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Commentary: The changing face of policing in the United States of America

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: The changing face of policing in the United States of America
June 24
13:30 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

We have always had the police in America. They have provided law and order for this country.

Personally, I have always feared the police, as my experiences with them have not been good.

Now with the racial unrest, there is a mounting effort to defund the police. As this term enters America’s lexicon, there seems to be different interpretations as to what it means.

The police have been in the news for the wrong reasons lately. They are here to protect and to serve yet this longstanding motto does not apply to all police. The police should uphold the law, but they are not above the law.

Their credo is lost with some officers, as they have hidden agendas. They lack moral judgment in times of crisis. Being a police officer requires a high level of decency and humanity.

The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks have shown the fallibility of these officers. Unfortunately, these Black people lost their lives because those in power abused their power.

Their crazed indiscretions have torn communities and this country apart. I believe the nation’s police are in for some changes.

Charles Ramsey, former police chief in Washington D.C., said recently on CNN that the police are being demonized. He is correct. I suspect that until there is systemic change, the police as a body will continue to be criticized.

Systemic change took place within the Camden Police Department. In May of 2013, the Camden City Council abolished the city police department and created a new one under county control. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “You had to change the underlying principles of the way police officers were being trained and taught. The most effective way to do that was to start over.”

Is the Camden Police Department perfect? No, but it is much better than it was. Citizens there now trust the police and do not have the fundamental fear they once had.

In my mind, defunding the police does not mean getting rid of them. While some may disagree, we as citizens could not get along without them.

Defund the police means a few things to me. Community policing has been around for a few years, however how many cities practice it? The term sounds good and looks good on paper, but for many law enforcement agencies that is where it stops.

Police have some of the most powerful unions in the country, yet they are beginning to see that you cannot blindly protect officers who are guilty. Derek Chauvin, Garrett Rolfe and Brett Hankison are the latest examples.

Jamal Bailey, New York state senator says, “Folks have been complaining about police brutality for so many years and it just goes away. It could not go away this time. Not only are we going to the street, but we are also going to push for changes in the legislature.”

In recent days, some states have acted judiciously in curbing bad police behavior. Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, repealed a law keeping police disciplinary records from the public. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill prohibiting chokeholds.

However, not every state is onboard, not yet anyway. Kansas State Representative Rui Xu proposed a bill condemning police brutality and racism. It did not pass.

As the weeks go by, there will be police reforms. What terms we use to describe these changes will be left up to us.

The one thing we can be crystal clear about is that changes are on the way.

James B. Ewers Jr. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at ewers.jr56@nullyahoo.com.

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