Ex-Chief Stamper: More Fear In Policing, Less Community Work


As protests erupt over police killings of unarmed African Americans, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper says “There is a preoccupation with officer safety.” In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Stamper says, “We want our police to make it home at the end of every shift, but their purpose in life shouldn't be self-preservation, as understandable as that may be. These officers were not drafted into police service. They elected to become cops, and in carrying out the police function, they need to understand they've been hired in part to take risks – wise, prudent risks – and to de-escalate situations and diffuse tension.”

In Stamper’s view, “There is much more emphasis on officer survival training today, more emphasis on weaponry and tactics at the expense of what I would call a more humanistic approach to policing, where you get by on your wits, your personal communication style, your sense of humor.” He says, “I think there is more fear in policing today … if you have this occupational force mentality – and I'm afraid that has happened in many police departments – then you're going to be perceived as a soldier, not a cop. You're going to be seen as an enemy and you're going to treat others as the enemy.” Stamper adds, “Community policing has just completely evaporated. The drug war and the aftermath of 9/11 has taken the sails out of it.”

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