WCHL – 2nd Carrboro Community Forum On Policing

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Well. WCHL, Carrboro/Chapel Hill’s News, Talk and Tar Heels radio station, once again invited me to offer a ‘Commentary.’ This time, my reflections on the Carrboro, NC Community Forum on Policing held on June 29. The broadcast went out yesterday. If you missed it, you can hear my dulcet tones here.

Now, bless their eternal hearts. Their heading on the WCHL site is ‘Community policing in Carrboro – It’s a good concept.’ Oh dear. Which only serves to underline how difficult it is to understand a simple concept, sometimes precisely because it is simple.

I am not advocating for community policing. For policing by the community. Policing is a complex undertaking, which requires years of training and experience. No. I am advocating that, in order to be certain that the manner of the policing undertaken has the fullest support of the community, the policing approach itself is designed and monitored jointly by the police and the community they serve.

I am advocating citizen design of policing, not community policing. But. No matter. It will take time for the concept to take hold. If you want to know a tad more about what citizen design is, and why I think it will work, well, listen to the podcast. The text of which is below:

“The Second Carrboro Community Forum on Policing on June 29 was a success. A lot of very different views were expressed. People went away frustrated, anxious and despondent because there was next to no meeting of minds. But they were all determined to come back and continue the process. That was the success.

I was very encouraged that no less than six police officers attended, and almost all contributed. This is good.

It is my opinion that citizen design of policing will only be meaningful if it is an equal and respectful conversation between police, elected officials from their funding agency (the Board of Aldermen) and concerned citizens. And that conversation will only be meaningful if it includes an articulate police presence.

In the meantime, the Carrboro police, if Monday evening was an indication, are worried. And defensive. Not unlike many good police departments across the nation, they feel offended that the years of training and experience and good policing that they feel they can evidence is not immediately, honestly and fully acknowledged and supported.

I, for one, do openly acknowledge the extraordinary, complex and difficult job undertaken by police at the behest of our community. But that is the point, both in Carrboro, and across America, police are public employees undertaking their job at the behest of the community, and with its consent. We are entitled to revisit that behest and that consent.

But how on earth can civilians possibly know what is involved in proper policing? We don’t have to. The only requirement for citizens to discuss the policing approach in their community is how they want to be policed. Period.

But why should citizens design the policy for the police department when they seek no interest in doing so for transport departments or the fire service? Because planning officials don’t carry guns, tasers and handcuffs, that’s why.

What do police get out of this new process? Renewed respect from and the trust of all in the community.

So, to the next steps. Again, speaking personally, I do not want any more forums which are simply show ’n tell sessions with the Police Chief. I want us to start moving towards working agendas, where we all proactively begin the process of reviewing, designing and monitoring policing policy in Carrboro. To that end, I proposed a motion, which received qualified support. And I invited all police officers to vote. They are citizens, too. Never forget that. The motion:

“This meeting of concerned Carrboro citizens believes that, henceforth, policing policy in Carrboro should be designed by the elected officials of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, in conjunction with the Carrboro Police Department, and that such design should take place in an open and transparent manner, involving those concerned Carrboro citizens who wish to participate.”

I will be meeting further with Carrboro Aldermen. I will be advocating for more regular forums, and for agendas to specify policy areas to be discussed.

My friends, this process is going to take time to implement. People are wary. Naturally. But, we’re still talking. And that eventually will lead to the trust that will be required to give meaning to the concept of citizen design of policing.”

[And if you are wondering why the weird pics, well, today would have been the 114th birthday of Eiji Tsuburaya, one of the co-creators of the original Godzilla series. Thought I’d set everything in context … ]


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