Brutal, Biased Police Can Be Reformed

Rachel Kleinfeld, writing for Foreign Policy on how some countries have reformed their police forces and rebuilt trust with the community – and how it could be done here in the United States (warning: paywall):

Luckily, what works for fair and effective policing is well known. Decades of research confirm that trust between law enforcement and communities is essential, because controlling crime requires community help. In the United States and Britain, for instance, the vast majority of the crimes that people fear the most, such as homicide and rape, required public tips to solve.

Building trust, however, is based less on bringing down crime (the metric many police monitor) than on treating people with respect and fairness. Trust is enhanced by recruiting a force that resembles the community it serves (although sadly, diversity doesn’t necessarily reduce police violence). Finally, hiring more women in law enforcement—a strategy Peru used to break perceptions of widespread corruption—results in more trust and less use of force.

Once officers have gained a community’s trust, they can use public tips to implement policies proven to drastically reduce crime, such as targeting hot spots (the small number of places where most violence happens), and focusing deterrence on the tiny percentage of people responsible for the vast majority of violent crime to prevent them from resorting to violence. Executing both strategies with respect and fairness is, needless to say, essential to their effectiveness.

Kleinfeld, Rachel. (2020, July 2). These Countries Reformed Their Brutal, Biased Police. The U.S. can, too. Foreign Policy.

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