporting that includes both the use of force and the threat of force.

The adoption of these eight reforms is estimated to reduce police’s use of force by 72%. As of 2016, the average large city police department had adopted only three of the eight and none had adopted all eight.

Enforcement of these eight practices is difficult given the standard American view of regulation. Citizen review boards are usually incapable of counterbalancing the authority of police unions and the law enforcement community. An alternative that should be tried is to require police officers to carry malpractice insurance just like other professionals. Rather than having municipalities pay out millions in civil settlements for police abuse, let the insurance companies get involved. Insurance companies have reduced worker injuries, reduced DWI, and removed diving boards from swimming pools. Malpractice police insurers would require “litigation prevention practices” like the eight reforms above. Officers with multiple infractions can expect to pay higher premiums.

An obvious criminal justice reform that should have been adopted years ago is separating the police and prosecutor when police abuse is present. Local prosecutors rely heavily on good police department cooperation when prosecuting citizen crime. It is a conflict of interest for prosecutors to have responsibility for investigating potential police abuse. Perhaps police abuse should automatically be a federal crime requiring FBI investigation.

While public policy reforms are necessary, they will not redress America’s civil rights history themselves. Individual protesters, and all citizens, should commit themselves to making a personal difference in their school, Parent Teachers Association, church, workplace and neighborhood to address racial injustice. All of us need to be more attentive to unexamined practices of racism. Hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world need to ensure that we redouble our commitment to achieving equal justice under the law.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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