Hal Pepinsky, email@example.com, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
December 9, 2014
The main problem I see in the recently highlighted wave of white police killings of unarmed young black men is that the police don’t know the people they are policing. How hard would it be to arrange for police to be trained in part by spending time in civilian clothes in the neighborhoods they will police, at community gatherings, participating in community projects, visiting schools, getting to know the people they will police in their full humanity, rather than as suspects and complainants? Police on patrol are not so bombarded with calls for service that half shifts could not be arranged once or twice a week for patrol officers to continue their civic engagement. As Nils Christie suggested in his book Limits to Pain (1981), people who know one another in more respects are less likely to treat one another according to stereotype.
The US stereotype that poor young black and brown men are especially suspect and violent will not fade. No amount of punishment of police officers who have killed unarmed black men and boys will change that prejudice so deeply within us, including among my fellow criminologists. On the contrary, a belief that punishing homicidal police does justice, rests on the premise on which the criminal justice system operates, the system that has given us mass incarceration. The police cannot be regulated and supervised into overcoming the ignorance of those they police that they bring to bear. They can be taught to know the real people they police. Love and peace, hal