8 Important Police Reforms Every American Can Get Behind

It takes courage to be a police officer. A police officer puts their life on the line every day they clock in to work. The officers are given power and authority to complete their dangerous duties.

Occasionally, an officer bestowed with this power will abuse it. This can lead to false imprisonment, fines, and possibly death for an innocent citizen. If found guilty for this abuse of power, the officer could face the same penalties his victim faced.

A simple solution is to create or redefine laws that limit what a police officer is allowed to do. This would reduce the amount of innocent victims and destroy fewer police officers’ careers. Here is a short list of 8 laws that should be created or enforced, as well as some scenarios to help explain the problems being addressed:

 

1. Civil Asset Forfeiture

Imagine you are online and see a car you want to buy from a private dealer. The private dealer wants $5,000 in exchange for the car. You go to the bank, pull out $5,000 in cash, and start driving toward the dealer. On the way, you get pulled over. The officer notices that you have a large amount of money. The officer claims that you could possibly be planning to purchase a large amount of drugs with this money and that they must confiscate it.

This happens every day and it is completely legal. In order for a person to reclaim their money, they pretty much have to prove their innocence.

Assuming the person is willing to challenge the asset forfeiture, they must have the time to go to court and the money to hire a lawyer. This may be more costly than the amount of money that was confiscated, especially if they lose their challenge.

Civil asset forfeiture should not be legal anywhere because it is unconstitutional and completely undermines the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”

2. Unmarked Cars

Picture you are driving home from work and what seems to be an unmarked patrol car pulls you over. The driver gets out of the unmarked patrol car, walks up to your window, and shoots you.

This has happened in several states — including some cases where the police impersonator sexually assaults the victim — which is why many states have made it illegal to pull citizens over in unmarked patrol cars. However, many states have not adopted these laws, and many of the states that have ignore them.

In many countries around the world, police vehicles are required to have Battenburg markings. These markings are a reflective, contrasting check pattern which maximizes the visibility of the vehicle. This allows citizens to find the police easier if they need assistance.

The extra visibility also adds protection for the police, because drivers are more likely to see the police car and not crash into it. Unmarked police cars are used for the opposite reason, as they try to stay concealed from the public in order to catch more people, which brings in more revenue.

Unmarked patrol cars should not be allowed to pull over citizens, because it teaches citizens to pull over for vehicles that do not look like official law enforcement.

3. Stop & Frisk

Let’s pretend you live in New York City and you are cold so you pull your hood over your head. A police patrol car pulls up next to you and the officer exits the vehicle. The officer states that they want to search you. If you refuse, you can be charged with resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.

The practice of “stop and frisk” still happens in many cities in the United States today. This practice invites racial and religious profiling. Many of the cities who use this practice claim that it drastically lowers their crime rate. However, it also leads to many discrimination lawsuits against the city or police.

“Stop and frisk” practices should be illegal nationwide, as they are in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. Stop and frisk might possibly be helpful in preventing crime, but it is unconstitutional.

4. Body Cameras

Imagine you are a police officer. You pull over a car for having a broken tail light. There are two women in the car. One punches the other in the face and proceeds to call 9-1-1. She tells the operator that you hit her friend and wants to press charges. You have been set up. If you were wearing a body camera, this couldn’t have happened to you.

Body cameras on police would protect all of our police, and it would also protect all of our citizens. Just like in the scenario, a police officer could be the person who is framing innocent people, simply because there is no video of the situation. This has happened many times before, to innocent citizens and police officers alike.

We now live in a time where cameras are powerful and inexpensive. Requiring our public employees to have body cameras would protect them, as well as increase transparency in the government.

Body cameras should be a part of every police officer’s uniform, because additional information on a topic or situation is never a bad thing.

Study: Use-of-Force Incidents Drop Dramatically When Police Use Body-Worn Cameras

5. Unmarked Riot Control

Hypothetically, the government has just decided to make the Internet illegal. You decide this is horrible. You join a protest in order to help raise awareness of this new law. While you are standing on the sidewalk with your protest sign, a police officer shoots you with a rubber bullet. In pain, you look to see what the name tag reads on the officer’s uniform, and there isn’t one.

Anonymity allows people to do things they normally would not. For example, someone online is more likely to say things they would never say to another person face to face.

This logic also applies to police officers. An officer in riot gear, without their name displayed, is far more likely to use excessive force. Without a name displayed on a uniform, no one can actually file a complaint on a specific officer.

All police officers should have to display their name and badge at all times, because it eliminates potential anonymous violence.

6. Non-Lethal Weapons

You are protesting again. You want to assert your right to free speech and peaceful assembly on public property. You are sitting in the grass with fellow protesters when police show up and start spraying everyone in the face with pepper spray.

Non-lethal weapons are important because they allow situations to deescalate without someone losing their life. However, when they are used when they aren’t needed, people can be seriously hurt unjustifiably.

Pepper spray, tasers, and batons can kill people, but we allow police officers to carry them because it is more likely a gun will kill someone or do collateral damage. Over the last 15 years, over 500 people have died from being tased. Pepper spray has killed many people as well, including Anthony Dewayne Ware in 2015.

Non-lethal weapons are important tools. However, using them when unnecessary should carry a heavy punishment.

7. Standards

Pretend that you really want to be a police officer, so you go and take the tests. One of the tests is an IQ test. You complete the test and it turns out your IQ is way above average. This is great news to you, but the police department doesn’t like it. They reject your application because your IQ score is too high.

It seems counter intuitive to reject potential police officers simply for doing exceptionally well on an intelligence test. So why would they want to do this?

The United States Court Of Appeals stated in Jordan v. City of New London:

“[W]e conclude that even absent a strong proven statistical correlation between high scores on the Wonderlic test and turnover resulting from lack of job satisfaction, it is enough that the city believed … that there was such a connection.”

Basically, the court stated that the position of police officer would best be filled with people of mediocre IQ, because people of higher IQ will feel unhappy or unsatisfied with policing and quit.

It takes between 4 and 5 months to complete the police academy training. It takes a law student 7 to 8 years to become a lawyer, to ensure the lawyer understands the law. Many police departments do not require any college credits to join at all.

Something possibly even more concerning is that police departments often hire former police officers who have been fired from other departments for misconduct.

A higher standard for police applicants should be adopted nationwide, because these potential police officers could be someone we have to depend on.

8. Shooting Dogs

Let’s say you own a dog. You and your dog are watching a sports game together when the doorbell rings. As you open the door, your dog darts past you and gets outside. The person who rung the doorbell was a police officer. The police officer looks at the dog, pulls out a firearm, and shoots the dog.

This scenario may seem extreme, but it happens often in the United States. The amount of videos that show police officers shooting dogs on YouTube is staggering.

A few of the officers that are filmed doing this are charged with cruelty to animals, but most of them claimed that their life was in danger and they were cleared of charges. It is suspicious that stories of postal workers, paramedics, firemen, and Mormons having to kill dogs out of self defense are so uncommon.

Pepper spray is very effective against dogs. A taser is even more effective. The officer also has a patrol car. If an officer is afraid of dogs, they can wait in the patrol car until the dog’s owner can restrain it. If no owners are present and no one is in danger, the officer can wait for animal control to arrive.

There is always the chance that an officer may have to defend themselves from someone’s pet, but there needs to be a clear definition of when they are justified to do so, and severe punishments for crossing that line.


 

There are dozens of other problems to address with the police departments across the United States, but here are 8 problems to start with. These 8 problems in particular have something in common, which is that they are all very easy to solve.

Whether it be clipping on a camera or sewing on a name tag, most of the problems on this list can be fixed in a matter of days. If there are better ways of protecting the police officers who enforce the laws and protecting the citizens who fund them simultaneously, why wouldn’t anyone want to work to adopt those ways?

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