Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Law and Policing Reform

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Fibonacci Blue
Law professor and writer David Danté Troutt has imagined a safer and more just policing policy in the United States in his recent The Nation article "Is Racial Justice Possible in America?"  With the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers, Troutt suggests that we need to change the way we think about police brutality raising our disdain for such behavior to the level of our abhorrence of pedophilia, rape, and domestic assault.  Troutt suggests reform policies which we must consider adopting if the U.S. is to end the scourge of police violence and the killing of unarmed African American citizens. 

Per Troutt: "We probably don’t need another national conversation about race as much as we need one about law reform. And let’s be clear: justice is far from impossible to imagine. What’s required is more constructive policing methods to rebuild trust:

§ Cops must wear cameras and microphones to preempt exculpatory storytelling.

§ Cops must be well trained in avoiding implicit bias, so they don’t dehumanize the public they serve. In fact, judges should be urged to allow juries to hear evidence of implicit bias among police officers.

§ Police departments must finally keep reliable records on their use of deadly force so we can stop guessing at the numbers.

§ Prosecutors should more aggressively seek manslaughter charges rather than murder charges, so that lethal mistakes don’t go unpunished.

§ The appointment of special prosecutors in questionable cases should be routine, to avoid the conflict of interest between prosecutors and police.

And when the local politics are insurmountable, we need an amended federal statute with a legal standard that cherishes the protection of life—the greatest civil right. These reforms would bring a lot less shooting and a lot more accountability. That would bring us closer to justice."


  1. The police shooting of an unarmed 19 year-old black man has sparked protests once again in the capital city of Wisconsin. On this occasion, white police officer Matt Kenny responded to reports of a man jumping in and out of traffic and that "the same subject had been responsible for a battery that had recently been committed." Kenny followed the man to the residence where the alleged battery had taken place, and said the man attacked the officer there. During the confrontation, the officer drew his weapon and shot the suspect. Tony Robinson was taken to the hospital but later died.

    I agree with David Trout and dre cummings in that national conversation should be about law reform rather than race. Some protestors are calling for more reactive policing in African-American neighborhoods. They claim that the Madison police park on street corners in African-American neighborhoods and wait for something to happen, which leads to residents being harassed. I have never been to Madison but I hardly believe that's how the Madison police department conducts its affairs.

    While more constructive policing methods should be adopted to rebuild trust, education improvements need to be addressed as well. In each of the two recent police shootings of un-armed black teens, the victims didn't respect the badge. Confrontation with the officer was their only course of action, they didn't know any different. Growing up in African-American neighborhoods, they were likely taught to disrespect the police rather than being shown how police risk their lives everyday to protect and serve the community. To help rebuild trust with the African-American community, pro-policing education needs to start early and often. Specifically, mandatory discussions in Elementary school focusing on the importance of respecting the badge, and the consequences of failing to do so.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Brooks Ledger
    JD Candidate
    Indiana Tech Law School

  2. I agree with the previous comment submitted by Brooks Ledger and to the extent with which Troutt talked about police training, where he said, "Cops must be well trained in avoiding implicit bias, so they don’t dehumanize the public they serve. In fact, judges should be urged to allow juries to hear evidence of implicit bias among police officers." However, I do not believe this goes far enough.

    Training at the academy needs to be overhauled. The training currently implemented is combative and in resemblance to what is employed in the military. Current law enforcement officers bark at and yell at recruits as if they are to enter into a battlefield. From the very first day, these recruits are taught to enforce the law, in any way possible, from a combative sense. The term "Protect and Serve" is not relevant these days with the recent national police brutality acts against civilians.

    Future police officers need to remember that their future paycheck comes from the very people that they are to "protect and serve," and not to engage in acts of violence against and harass innocent persons as a person in power. Sensible training where the recruits are empowered with the knowledge of law and message of protection instead of enforcement and harassment shall be a cornerstone of practical training.

    Thank you,
    David Felts
    JD Candidate and SBA President
    Indiana Tech Law School

  3. I don't think the answers lie in added cameras, record keeping, or more aggressive Prosecutor penalties for offenders. I think the whole way of thinking within police forces has to change. The treatment of minorities at the hands of the police is not a black or white issue. It is a blue issue. The suggestion I agree with is the idea that police need to stop dehumanizing the public they serve. It is very easy to look to other countries to see how this can be done. There was recently a perfect example on a New York subway train where a serious fight broke out. Swedish police officers, who happened to be vacationing in the Big Apple, broke up the fight in a calm, reassuring manner, relaying to the fight participants that everything would be OK (instead of screaming at them and barking orders as if they were dealing with a disobedient dog.) I realize the job they do is very dangerous and there are high levels of stress but the public distrust of the cops is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has been promulgated by years of abuse behind the protection of the shield. In short, American police have taken the civility out of their job and, because of this, have to deal with an ever-fearful public that not only distrusts them but also dislikes them.

  4. Here is the article about the Swedish police in New York:


  5. Here is the article about the Swedish police in New York: