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Policing the police

Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:19 am
by Chinagirl
Interesting piece from POLITICO:

POLICING THE POLICE — The pandemic has given new powers to police around the world. A Brussels teen died in a police car chase while trying to avoid a quarantine check. Drones have been used to shame and corral people in rural British areas. Kenyan police are under investigation for three violent deaths.

Yet it’s only in the United States where the police are generating such fierce devotion and disrespect in nearly equal measure during the pandemic. Perhaps that’s because U.S. police forces are such outliers in the global policing world.

American police killed 1,042 people in the past year. In Japan, the cops killed nobody. In the United Kingdom, just three people died during encounters with cops.

What those figures don’t show is that, according to the Congressional Research Service and unlike basically any other cops around the world, U.S. police are dealing with a country where at least 310 million firearms are in circulation.

With American police increasingly heavily armed — a trend that dates back to the war on drugs, and was exacerbated after 9/11 by a U.S. Department of Defense program that makes excess military equipment available — the opportunity for miscalculation is much greater on both sides in American policing than in other countries.

Better training is the most urgent priority, and national standards would also help American police be more effective, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum. “What happened in Minneapolis was a complete failure of training and policy,” Wexler said. “Training has not changed fundamentally in 25 years.”

Police in Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom are largely unarmed. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose father is a retired senior police officer, said Wednesday she remains “totally opposed” to arming police officers.

While the U.S. has a national policing problem, there is little national policy in place, Wexler said. The federal government stepped back from the minimal oversight it did provide when Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 ended the Justice Department’s oversight of local police departments.

American police also enjoy qualified legal immunity — not available to police in many countries and which critics say encourages overreaction in tense situations. Those rights are under court challenge. A new research paper indicates that when police have collective bargaining rights in the United States, the number of people they kill goes up.

Decades of research shows that it’s harder to police communities that don’t trust their police officers, a job made tougher when a diverse population implies the need for a diverse force.

Australia has a similarly diverse population as the United States, and an equally notable race-based police brutality problem. While officers are unlikely to kill suspects during confrontations, more than 430 Aboriginal Australians have died in police custody since a major national inquiry took place in the late 1980s. Indigenous Australians make up less than 3 percent of Australia’s population but nearly 30 percent of the prison population. They are incarcerated at four times the rate of African American men.