Rethinking Police Departments Sweeps Nation
A little over two weeks ago, America and the world was largely satisfied with their police departments. More to the point, for whatever problems existed there appeared little that could be done. Sure, everyone knew some law enforcement was prone to violence and some downright dangerous. However, no one could have anticipated the national debate switching to full blown police reform or doing away with the entire force and reinvesting the resources into the neighborhoods of people of color. The national debate has erupted to do something about out of control law enforcement and test the lengths some policy makers are willing to go to bring about change. The eruption came after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd until he died pleading for his life while a public recoiled at the sight of a man murdered by a peace officer.
Everything seems to be on the table now in terms of police reform from outlawing the use of choking of suspects to defunding police departments. The level of anger aimed at police hasn’t been this intense since the violent summers of the 1960’s which saw American cities burn over racial violence and anti-war sentiment. Back then police beat and shot protesters with impunity and reform was not even a passing thought. The reaction was in fact to purchase heavier armor, meaner dogs, and bigger guns. Departments have evolved into paramilitary forces that have largely rejected community policing. Reform was beaten back by pro police lawmakers and quite frankly a public that wanted a strong police force to maintain law and order. City government and congress did little to combat violent police actions because they would appear to be weak on crime and would certainly lose their next election. Mayors would lose favor with powerful police unions who are able to exert great pressure on governments as perceived guardians of public safety. But that was then, this is now.
While there is energy to push through real police reform, the reluctance to change a violent system is equal to the task. President Donald J. Trump eager to appear strong on crime has insisted he has the power to keep local governments from defunding police. United States Senator Rand Paul just last week held up anti lynching legislation because he worried it might be misused. While the city council of Minneapolis is ready to defund the police force the Mayor wants change but is concerned about the community being unprotected. A not so funny joke suggested the community is afraid of gangs like the Cripps, the Bloods, and the Cops. While seemingly absurd, corruption within the department has suggested there are a lot of problems among the police force. True there are good policemen. However their silence is proof they may well be outnumbered. The problem in some cities can be found within the police union.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city where George Floyd was killed, may have the worst police unions in the country. There may be a good reason why the city council feels the police force is so far gone it would be better to start over. The 900 cops are not administered by the Mayor or the police chief. Nor are they afraid of internal affairs. They are led by Bob Kroll, the president of the Police Officers Federation. Due process after complaints against officers means little to nothing if nothing is ever done for the most grievous offenses against citizens. Kroll runs the police force with lead pipe cruelty, and no one challenges him.
Kroll has been investigated for seriously beating an American Indian man after entering his home in a “no knock” raid. The city paid the family a financial sum but Kroll kept his job. There were many other complaints. By the way, Kroll is a member of a white supremacist motorcycle club called “City Heat”. He and other policemen are members of the racist group. Past mayors and police chiefs have been unable to remove Kroll and he remains a powerful figure in Minneapolis government. However, fueled by the demands for change Kroll is a man with a target on his back as city government is ready to deal with him.
Kroll will not go down easy; his friends include Trump whom he supported at a Minneapolis rally last year. However, this year unions like the AFL-CIO and others are calling for Kroll’s resignation as president.
As mentioned last week it is not just police officers who are the problems. Kroll has been cleared by past investigations including a Federal Grand Jury that cleared him of any wrong doings. The justice system is broken and needs to be repaired if not scrapped.
Hours of video evidence after Floyd’s death showed violence in the behavior of thousands of police officers who brutalized Americans peacefully protesting. This systemic problem of a violent police force can no longer be ignored or tolerated. Do they still protect and serve?
Tulsa and Oklahoma City are two of the worst United States cities for violent behavior coming from police officers. Per capita, Oklahoma has the third highest rates for police killings taken from data collected between January 2013 and December 2019. Black Oklahomans were also third in the nation in per capita deaths at the hands of police officers. Oklahoma City leads the nation in average violent crime rate per 1,000 people. Tulsa comes in third in that horrible fraternity of United States cities.
Oklahoma cities are not looking to defund police forces yet. Places like Los Angeles, California and New York City are not planning to defund police forces but to redirect funds to poor neighborhoods to help build up those places where people of color live.
In Tulsa, reform will probably look like eliminating A&E’s live police show and instituting the citizen monitoring system. Not the strongest reforms given our bloody problems. Cops and the Live TV shows are being completely canceled because they glorify violent police behavior and show people of color and the mentally ill in a negative light.
Hopefully, Tulsa will join other cities in putting in place progressive measures that will save lives while maintaining public safety.