Law enforcement must be by consent, not by force. I believe that law enforcement activities must be thoughtfully rebuilt from the ground up. In the United States, and in Baltimore particularly, policing has been by force. In many black and brown communities, it has also been by military force.
Sir Robert Peel, the architect of modern day policing outside of the United States, stated in his nine principles of law enforcement (1829):
“The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect … the police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”Sir Robert Peel
Nonviolence must be our foundation…on the streets and among the police.
While Sir Robert Peel’s father of the same name tragically made his wealth in the slave trade, his son set forth crucial principles for non-violence in law enforcement. I believe that reimagining and recreating what law enforcement activities are and how they should function begins with non-violence:
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
- To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
- To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
- To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
- To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
- To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
- To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
- To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
It’s time to thoughtfully rebuild from the ground up.
The State of Maryland must redefine police power according to the foundational principles of nonviolence. I support a thoughtful re-examination at the state level of how police unions are permitted to function, what law enforcement means and how it should happen within communities – particularly for communities that have been over-policed and under-policed.
The Commissioner is Coach.
In Baltimore City, we need less frequent change of the Police Commissioner. We’ve had five police commissioners in five years—none of whom were promoted from within the department. Treating the office of Commissioner as disposable conveys to rank and file officers that the Commissioner is merely a ceremonial figure—that the rank and file can count only on themselves for steady leadership.
But I believe the Commissioner is Coach. And we need to look within the department first for whom that Coach could be. If we don’t trust the training our officers are getting, then we need to fund improving it, so that we can find the right leaders from within the department. It matters for morale. And morale matters for the services our residents receive.
The action items I propose below “react” to the current functioning of law enforcement activity. But rebuilding law enforcement activities around principles of nonviolence would hopefully render many of the action items below unnecessary. Thoughtful rebuilds require time, however. So, while we advance the rebuild, the below measures should be in place.
- Action Item #1: Be intentional about boosting morale among stewards of public safety. The reality is that law enforcement is a hard job. It is a necessary job. Until we figure out what the future should look like, we need to listen to each other’s pain and help one another heal from trauma so that violence does not beget violence. Like any human being, stewards of public safety need regular therapy for exposure to violence.
- Action Item #2: The police are the public and the public are the police. Officers and the public should have the same rights, which means we should repeal the Officers’ Bill of Rights.
- Action Item #3: An independent citizen review board should have original jurisdiction over citizen complaints. Complaints should be investigated by investigators who are not sworn officers. The review board should not be intentionally weighted toward sworn officers, as is the current five-person Hearing Board.
- Action Item #4: Hearing on matters of discipline should not occur until after the head of law enforcement has imposed discipline.
- Action Item #5: Peer officers should not be members of the Hearing Board.
- Action Item #6: Disallow expungement of records relating to alleged misconduct. The allegations must be part of the data set that is used in the Early Intervention System.
- Action Item #7: Abolish the “Do not call” list and make it a policy to terminate officers who have committed acts that bear on credibility, integrity, and honesty.
- Action Item #8: Make all disciplinary actions public.
- Action Item #9: Make public and post on the Baltimore City Police Department’s website all policy manuals and procedures.