As I write, citizens in Cleveland are protesting yet another police shooting.
Sadly, the wrong members of the community receive the brunt of the blame. Vandals and troublemakers cause the problems, yet many in America are prepared to lay the blame at the feet of African American citizens. That blame is both misplaced and unfair.
Irresponsible media fan the flames. They mix editorial opinions and ideological pundits into their news coverage, a cheap parlor trick guaranteed to boost their revenues. They ignore root causes. Fed up with the nonsense, one Baltimore resident confronted an on-the-street Fox reporter on national television during a protest (which that network censored).
Without doubt the media, vandals, and a minority of cops all carry an equal share of blame in what is happening in our cites. So does racism, poverty, corruption and criminal behavior. But there is another culprit looming large.
President Obama’s recent Task Force and their report into 21st Century Policing point to one of the root causes of what we are seeing on our streets.
That culprit is police training.
A GUIDEBOOK FOR NEW COPS
Today my colleague, Gerard Cleveland, a former cop, a lawyer and law lecturer, and I completed a new book that responds to the problem of outdated and improper police training. It is called You In Blue – A Guidebook for New Cops. We wrote it as a guidebook for rookie cops and for those who train them.
The book includes chapters on academy life, street realities, intelligent tactical response, arming oneself with emotional training and the destructive issues arising from a warrior agenda.
We describe a method that academy directors and police leaders should have adopted long ago. We will be launching the book at the upcoming annual conference of the Police Society of Problem Based Learning in Madison, June 1-3.
Now is the ideal time to reconsider our broken training system.
I recently returned from a SafeGrowth training in Saskatoon, that city of a quarter million residents in north central Canada. Urban planner Elisabeth Miller and I have been running annual training there with city staff and others for over a decade.
SafeGrowth team project presentations were terrific and after the final day I strolled along the downtown boardwalk park of the South Saskatchewan River.
What a beautiful spot. Most of the boardwalk and surrounding buildings are lit by sodium lighting in spite of the universal rush by lighting specialists to replace night lights with bright white LED lights (some say for safety, I say for economy).
Sodium lighting? Yep, the lights that create that yellowish hue so many love to hate. People strolled along the boardwalk who didn’t seem the least bit fearful! (I didn’t photograph them in order to avoid looking creepy).
Does this place gets dicey later in summer when summer activities start? Perhaps. But when I walked here it was beautiful. It might look monotone, but the ambient lighting effect is warm and it certainly isn’t too dark. I’m beginning to think we may be speeding too quickly to replace sodium lighting.
Last week there were more shootings by, and of, police. There were more riots - Baltimore, Seattle. Time Magazine commentators claim“protests and riots - uprisings - could become the new normal. Welcome to the new America.”
It does not need to be the new normal!
This Wednesday I invite you to a webinar on making things better with police and communities.
Over and over in SafeGrowth we discover that we develop the powerful skills of partnering through the very act of organizing together. As McKnight and Kretzman told us long ago in The Careless Society self-help doesn’t just happen in community and professionals like the police can’t do it all.
WEDNESDAY WEBINAR WITH SOLUTIONS
This Wednesday, May 6, the International Downtown Association is sponsoring a webinar Building A Strong Relationship With Law Enforcement. On the webinar I will be exploring new options for partnering with police with Martin Cramer from Downtown Dallas Inc., and Michael Schirling, Police Chief in Burlington, Vermont.
The webinar requires registration (it is a pay-for-service webinar) and you can register at the International Downtown Association webinar page.
The webinar times in different timezones are
Please join us.