My Abbreviated History with Citizen Design of Policing


So. Where did my interest begin? I was born and raised in England. Policing there is based on the common law notion that policing may only occur with the consent of the citizenry. It never occurred to me that folks would put up with imposed policing.

It never bothered me when I finally immigrated to this country in 1992 (I have always been a dual British-American citizen). Frankly, I never brushed with the law. Until it did bother me. Which began when a SWAT team suddenly appeared on the streets of my sleepy little artsy backwater hamlet one dreary Sunday afternoon in November 2011.

I advocated first for an independent review of the use of SWAT. I was attempting to determine whether there were any rules of engagement for use of SWAT. When that failed, I urged the formation of a citizen’s oversight body, to draft such rules, along with other monitoring of police action I thought was mere common sense. And I’m no socialist. Again, nada. And life moved on.

Until Ferguson. And the discovery that, even in my sleepy artsy backwater, there were folks who had experienced what they described as rough handling at the hands of our local police. Enough.

I am now engaged in a full-blown campaign to have the funding agency for our local police (the Carrboro Board of Aldermen) set up a Citizen’s Policing Task Force, comprised of concerned citizens, local elected officials and police representatives, with a remit thoroughly to review the policing approach in our municipality, to ensure that the approach, in all its regards, from rules of engagement to hiring policy to equipment purchase, has the full consent and support of our community.

Most of the history (to date) of this most recent advocacy is contained in the posts on this blog prior to this post. But I attach below a few more articles of interest:

“Disarm Front-Line Police?”

“Where Are The Six Armored Personnel Carriers?”

“Chapel Hill and Carrboro Citizens’ Police Forums”

“Citizen Oversight of Policing in Carrboro”

“Local Law Enforcement Begins Hard Work Toward Racial Equity”

Carrboro, NC is not a hotbed of bad policing. There are issues. But nothing like the issues in bigger cities. That, indeed, is why I want us to explore the concept of citizen design of policing here. To iron out the wrinkles, and to see if we can make it work. So that it might provide a template for larger cities in the US.

Most of anger comes from fear. Once all of the parties concerned see that this strange notion that citizens design the manner in which they are policed, once they see that it can work, then maybe their fear will lessen. And that, in turn, is the purpose of this blog. To act as a record of our exploration of the concept.



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