“My perception of police and how they police really bother me.” wroteJason Rivera was a probationary officer at the New York City Police Department in November 2020. “As the years went by, I witnessed the NYPD pushing for a change in the relationship between police officers and the communities. It was then that I realized I wanted “to improve the relationship between community and police.”
Rivera, who was born in Manhattan, was killed while responding to an apartment disturbance call. Following several days in critical condition, Rivera’s colleague, Officer Wilbert Moura, was also shot.
Rivera wrote that Rivera was inspired to become a NYPD officer after watching the community react to the stop, question, frisk program. It allows police officers to take people into custody and to search for guns based on reasonable suspicion. Is the program effective in getting guns off our streets?” NO!!” wrote then–State Sen. Eric Adams in 2011, who had previously served as a captain with the NYPD and who has made waves with his early tough-on-crime approach as the newly-minted mayor of New York City. “Police are illegally going through their pockets…Our young people are being arrested for disorderly conduct for questioning these stops…Our young people will have police records that will impact their future.” Adams stated that only 0.13% of all stops in 2009 resulted from a seizure weapon. He suggested that the future iterations need to be less restrictive to make it more effective in targeting crime.
Rivera joined the police academy as a police officer in November 2020. This coincided with an unprecedentedly low approval rating of police nationally: In that same year, 48 percent held a positive view of police, which is the lowest ever recorded. It’s also the first time this percentage has fallen below the majority of those polled since Gallup started asking the question in 1993.
Rivera, like Adams appears to understand at least one of the reasons for low marks. Police officers are often not accountable to their communities. Rivera seemed to also understand the importance of trust building as a solution to this problem.
This is a simple solution to dissatisfaction with law enforcement. Yet, it rarely appears in public discussion, perhaps because trust cannot be legislated. Discussions of reforming police force in the major media outlets and Capitol Hill tend to be dominated by extreme views.
The vast majority of the American public fits into neither one of those camps. Only 15 percent of people surveyed by the Pew Research Center want the police “defunded” in some way, while the bulk of that cohort—9 out of that 15 percent—only wants to decrease funding by “a little.” According to recent research, only 6 percent favor the “abolition” of police. Economist/YouGov poll.
The public wants it! Better policing. Gallup polls found that 96% support the punishment of bad officers. 98% back banning people with multiple misconduct complaints from being allowed to continue serving in the police force.
There is a desire to have police officers that truly serve the public and are held accountable for their conduct. This goes beyond racial boundaries. An overwhelming share—81 percent—of black Americans want police presence either maintained or increased, according to a Gallup poll taken in August 2020. Another interesting fact is that 87% of Detroit’s black residents chose public safety as their top priority when asked to choose from a range of topics. USA Today and the Detroit Free Press. (Contrast that with the mere six percent of white residents who gave the same answer.) In dead last for black residents: police reform.
And yet, those data exist alongside another racial gap in polling: Just 27 percent of black Americans trust the police, compared with 56 percent of white folks, according to a 2021 Gallup poll.
In other words, black communities don’t want more Derek Chauvins. They want more Jason Riveras. Instead of arguing whether cops should be legally untouchable or not even exist, we should be thinking about what programs and policies will help officers like Rivera build the bridges that are necessary for solving violent crimes and helping victims while constraining the negative impacts of policing on low-income and minority communities.
We know what the problems are. In addition to the harassment that police inflict on minoritiesAnd the poor, the police clearance rate for murder in the U.S. hovered around 54 percent in 2020, which means about half of murders went unsolved. New York City saw a 46 percent clearance rate in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Simply put, the police department isn’t always skilled at Problem solving crime. However, this is a different story. Prevention Progressive advocates sometimes overlook this distinction. The data are clear on this: A higher number of police officers leads to greater crime deterrence. People will be less inclined to commit criminal acts when there is more police around. That may be why, at minimum, some communities desire to have a greater police presence or fear it decreasing.
How can you strengthen police force without encouraging abuse? The laws police are responsible for enforcing are often forgotten in the debate. All cops may not be good. Every cop These areHowever, bad laws can still be enforced, increasing trust between the law enforcement community and the general public. It’s worth not having an armed state agent enforce a law.
Take drug laws into consideration: Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be charged with drug crimes, even though they use and sell similar amounts of illicit drugs. As the major funding source for projects like drug task force, police unions opposed marijuana legalization or decriminalization. However, if these pathetic clearance rates show anything it is time for police to devote their scarce time and resources fighting violent crimes that create unsafe communities.
To get more from our police, we must hold them responsible. The core of the debate revolves around qualified immunity. This legal doctrine allows some government actors to violate citizens’ rights without being subject to federal lawsuits. This means that an officer could violate his training but still receive civil immunity if no prior court precedent explains the specific circumstances. According to around two thirds of Americans, the doctrine needs reform.
“As long we do that.” [civil suit]Payment transparency so that we don’t need nondisclosure agreement, then we are able to act and also gather data,” Rachel Harmon, University of Virginia professor of law, explained to Tyler Cowen in June 2020. Her research is focused on police reform. A community might then say: “Hey! I don’t want taxes to go higher because you idiots won’t prepare officers or discipline them. So they do less of these things.”
Harmon points out that such suits could be used to signal both the police and the community about problems with employees. It’s particularly true considering the fact that municipal governments can hesitate to hold criminal officers accountable. Adams wrote in Adams’ presentation: “The City Council is failing to demand accountability of the NYPD.”
The number of violent crimes is on the rise across the country. In New York City, where Rivera worked, murders have increased 68 percent from 289 in 2018—a record low—to 485 in 2021. Context is always crucial, but I don’t find it convincing that the “crime situation isn’t as severe as it was back in the 1990s.” This is true on the surface, but I don’t recall any instances where “it’s worse than it was before.” has been used as a strong argument. You have to be serious about the matter. That’s why the 68% increase in murders is not a trivial number. These were human lives that were lost.
Yet cops can’t do their jobs in a vacuum—they need the trust of their communities. Law enforcement must have the trust and support of their communities to increase those numbers. They need to be accountable to the citizens they serve.
Part of that trust will come with accepting that police officers are also human beings—imperfect as they might be—something that can get lost in the fray of our hyperpolarized media environment. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Americans want policing. They desire accountable and quality policing. We pray that Rivera and Mora’s deaths are not in vain.