Disarming and Displacing the NYPD

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A sparring partner of mine sent me an article about a group seeking to disarm and displace the NYPD in their neighborhood. I read the article. I’m not too impressed. I’ve come to learn that ‘direct action’ normally means ‘undemocratic action, because we know we will not be able to obtain the democratic support of our community.’ I responded accordingly:

I think I would prefer that citizens do what we have done in my apartment complex, and that is prove the need for less of any kind of third-party policing, by removing or reducing the conflict.

I have a problem with the notion that you can have a group which, at one and the same time, believes it should conflict with police, but can also preach non-conflict among neighbors.

Where is there any sense here of allowing for community monitoring? Of whatever is being done, supposedly in the name of the community?

And finally, when all else fails, and a mugger turns up on my doorstep with a baseball bat, who do I call, if there is someone downstairs turning police away?

I think I prefer the model of citizen design of policing, where all parties come together, and a consensual approach to law enforcement is determined, rather than a group hating on police, and then hoping for the best.”

Body Camera Policy In Carrboro, NC

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Progress in Carrboro, NC, regarding an element of citizen design of policing – with some cautions (or would those be ‘warnings’?!).

The policy governing use of body cameras in Carrboro was drafted jointly by Chief of Police Walter Horton, Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils and NC ACLU Legal Director Christopher Brook, over the course of the past year. Many thanks to them.

Kudos to Alderman Sammy Slade for insisting on full transparency. And further kudos to Alderperson Michelle Johnson for making clear that there is more yet to come.

Ok. Now for the caveats. It is not just racial profiling that needs to be addressed with citizen design of policing. It is all aspects of policing, affecting all citizens. What we want is a set of rules governing policing that make the policing approach to citizenry totally color blind. With respect, you do not achieve equality by requiring any sort of specific approach to any specified group of citizenry.

Next caveat, I am not happy that Chief Horton, who may be a wonderful police officer and citizen, appears to be drafting the policy for written consent for search on his own. Let’s continue with the consensual approach developed with body cameras. And, indeed, expand upon it.

We achieve the latter by having the discussion and drafting open to the police, elected officials and ordinary citizens at open forums. Not behind closed doors. With announcements made at the end of the process.

We have such an open forum scheduled for June of this year in Carrboro, NC. And I trust that Chief Horton and Carrboro Alderpeople will be working on the basis that the forum will be more than merely a police show and tell, and that citizens may be included in setting the agenda. I will be writing with some suggestions of my own. And I will be doing all I can to encourage others to do the same.

Policing takes place with the consent of the citizenry. The best means of ensuring that this is actuality not mere sentiment is to permit citizens fully to engage in the actual designing of policing policy.

Rifles in Chapel Hill, NC Patrol Cars

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I was interviewed today by Kevin Mercer, a journalism student at UNC-CH (who will get to the Sweet Sixteen, but no further), about citizen design of policing, and my specific response to this linked story.

My recorded answers came down to the following:

1) I don’t have enough information at the moment to be able to determine if there is genuinely a need for these rifles, at all, or in patrol cars. In any event, and more importantly, I would prefer, under citizen design, that these sorts of decisions were being taken by citizens, after briefing by the police chief, rather than by the police chief himself. Notwithstanding the fact that my experience with Chris Blue is that he is a thoughtful and deliberate police officer.

2) I am nervous at the thought of any front-line police officer bearing any weapon more dangerous than a taser. I would prefer that front-line police officers be disarmed (as they are in the UK), and that their primary responsibility be assessment and containment. I would prefer that suppression, if determined to be necessary by a supervising police commander on the scene, and following rules of engagement previously agreed between citizens and police, I would prefer that suppression be undertaken by a specialized Crisis Intervention Team. Not least so that there is pause and reflection between confrontation and the drawing of a weapon. The latter to be overruled in the event that the person being confronted is already firing, in which event, the CIT be given instruction to suppress immediately.

3) I would be just as nervous (no more, no less) by the sight of an ordinary citizen bearing arms and/or firing the arms. I do not see a problem, in that eventuality, with having front-line police officers disarmed. If a disarmed police officer saw such a citizen, and they were not firing, he or she would engage in containment and talking-down at a safe distance. If firing began, the officer would call for the CIT. If I saw the citizen myself, and this has happened to me (shooting in my apartment parking lot), I would normally call the police, and then hide, sensibly. The one time this did happen to me, I was not sensible. I called the police on my mobile, and then followed the gunman at a distance, so that I was then able to direct the police to him. I’m no hero. I just wanted to be there to warn other people away from him. This is not pie-in-the-sky-duh-utopia. It is what they practice in the UK, where, yes, folks have guns. Illegally.

Answer No.2 was given to Kevin after we’d been all round the houses with my general philosophies. Kevin didn’t want philosophy. He wanted hard quotes for a hard story. I wasn’t being difficult. My positions are sometimes nuanced. He persevered. And eventually came up with the game-changer. How do you feel? How do you feel about police with guns? Excellent question. Told Kevin so. No way out for Geoff. I had to answer. Kevin will make an excellent journalist. He understands the first rule of interviewing. It is his interview, not the interviewee’s. Never let the interviewee set the terms of the interview. I wouldn’t answer his questions. He kept asking until he found one I had to answer. Well done, Kevin.

As to the story itself, I have problems with the approach taken by Chris. And again, I respect Chris Blue. I know what my difficulties are. But I address these next remarks to those I argue with regularly. On the face of it, Chris’s approach is considered and sensitive. He drew up a policy. He has published it. He has communicated it to the elected officials of his funding agency. And he has promised to raise the policy with the Community Policing Advisory Committee. Does such an approach make you feel comfortable? If not, why not?

City Council Races Offer Change in Ferguson

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Excellent. A healthy range of candidates for City Council elections in Ferguson. What Ferguson needs now is healthy participation by voters, after a turnout of 12% in the last elections.

The City Council is the funding agency for the Ferguson Police. Ferguson is itself a black majority township. If you want better policing in Ferguson, more racially sensitive policing, then the first step is to choose the right folks to be sitting on that Council, making policy for the police force.

This is citizen design of policing in action. If you want change, get off the streets, stop shooting people, and vote.

Citizen Design, Disarming Frontline Police – The Risks [Redux]

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Sigh. I’ll work my damndest to try to get folks on board with the concept of citizen design of policing, because I truly believe the answer to finding a better relationship between citizenry and police in the US is founded on a return to the principle that police perform only with the consent of their communities.

But people, it’s only going to work if there is mutual respect. This is not respect. If we are going to ask police to respect, to restrain themselves, then it can not be an excuse for some to get away with breaking the law

Citizen Design, Disarming Frontline Police – The Risks

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Bear in mind, those who look to citizen design of policing as an opportunity to disarm frontline police officers in Carrboro, NC and elsewhere in the US, this (the attached article) may be what we ask of police officers with families.

I am guessing we have few reports of this sort of outcome in the US, because (as with Michael Brown) the man in the back of the police car would likely have become one more unarmed police shooting victim, long before the policewoman hit the ground.

Food for thought, my friends.

Carrboro, Policing, Funds, Policy-Making – Redux

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Carrboro, NC Alderman Damon Seils responded to my note about Funding being Policy-Making, with respect to citizen design of policing, on OrangePolitics:

“Yes, funding is policy making. The DTH article neglects to mention that the Board of Aldermen will hold multiple meetings between now and June regarding the fiscal year 2016 budget, which would fund the purchase of police body cameras if the community so desires, including a public hearing on May 26. The board will also hold a public hearing specifically on the issue of police body cameras during our next public hearing on March 24. As usual, we want and need the community’s input. Community members who are unable to attend upcoming board meetings, please e-mail your thoughts to the board at boa@townofcarrboro.org and copy the town clerk at cwilson@townofcarrboro.org.”

I replied (as is my wont):

“Thank you for your comment, Damon. You have very graciously spent quite a bit of your time addressing the points being raised by this one citizen. We may not always agree. But I think, on this particular issue, we are both driven by a desire to see the very best relationship created between our police and our community, based upon mutual respect.

The thing is that the common focal denominator in such situations is almost always the people who are not happy. And, especially in this instance, I think that happiness can only be achieved if what they regard as redress is presented simply and coherently.

This is not about what I think is best, but what is likely to work best for those with grievance. And I think what is likely to work best is a single point of reference. Not a single event, necessarily. But a singular process.

It appears that you agree that it is the Carrboro Board of Aldermen which has ultimate authority to make policy for the Carrboro police. That is a huge first step.

It appears that you agree it is desirous to be making that policy jointly with the police and citizens. You invite input from the public.

But, at that point, the process seems to dissipate, rather than coalesce. With respect.

We have a public hearing here. Another one there. Still a community forum in June. Which I thought was to be the starting focal point for a methodical approach to policing policy review and design. Meanwhile, a list of about 15 action items, to be reported back – where?

I am delighted there is interest. But I wonder if those with concerns might not now be better served with an injection of coherence. Something like this:

1) A simple, bald declaration from the Board of Aldermen that they are primarily responsible for making policing policy in Carrboro.

2) An equally bald declaration that the Board will be reviewing and designing such policy jointly and consensually with police and interested citizens.

3) That there will be a singular, coherent process for such review and design – be it a series of formal forums, regular meetings of a new Board Sub-Committee, or Board Advisory Commission, whatever – some single point of reference, to which everything reports back, and which is a transparent beacon to those with grievance.

4) As a first step, posting all existing policing policies online.

5) Then, instituting a process, under the aegis of the single point of reference, for reviewing, improving, designing and monitoring compliance with policing policy.

I’m not trying to rush ahead, merely wondering about bringing coherence to what is already happening – and maybe give it a nudge.”

Carrboro, Policing – Funding is Policy-Making

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I wonder if our local elected officials are not still missing the point about citizens designing the policing approach in our community?

In the attached article, Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade quite sensibly expresses caution about the new body camera policy being implemented by the Carrboro Police. What he urges is caution and analysis. Hmm.

Later on, Carrboro Alderman Damn Seils ‘supports their [body cameras] implementation.’ Double hmm.

Look. I’m not an anti-police anarchist. I do not believe the system is broken. Far from it. I just believe it needs to be addressed more effectively. And to be driven by citizens.

I’m not a fool. I understand that the concept of removing what appears to be the current sole authority of police to set their own policy to a situation where it is determined jointly and consensually by police, elected officials and citizens is a huge culture shift.

But. It’s got to start moving. And it ain’t going to start moving until the most important players in the shift get moving themselves. With respect.

The police have no funds that are not allocated by their funding agency. In the case of Carrboro, this is the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Come budget time (June), you attach conditions to the funding. In this case, a very simple condition, henceforth the Board of Aldermen, not the police, on their own, will take the lead in setting policy for the Carrboro police department.

That’s it. Simple as that.

Citizen design of policing is only going to work if the police are brought along. But the emphasis is on being brought along. They do not have a veto. You don’t agree to the condition, then no funding until you do.

It’s not a question of legislative change. It’s a matter simply of exercising will. And it will not be exercised so long as our Alderpeople act as if they are asking permission of the police to exercise the control they already have.

The Chapel Hill Killings – Lessons

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I’m sorry, but it is never too early to be discussing lessons. Especially not in the current world of ADD, where folks move on as soon as the headlines disappear. For me, the two primary lessons to learn are: own responsibility and get involved.

What. No rant about Muslim-haters, police cover-up, irresponsible media reporting? No. Well, some about the latter a bit later. But, no. Why? Because you can’t change what you can’t change. What you have to do is own responsibility for what you can change, and get involved to change it.

No-one has, or will ever have, the slightest notion of what goes on or was going on in the head of Craig Stephen Hicks. Almost nothing is served by trying to find out now. Of course it was a hate crime. The man hated. Does it really change one dot, tittle or iota of anything to have a long. unseemly, pointless debate about whether it was parking he hated, or Muslims?

You can not legislate the way people feel, including hatred. What you can do is legislate the way they demonstrate their feelings. And this man had been demonstrating feelings for yonks.

I have only the greatest of compassion for Deah, Yusor and Razan. But their deaths should never have occurred. They should have reported Hicks to the police long before the evening of February 10. This man was banging on the doors of all the neighbors, complaining about parking, with a gun on his hip. That is creating a fracas. Call the police.

It doesn’t matter whether he hated this neighbor more than another. The moment his hatred took a form that was breaking the law, or just causing disruption and fear, the police should have been called. And the awful events of February 10 likely would never have occurred. For sure, the police are reporting that they never received any complaints about Hicks.

By the same token, if Hicks was concerned about parking, he should have spoken with the apartment office or called the police himself. I live in an apartment complex. We are under strict instructions from our office and the police not to have discussions with neighbors about matters of conflict. But instead to call the police and report the matter to the office. Precisely so as to avoid confrontation.

What if you fear the police? Ok. Not a stupid question. I am one in the town neighboring Chapel Hill (Carrboro, NC), along with others, who are trying to implement a process of citizen design of policing, specifically because of concerns, locally and nationally, with the nature of some policing approach.

Ok. But, if you want less of a police presence in your neighborhood, then you have to engage in community self-policing. I read that a community meeting was held to discuss Hicks. What happened? Nothing. Why? Because folks don’t follow through. We need to.

To digress for a moment, the moves in Carrboro, NC have come to a bit of a halt, because the next community meeting with our local police chief is not due until June. I know it is not going to be possible simply to turn up in June and expect people to pick up where we left off from the last community forum. One can not be passive in one’s interest. I know that one or more of us will have to work assiduously for the month before that community forum in June to re-interest folk, get some control of the agenda and the like. Advocacy, change, improvement takes work and vigilance, not just a post or two on Facebook.

I said I’d come back to the media. I specifically want to address the earlier article, talking about Hicks’s obsession with parking. You can’t change people. Can’t make them less weird. But journalists can stop writing self-evident nonsense.

The article itself reads stupidly. Even if Hicks turns out to be the most complicated individual in history, it is incumbent on journalists actually to read what they write. I know a bit about this. My book is currently undergoing what my publisher calls editing for consistency. I call it destroying a work of timeless art. Yes. We are having a parking dispute. But, the point is, he won’t let me write crap.

How on earth can a journalist write that Hicks was a champion for the rights of individuals, when he is also described as lacking any compassion? How can he be a liberal, who turns up on neighbor’s doorsteps, toting a gun?

It’s not good enough to say, well, that is what folks said to the journalist. Just because people talk nonsense does not mean a journalist has to write it. Journalism of this low quality merely causes confusion and misunderstanding.

Of course there is some question as to the mental balance of Hicks himself. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about a journalist saying, whoa, either I report that Hicks was a likely schizophrenic, and report the inconsistencies, or I say, I can’t blithely accept these contradictory reports.

Why should a journalist get that involved, I hear you ask? He’s just a journalist. And I respond, he’s a journalist, in a position of some authority, contributing to analysis and understanding. We need all of us to own responsibility for what we say, and do, and what we do not do.

Again, I know a bit about this. My book results from one thing. I saw stuff around me that did not make sense. I investigated. I asked questions. If we all stand by passively, then bad stuff will go on happening. If something does not make sense, the chances are, it does not make sense. Get stuck in, and find out why. And it starts with people like journalists. So, I do not let the writer of this article off the hook that lightly.

There are lessons to be learned from the tragedy of the Chapel Hill killings. The first is that it was a crime. A heinous crime. But a crime. Not a religious war. It was a crime that could have been avoided. And that can be avoided again. Not with grand protests, marches, or new legislation. But by ordinary folk, you and I, taking an interest, giving a damn, owning responsibility and getting involved, in a purposeful way.

#IamDeah #IamYusor #IamRazan