Skip to main content
Opinion

Police need new reforms to fight systemic racism

Jul 18, 2023

Share

After George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, the investigation into his death found that the Minneapolis police department regularly used excessive force against Black and Native American people. In response to this incident, various proposals have been put forth to address the issue of systemic racism in police departments, such as increasing the amount of training on unconscious bias and providing more funding for body cameras on officers.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette agrees that systematic racism is prominent in law enforcement and believes significant new reforms are needed to change policing standards.

This means that those folks who’ve been saying for years, even generations, that when it comes to policing and race, or systemic racism in policing, something was rotten in Denmark — well those folks were not wrong. They were right. 

A lot of people who thought of themselves as pro-police refused to accept the truth, but that didn’t make it any less true. We don’t need fewer cops, and we shouldn’t defund the police. As President Joe Biden says, we need more police officers and more funding for police.

We also need to return respectability to a profession that can’t even seem to recruit new officers. But another way to get people to respect cops again is to accept the fact that we need better police. 

That means police reform; not the kind dictated by police unions, but real changes in the culture of policing to make it more about offering aid than doling out punishment. And before we can change cop culture, we have to admit that it has long been infected by some bad and ugly viruses, including — wait for it — racism.

Systemic racism. Cops hate that phrase almost as much as they hate the slogan “defund the police.” 

 

I know this because I grew up around cops — my dad was on the job for 37 years. Cops have a habit of treating people differently based on class, race, gender, migration status, sexual orientation. But they resent it when someone points this out.

 

If you accuse a police officer of profiling, expect some push back. And I know this because twice a year, I speak to groups of cops as a faculty member at Command College, an executive training program for high-level law enforcement officers here in California.

 

Once, in a class, a police lieutenant asked me if I agreed with those who said there was systemic racism in policing. I listed a half dozen other industries including my own, in the media, that are plagued by systemic racism. And then I said, either policing is plagued too, or cops would be traveling the country giving seminars on how to be racially enlightened. The audience chuckled, which told me I’d gotten my point across. 

 

When a cop gets caught, perhaps on video, engaging in a horrific and racist act, the temptation is for people to label him a “lone wolf,” and downplay the possibility of systemic racism in policing. Sure enough, in May of 2020 when now former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered a middle aged Black man named George Floyd, there were those who immediately tried to limit the racial fallout to Chauvin. He went rogue, they said. 

 

But now it seems that was all wrong. Chauvin was the apple, the Minneapolis police department was the tree, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. According to a recent 89 page report that followed a federal civil rights investigation that lasted more than two years, the Minneapolis police department routinely used excessive force against individuals who were Black or Native American.

 

Members of those groups were also victims of discrimination by police. All this happened for years before Floyd’s death. In the report, the Justice Department harshly scolded the Minneapolis police officials for abandoning oversight, failing to take corrective action when accused of bias and unfair treatment, and for turning a blind eye to systemic problems that may ultimately have contributed to Chauvin’s actions.

 

At a press conference in Minneapolis, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the probe’s results. He described Floyd’s death not as an isolated episode, but as a tragedy enabled by failures and prejudices within the Minneapolis police department. Garland said the Justice Department, the city of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis police had agreed to negotiate a federal consent decree. That’s a court approved reform order that can help federal officials force change within local law enforcement agencies.

 

This means that those folks who’ve been saying for years, even generations that when it comes to policing and race, or systemic racism in policing, something was rotten in Denmark, well those folks were not wrong. They were right. 

 

A lot of people who thought of themselves as pro-police refuse to accept the truth, but that didn’t make it any less true. We don’t need fewer cops, and we shouldn’t defund the police. As President Joe Biden says, we need more police officers and more funding for police.

 

We also need to return respectability to a profession that can’t even seem to recruit new officers. But another way to get people to respect cops again is to accept the fact that we need better police. 

 

That means police reform. Not the kind dictated by police unions, but real changes in the culture of policing to make it more about offering aid than doling out punishment. And before we can change cop culture, we have to admit that it has long been infected by some bad and ugly viruses, including — wait for it — racism. 

 

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.


Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Monday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Tuesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Wednesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Thursday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Friday

Left Opinion Right Opinion