Cleveland

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The only way we are going to achieve policing with which the citizenry are comfortable is when citizens themselves design the policing approach.

We need desperately to explore the concept in ‘safe’ communities, like Carrboro, NC. And we need to do it now. Before more people die. Before more cities burn.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen are holding a second policing community forum on June 29, at which forum I will be asking Aldermen and the Carrboro Police Chief publicly to commit to exploring citizen design of policing.

Attend. Please. Speak. Support.

In the meantime, the policing we have. The officers we have. The rules of conduct we have. Are what we have. Under the system which the people have not yet chosen to change.

Until the people decide to change that system. It is the system we have. If you don’t like it. Campaign for change. Attend the Carrboro forum. Demand similar forums in your community.

But one thing is absolutely certain. No meaningful change has ever been effected, or will now be effected, through rioting.

Citizen Policing in the UK

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‘Abused his authority as a police officer.’ Wow. Abused his authority as a police officer. That’s what this article states as being the reason given by a UK Judge for jailing a British police officer for eight months.

I really do understand when people of very different political persuasion in the US have difficulty grasping the policing concept for which I am advocating so ardently, namely ‘citizen design of policing.’

The reason is that they are not grounded in a culture where citizens run the police forces, front-line police officers are not armed, and there are limits on police authority.

Ok. Understood. Now. Grow up. Get with the program. And let’s re-design US culture. Beginning with my hometown – Carrboro, NC – on June 29 …

Second Policing Community Forum – Carrboro, NC

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Yup. Was on Chapel Hill, NC Talk Station WCHL’s ‘Commentators’ this morning. This time inviting all and sundry to the second Carrboro, NC Policing Community Forum, being held on June 29, with Carrboro Chief of Police, Walter Horton, and sponsored by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

You can listen here, or read the text below:

“There comes a time when even the most ardent supporter of law enforcement has to admit there is no longer distinction between law breaker and law enforcer. Both claim to be in the right. And both claim to be protecting citizens. It is my view that point has been reached. Not just in Baltimore. But in America as a whole.

That is not to say that law enforcement in every community in our nation has broken down. It is saying that law enforcement has become so critical in enough of our communities that all communities have become responsible for finding a solution.

I have proposed what might well be part of a solution with the concept (really not that original) of citizen design of policing.

I have had communication with Aldermen and certain activists in Carrboro about gently exploring implementation of that concept. Not because Carrboro is a hotbed of confrontation between citizen and police, but precisely because it is not.

I had hoped that there would be time to allow us to move that concept forward on a step-by-step basis. That time is no longer available. The streets of our nation are burning now. It is no good saying, but the problem is not here, let’s move slowly. The problem may not be here. Now. But if we do not become active, and aggressively active, in finding a solution now, then we have become a part of the problem, too.

The next step is for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to host a second policing community forum with the Carrboro Chief of Police on June 29. I will be writing this week to the Board specifically to request that we put the concept of citizen design of policing prominently on the agenda.

So that we are clear, I will be asking at that meeting that we firmly decide in principle – police, elected officials and concerned citizenry – to establish, with speed and vigor, a working model in Carrboro, where it is no longer the police alone who design their rules of engagement with the citizenry, but the elected officials, at open meetings, where citizenry may be engaged. That is citizen design of policing.

I truly believe that it is only by building a template of citizen-designed policing here in Carrboro, where policing is truly designed and monitored by the citizenry, that we can provide to other communities a model which will prevent further violence between communities and those they trust to maintain order and regulate behavior – not just the behavior of the citizenry at large, but the behavior of the police themselves.

Please note the date. June 29. Policing community forum in Carrboro.”

I think I’m going to give notice here that I’m going to pick up on a suggestion that was mooted by someone else when I wrote earlier about this second Policing Community Forum. And that is that, if this second Forum is held in the safe confines of the Carrboro Town Hall, with safe progressive people present, in the spirit of citizen design, so that everyone (including the police) truly understand what citizen design means, I’m going to ask the meeting if they would like to ask all attending police officers to remove their weapons, for the duration of the Forum.

There is no point pretending we are beginning a process of citizen design, where everyone accepts that successful policing takes place only with the consent of the citizenry, if citizenry can’t even get their sensible way at the first opportunity. Notice given.

Meanwhile, I did write to Walter and to the Board of Aldermen, with suggestions for a consensual citizen’s agenda for the Forum. I’ll let you all know what was the substantive response, as soon as I get one.

In the meantime, please make space in your diary. This is one of the most important issues facing our nation. And Carrboro and its citizens have a role to play.

Body Cameras In Durham, NC

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I’ll start with the tendentious commentary at the end of a recent article in the Durham, NC Independent: “Cameras won’t change the disproportionate presence of young black men in the criminal justice system, from arrest rates to incarceration.”

One of the problems I sense in the future of the concept which I am advocating – citizen design of policing – is the confusion and conflation between different grievances folks have about society, which grievances and which confusion and conflation they dump at the door of policing.

The thinking (at least mine) behind citizen design of policing is that, if you take all the folks with grievances about policing in their locale, and put them in a room, together with the police and the elected officials responsible for their funding, and tell them to come up with a policing approach with which they are comfortable, then such a process (rather simply expressed) should alleviate many of the tensions currently visible between communities and law enforcement – about the methods of law enforcement.

I highlight the last six words. Policing has nothing to do with economic opportunity, historic disadvantage, rates of crime, incarceration or the like. It has to do with policing. With enforcing laws which a community has determined it wishes to have applied in its locale.

And citizen design of policing pretends to be nothing more than a possible process for producing a policing approach, which has the greatest possible chance of being supported by the community, and therefore, of moving us away from the open conflict we have seen in Baltimore and Ferguson, among other places.

I’m not sure if body cameras are a good or a bad idea. I do know that they should serve to record what actually happens between a police officer and an individual. So that uncertainty is removed from the record.

But the camera itself does not change the hiring of the police officer, his or her training, his or her attitude, the attitude of the other individual, or the circumstances which led to the interaction between that individual and the police officer in question. Why should it?

I think that one of the confusions inherent in all this newfound interest in policing is that everyone and his uncle is running around having bright ideas, with little or no co-ordination with other folk also having bright ideas, with no context and no overarching process for monitoring what is happening and ensuring that police are accountable and receptive to what the community wants.

Let’s have all the ideas we can. The more the merrier. But let’s have a process for sensible co-ordination, discussion, consideration, context, implementation and monitoring. If that is something like citizen design of policing, so be it. If it is something else, let’s hear about that. But let’s have process at the same time as ideas.

And let’s be sensible about our expectations of the impact of individual ideas. No-one said body cameras were going to create the new utopia. It’s a little silly and somewhat unhelpful to dismiss the notion because it is not accompanied by nirvana.

Baltimore

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Just as the author of this article on the Baltimore riots makes assumptions at the beginning of his article, I will make one: he means well.

But he then does what every other talking head does: he makes an argument as to why this party is more right than that party – without offering a solution.

Enough already.

The concept of citizen design of policing (citizenpolicing.com) may not be the only solution, or even the best solution. But it is a solution.

For it is a concept that accepts all the perceived rights and all the perceived wrongs and all the people who can’t tell the difference, sits them down in a room, and says: ok, design a policing approach that works for all of you. And then design a process to monitor it.

It really is as simple and as complex as that. But it’s a deal sight better than wringing hands or changing the channel …

Second Carrboro, NC Policing Community Forum

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Carrboro, NC Alderman Damon Seils has very kindly notified me elsewhere that the second Carrboro policing community forum will be held on June 29. I want to urge as many Carrboro residents as possible to attend.

I have written the following e-mail to Carrboro Police Chief, Walter Horton, and to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, to follow up on the points I have been making since the first Carrboro policing community forum, not least about citizen design of policing:

“Dear Chief Horton and Carrboro Board of Aldermen,

Damon has very kindly notified me that the second Carrboro policing community forum will be held on June 29. On this occasion, with this much notice (many thanks!), I will be able to be in attendance.

I hope that steps will be taken widely to advertise this forum, especially among those who might feel that the subject of policing in Carrboro is of especial interest to them. For example, I know that the NC ACLU have been interested. As have the Chapel Hill NAACP, Orange County Justice United. And, as I suspect, will the residents of the various Carrboro apartment complexes, where residents have complained about police profiling. I would hope that contact could also be made with the various organizations working on behalf of the Hispanic communities in Carrboro. Finally, I would hope that, along with Chief Horton, there will be other representatives of the Carrboro Police present. My interest is unashamedly citizen design of policing. An essential element of the process is that it is consensual, so that all of the people involved – police, elected officials and concerned citizens – are comfortable with the manner in which policing policy is being designed.

Now, I am just one citizen. I’m no-one special. I expect no special favors. But, I am concerned. I have a voice. And I speak out. I have said it before. And I will repeat it now. My interest in exploring a new process for designing policing policy and approach in Carrboro is not necessarily because Carrboro is a hotbed of confrontation between police and citizen. It isn’t. But, as citizens, we have an obligation not just to our own hometown, but also to our nation. And too many of the cities of our nation are burning because the relationship between police and citizen has broken down. I believe we have a responsibility to attempt to build a better model of policing policy design here in Carrboro, so that it may serve as a template for avoiding further violence in those other communities.

In this regard, I believe a good place to start would be to make the agenda for the upcoming policing community forum a consensual one. Not just show ‘n tell for the police and the Board. By all means, let’s have items at the beginning, where police and the Board can report on what they have been doing. But let’s make those items brief, maybe?

I would like to hear what other bodies have been doing, not least the NAACP, with their internal discussions on a civilian review board. Then, I would like specifically to move onto citizen design of policing. I think it only fair to give you notice that I will be pushing for the following at this upcoming meeting:

1) A simple, bald declaration from the Board of Aldermen and Chief Horton that it is the Board which is primarily responsible for making policing policy in Carrboro.

2) An equally bald declaration that, henceforth, 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, such that it is a joint exercise between police, elected officials and concerned citizens.

I look forward to a response, addressing the above points substantively. And I look forward to the community forum. Where I will be pushing for all that I state above. If the gathered meeting makes it clear that they prefer that I do not, then that will be for them.

The events in Baltimore this week make clear that there is no longer any more time to waste in all of us taking responsibility for the breakdown of trust between police and citizen in our country, and all of us doing what we can with expedition. However much of a cultural shock it may be to some of us.

I will be posting this e-mail widely.

Many thanks,
Geoff Gilson”

See you all on June 29. Spread the word …

Citizen Design Of Policing – The Time Has Come

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There comes a time when even the most ardent supporter of law enforcement has to stop, take a check on reality, and admit that there is no longer distinction between law breaker and law enforcer. Both claim to be in the right. And both claim to be protecting citizens. It is my view that point has been reached. Not just in Baltimore. But in America as a whole.

That is not to say that law enforcement in every community in our nation has broken down. It is saying that law enforcement has become so critical in enough of our communities that all communities have become responsible for finding a solution.

I have proposed what might well be part of a solution with the concept (really not that original) of citizen design of policing.

I have had communication with Aldermen and certain activists in my current home town (of ten years), Carrboro, NC, about gently exploring that concept in my home town. Not because it is a hotbed of confrontation between citizen and police, but precisely because it is not.

I had hoped that there would be time to allow us to move that concept forward on a step by step basis. That time is no longer available. The streets of our nation are burning now. It is no good saying, but the problem is not here, let’s move slowly. The problem may not be here. Now. But if we do not become active, and aggressively active, in finding a solution now, then we have become a part of the problem, too.

The next step was for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to host a second policing community forum with Carrboro Chief of Police in early June. I will be writing this week to the Board to ask them to confirm the forum is being held, to ask that they advertise it widely, and specifically to request that we put the concept of citizen design of policing prominently on the agenda.

We need to explore the concept with vigor, iron out the wrinkles, and create a working model as soon as is possible, so that the nation may see an option in action that prevents any more Fergusons, Clevelands or Baltimores. Now. There is no more time to waste.

And so that I am absolutely clear, I am challenging the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and its Chief of Police to act with the same sense of urgency as I am now communicating, or offer the fullest explanation as to why they will not. And I am calling on any and all concerned citizens to attend the forum when it is held, so that we can all do our civic duty, not just by our home town, but by our nation.

I welcome any alternative proposals. Here. Now. Elsewhere. At the community forum. Wherever. But if it is not an alternative which has a realistic chance of preventing violence between police and citizen, then it is not a realistic alternative. What I will not accept quietly is silence or obstruction. We need to play out part. And play it now.