Dec 3, 2020
The future of public safety is community police partnership. Stamper suggests a plebiscite in which neighborhoods elect representatives to work side by side with the police department. These citizens would be involved in every single aspect of modern policing from setting policy, crafting procedures, selecting new police officers, developing the curriculum for police academy training, and partnering with those best equipped to deal with substance abuse, homelessness, and mental illness.
The structure of American policing is top-down, paramilitary, bureaucratic, and antagonistic to democratic values. Patterns of behavior are institutionalized through interactions in locker rooms, patrol cars, and other unmonitored places. The paramilitary structure of police forces leads to an “us-vs-them” mentality, which results in a toxic culture of distrusting civilians. Undoing this culture begins with undoing the existing structure of the organization and reshaping it to meet the needs of civilians, municipalities, and communities.
The War on Drugs is actually a War on Americans. Most drug dealers and users swept up in the War on Drugs are low-level offenders who are addicts, mentally ill, or chronically poor. They need medical and financial help. Instead, police treat them as enemy combatants, resulting in death and destruction for many Americans, including police officers. Ending the War on Drugs would make it possible to repurpose some police funding for rehabilitation and mental health services. Demilitarization is also a critical factor to creating a safer America.
Norm Stamper was a police officer for 34 years, the first 28 in San Diego, the last six (1994-2000) as Seattle’s Chief of Police. He earned his Ph.D. in Leadership and Human Behavior, and is the author of two books: To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police (2016) and Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing (2005). He recently finished a novel and is at work on another.
Throughout his career and into “retirement,” Norm has served as a trainer, consultant, expert witness, and keynote speaker. His commitment to police reform and social justice has shaped an agenda that calls for an end to the drug war; abolition of the death penalty; vanquishment of domestic violence from our society; a concerted effort to drive bigotry and brutality out of the criminal justice system; development of broad respect and support for the nation’s police officers; a campaign to make every school, every workplace, every neighborhood and home a place of safety, particularly for our children; rejection of mass incarceration; and a fully-fledged dedication to our civil liberties and constitutional guarantees.
Norm lives in the San Juan Islands off Washington State, and is a proud and humble father, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle, brother, and friend.
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