Citizen Policing: More on Balanced Approach

Ifill was the keynote speaker on Friday at the UNC School of Law in Chapel Hill, NC (where I live) as part of an all-day event titled “Police Violence in the Wake of Ferguson and Staten Island.” The conference brought together people from a variety of backgrounds, including police officers, lawyers, professors and students.

This excerpt from the local newspaper coverage caught my attention:

‘Michael Troutman, assistant public defender in Guilford County, said he attended the event because he often confronts these issues in his work.

Troutman said Ifill’s strategy to increase implicit bias training among police officers has merit, though he thinks the training should go both ways.

“Her solution of expanding training among law enforcement is one strategy, but on the other side, it is educating people how to deal with those encounters as well,” he said.’

As I continue gently to advance the notion of citizen design of policing [], I find myself coming up against an insistent subliminal rhythm of a narrative which bothers me. It is a narrative which says that there are some who need to be treated more than equally.


The ambition of the notion of citizen design of policing is that, in the relationship between law enforcer and citizen, there should be an equality of respect and treatment for and with all manner of participants, an equality designed and monitored by a body representing the majority view of the community being policed.

That equality is undermined the moment any one of the potential participants demands ‘extra’ equality.

I find this subliminal narrative especially disturbing when it comes from someone in a position of authority and stature. So it is that Sherrilyn Ifill says this:

‘One solution could involve having conversations about the lasting harms of white people not spending time around black people, she said.

“I think we can no longer afford to live as two separate countries,” she said.’


I hear, and therefore accept (I can not know; I am not black), that there are blacks who say they feel like they live in a separate country. Our ambition should be that all feel we live one country. Agreed.

You do not achieve that by introducing a new inequality. By saying, there is a group which requires special accommodation by the police.

I live in a low-income housing project. I do not expect to behave any differently to the folks living alongside me. I do not expect any different treatment or accommodation.

I am a minority of one. There is plenty that the majority in my complex, my neighborhood, my town, my state, my country determine should be the way of something that I do not like. I do not have the right as a minority to demand special hearing or accommodation.

If we are one country, then we must be one country.

There is also the hint of a suggestion that black people are different, and that white police officers should spend special time around them, so as better to understand them.

I’m sorry. At the risk of losing whole swathes of FB Friends, this borders on anthropological clap-trap. And it is, in my opinion, incredibly patronizing about my many black friends.

I repeat, in so far as citizen design of policing is concerned, we address all of Sherrilyn’s concerns by having a policing approach designed by citizenry which treats all citizens with equal respect.

We are not all born equal. Never were. Never will be. What we can all work for is a situation where all may have equal opportunity and equal treatment under and by the law. Nothing more. Nothing less. No special favors for anyone.


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