Plans for reducing police violence

December 26, 2014


There is a deep seated crisis in the country, and a mounting uproar, about police violence in general and police shootings of unarmed civilians in particular. Some people excuse the behavior of police pretty much no matter what.

Many more people are putting forth ideas aimed at stopping extreme police violence by reforming the system of policing. Some of these Ideas are the following:

Mandating that police wear body cameras that cannot be turned off by the officer, better training for police including intense sensitivity training about communities of color and poverty, more careful selection of candidates wanting to become police weeding out through careful and intensive testing and screening interviews those prone to violence, bullying, prejudice against minorities, super macho ego trips, sociopathic acting out, and so on.

Require massive efforts to recruit minority citizens in large numbers to become police officers, to also be vetted. Careful re-writes of laws and rules about the use of force by police and the various levels of force and technologies of force to be used and under what conditions, with an emphasis on non-lethal force and non-lethal weapons technology:

Require attempts to talk situations down first. Less violent martial methods second and no choke holds, etc. No fists, pepper spray and/or stun guns, night sticks within reason.

And finally, guns should be used only as a last resort when the life of an officer is truly threatened or the officer is truly threatened with severe bodily injury.

Then strictly enforce these hierarchy-of-force rules. Establish severe penalties, including prison sentences, for cops found guilty of violating these rules/laws, especially when a killing of an unarmed person happens.

Stop supplying police departments with heavy military hardware and military training — and a military mentality.

Mandate that police officers live within the city they work in, carrying that even to the point of mandating that they live within the same area/district/precinct where they work/patrol.

Totally reform, open up, and end the secrecy of the whole grand jury system. Severely curb the wide latitude that prosecutors/district attorneys have in setting up, selecting, managing (manipulating) and using grand juries. Use blind lotteries to select grand jurors, but mandate that they be made up of proportions of people who at least roughly match the racial-ethnic-economic makeup of the community.

Establish the regular, mandated selection of independent special prosecutors for investigations and actions concerning police violence ending in death or severe injury to civilians.

No pay for cops put on suspension for unarmed civilian killings.

Legalize marijuana and decriminalize possession of other street drugs under careful regulation. Stop mass arrests and imprisonment for petty drug charges. Take the cops out of this.

End arrest quotas for federal or state subsidies of police departments. Continue the building of mass protest mobilizations and coalitions to expose and fight against all forms of police violence and brutality and all forms of oppression generally.

These are good ideas and should be implemented ASAP. There is no time to lose. But in the final analysis, a massive amount of fundamental social and cultural transformation in general is really the only way to solve police violence problems and all the social ills that lead to the atmosphere and background noise that make out-of-control police violence inevitable.

The reforms listed above are definitely part of it, without doubt. But, in my opinion, much more is needed.

In following paragraphs after that I put forward overall suggestions for comprehensive socio-economic changes. Both these lists will seem very radical to some, no doubt, but I believe that, at some point in the future of our nation, these ideas will be accepted pretty much without question. See what you think:

(1) The separation between police and the population must be dissolved. Policing duties should be spread among formal officers of the law and militias made up of qualified, carefully trained, carefully selected and even elected local citizens who patrol neighborhoods. Assisting them would be beefed up and trained neighborhood watch groups. Full and constant communication among all these allied forces must be assured. Adjunct forces should also often follow and monitor the behavior of the regular police, especially those with histories of troubled and violent relations with the community, to observe possible criminal/improper behaviors and report them/take action.

(2) All types of police and adjunct forces as above should be heavily populated with specialists in sociology, conflict resolution, social work, psychology and social psychology, social dynamics, etc. We must get away from the reality of some officers being brutal tough guys with chips on their shoulders and hiding behind badges to vent their sociopathic tendencies. We must not tolerate mindless thugs and killers in uniform who have official authority, hostile attitudes, and deadly weapons.

(3) Police and adjunct forces should be trained in less aggressive but effective forms of martial arts such as Aikido and Judo, etc., including non-lethal holds and immobilization methods.

(4) Elected civilian police review boards should be established, fully empowered to investigate, interrogate, arrest, charge, indict, detain — and fire — police officers who commit or allegedly commit crimes/offenses. These boards should also have final say about hiring police in the first place, and be completely accessible for complaints about cops from regular citizens. These boards would supersede prosecutors in these cases. No police or ex-police or any persons related to or having any historically close connection to police should be allowed on these boards.

(5) Elected community councils should be established to work with elected civilian police review boards and with all governmental bodies to oversee these matters of public safety along with issues of poverty, unemployment, family dissolution, street and other crime activities, alienated and marginalized persons, and so on.

(6) In the end, overzealous policing and violence are only surface symptoms of a society in deep socio-economic crisis, with hostility toward minority communities and the poor becoming almost inevitable on the part of the repressive forces of the ruling, mostly white, wealthy elite.

Massive efforts and legislation must be carried out and passed to, create and protect good paying jobs, public and private sector, provide free higher education and craft/trade training for those willing to work hard, supply quality affordable housing on a massive scale, establish a fully living level minimum wage, protected fully against inflation, free up and expand democratic, rank-and-file controlled unions and other forms of independent, rank-and-file controlled workers’ organizations, clean up and brighten up blighted, polluted neighborhoods, protect democratic rights and civil liberties, expand and adequately fund the legal aid and public defender system.

Think about it and you’ll see why all the above ideas have a lot to do with ending conditions that lead to police violence and a corrupt legal system. Increasing poverty and misery among masses of people leads to mass desperate behaviors and to the hardening of aggressive attitudes of police, grand juries, courts, etc. This dangerous soup lays the basis and groundwork for increasing clashes between law enforcement and communities of color and economic desperation.

On the present path, sooner or later, some persons and forces within these communities, organized and ad hoc, are going to figure that they might as well arm themselves and be ready to fight back against police in order to defend themselves and defend others. At the least, some groups in some communities will form community defense squads to follow police, and intervene — perhaps with arms in hand — if brutality and threats to life develop.

In general, these community defense forces will likely conclude that they have nothing to lose. They’ll conclude that the oppressive system is becoming increasingly violently and murderously oppressive — an actual police state. The cops are going to shoot anyway, so why not be ready to shoot back and at least go down fighting — or win and get away ?

In this context, cops perceived to be predators, and who get off Scott free, will possibly begin to be systematically hunted down and killed by citizens taking matters into their own hands. I’m not advocating this, and I know nothing of any plans of persons or groups in this regard.

I condemn such ideas and caution strongly against them. I’m simply saying that these and the other less aggressive defensive actions by communities are pretty much inevitable if things don’t change drastically — and soon. People will fight for their lives when their backs are against the wall and they see no alternative, and conclude that the system has abandoned them and is killing — executing — them routinely. It’s as simple as that. Police officers themselves have a vital interest in ending the scourge of out-of-control cops whose ruthless and dangerous actions can lead to the above virtual civil war on our streets.

We have a lot of work, soul searching, and thinking to do as a society about these issues. We have a huge amount of things that desperately need changing. Will we do it ? I don’t know. I hope so, but time will tell. It depends on you and me — and on the cops who really are dedicated to protecting and serving and not acting like a hostile, occupying army in minority, working class, and poor communities.

Jim Griffin has lived in San Luis Obispo for six years. The son of a career Air Force officer, Jim lived in many varied places growing up. Born in California but moving to Alaska at 2 1/2, back to California, to Illinois, back to Alaska, to Canada, and ending up in the Detroit area, Michigan, when he was twelve.



  1. mkaney says:

    Once I come back with the facts, the people who are proliferating the myth of the cop as street soldier in constant danger just stop talking. They have no arguments, they will not concede, they just move on to greener pastures… uninformed people.

    (-2) 16 Total Votes - 7 up - 9 down
    • zaphod says:

      the man who tells the truth is chased from 9 villages

      (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
    • Citizen says:

      Mkaney, please come back with some statistics for San Luis Obispo County for 2014. It SEEMS that since the state prisons are being emptied by federal judicial mandate and we have many more parolees in the county plus the Obama administration releasing criminals that previously would have been deported, that we are experiencing more crime in our own area. But this may just be my perception.

      (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
      • mkaney says:

        I am concerned that this might prove to be true. Had we not pursued prison to begin with in a lot of these cases, then these people might have had more opportunity to get their lives on track. However, after felony convictions and serving time, their is a good chance that a larger number of them are going to get involved in illegal activities and having been hardened by their time in prison, we’re not talking about all victimless crimes.

        However, we should have thought of this before we started tossing everyone in prison for crimes against the state. We have destroyed families, pushing these problems onto the next generation, and prevented any possibility of reconciliation for some of these people, on the way to creating the largest prison population on the planet. We cannot expect that there aren’t going to be consequences from poor policy decisions, and at some point we have to start correcting those decisions. Unfortunately we have spent our way into oblivion and so we don’t have a lot of alternatives.

        (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • BigRed says:

      Here’s a concession: the type of guy who becomes a cop is generally not my type of dude. Its one of the reasons I preach compliance instead of the curbside protests (resisting arrest) that others seem to endorse. Do you really want to get into a civil rights debate with a 25 year old alpha male with a gun? You are not gong to create a police force of amateur sociologists and negotiators. Those type of people don’t suit up for the job. Sorry, i’m not shocked by what happened in Furgeson or NYC. I don’t like it one bit. Much like what happens with our military doing horrible things oversees. The standards are low. BUT… I’m not doing the f’ing job. No way. So high school grads over 5’3″ step on up and apply.

      So while you seem bent on changing things I’m taking the short term pragmatic approach and think we should be telling people how not to get killed.
      Street Soldier? No. They’re bureaucrats. Which means they have power over our lives at times. Why bang heads with them?
      “Easy for you to say, You’re not hassled on a daily basis because of your skin color”
      Correct. And yes cops profile… so do you, and so do I. And just like you lean on statistics would you not do the same thing if you were a cop?
      I think its nice that you expect so much from police officers. But in truth they’re the ones who show up after the fact and write shit down. In order to be effective I do think they need to have some teeth. Turning them into social workers might not be the best strategy when it comes to suppressing crime. The statistics speak to the fact that crime has dropped right?

      (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
      • mkaney says:

        I have to concede I absolutely agree with you and despite what people might think by my comments, when I have to deal with a police officer I treat them with respect. And frankly, I expect some eggs to get broken on the way to making an omelette.

        My concern, however, is that THEIR response to this issue has been very dogmatic and that, from a policy perspective, we need to ensure that the message they receive from management is that it is their duty to respect the public as well as constitutional rights. We must create an environment where they understand that if they are found to act irresponsibly that there WILL be some kind of penalties, and that they are not above the law. Additionally, we need to be very careful not let the hero cop mythology get out of hand in their efforts to continuously drive up compensation. Police officers in San Luis Obispo make an enormous amount of money and it just keeps going up. In fact, they dominate the top of the salary list now for public employees.

        As far as the reasons for lower crime, the jury is still out on the causal relationships but increased police militancy or improvements in policing has been ruled out a number of time because there do not seem to be consistent correlations.

        (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        Crime has fallen because of the 1970’s Roe V. Wade decision; where there are now much less unwanted children that later would become neglected and graduate into criminals.

        (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
      • GoneBabyGone says:

        What the our current military type law enforcement likes is folks just like you BigRed… It’s not a protest to “EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS”! It is just that! An exercise! One that keeps those inalienable Rights politically and socially fit! I have an obligation to exercise my Rights at any time where it is applicable, if I don’t? Then my son will have something less than Rights, something that not even protests will bring back…

        (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
      • Laughlines says:

        I’m one of the military who went “oversees”. I’ve gone twice so far, actually. And so when you blithely state that we do “…horrible things overseas[.]” I wonder what your personal experience is. I helped hand out school supplies and snacks to a bunch of Afghan kids outside Kandahar Airfield; I’ve donated money to groups of U.S. servicemembers who donate to local orphanages and other charities. I’ve seen local persons employed on our bases, making great money for the region and happy to be able to support their families. I haven’t seen these things you claim to know of. But, hey, what would I know? I’ve only been there.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. Mr. Holly says:

    I would refer back to my original posting on 12-26-14 in reference to Mr. Griffin moving his family to South Central Los Angeles and responding back within 72 hrs. of his new home.

    I would venture to say that:
    His house has been burglarized.
    His car has stolen or stripped.
    His wife and or daughter may have been raped.
    He has been robbed and severely beaten or maybe even killed.

    Who would like to next in line for the move?

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
    • mkaney says:

      Are you kidding me? Do you actually believe that is the situation there? You watch WAY too much TV, clearly. That is not reality, and I’m really quite shocked at how many people are simply not living in reality.

      (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
      • Mr. Holly says:

        I think you have hit it n the button. You are not living in reality.

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
      • oldbrown says:

        If you really want a dose of reality, take a midnight stroll through south central L.A. some night. Then get back to us about your perceptions.

        (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  3. isoslo says:

    The truth is we need police! The rate of violence and crime just proves it. Police are human and they do make mistakes. If we feel the need to educate a group of people I suggest we educate the criminals. Police never know who is nice and who is dangerous until it is too late. I will always side with the police because they are absolutely necessary in order to have a functioning society. I understand people who complain about police errors, but do they want to put on a uniform and go out there to risk their lives daily for a mere paycheck? There are a lot easier ways to make a living. Stop committing crimes and the police will start being a lot nicer.

    (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
    • mkaney says:

      Of course they serve an important function. But you seem to be assuming that there are no crooked or hateful or out of control police, only that they are all human an occasionally make mistakes. If that was the problem, nobody would be upset right now. The problem is that we know, because of investigations that have occurred, that there are in fact police who are SERIOUS jerks. We also have department policies that do not allow good cops to take risks to do their job better (and get rewarded for it, ideally), rather policies that are put in place to ensure the most incompetent police officer can make it through their shift even if that means they have to kill innocent people.

      And instead of talking about how to deal with these problems, they are circling the wagons and intimidating the public like some kind of mafia, and I don’t think that response is acceptable.

      (-3) 15 Total Votes - 6 up - 9 down
  4. mkaney says:

    I think police officers need to seriously reconsider their approach to this debate. If they approach it in a reasonable way that demonstrates that have concern for what the community feels, regardless of whether they agree, they will get a lot more support.

    If, on the other hand, they continue their dogmatic approach then they are cause a lot more questioning. We constantly hear phrases thrown around like “it’s getting harder and hard to be a police officer.” But the truth is, it’s not. The pay is better. The equipment is better. The perks are better. The job risks are WAY down. So it would be one thing if we were having this discussion in the context of the reality they want you to believe exists. There would still be a debate, but there would be some validity.

    The fact that we are having this debate in a different context, in a country where crime is actually down, and the risk of being a police officer is much lower, and the pay much higher, should really concern people and set off some alarm bells.

    (-5) 13 Total Votes - 4 up - 9 down

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