DOJ Ferguson Findings Raise Basic Issues About Role Of Police In U.S.


The U.S. Justice Department's conclusion that police in Ferguson, Mo., systematically served an insulated white power structure at the expense of a black underclass goes a long way toward explaining the raw rage that exploded on the streets after the shooting of Michael Brown, says the Christian Science Monitor. In nearly every part of the U.S. where police-community relations are poor, police are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as guardians of a separate authority, rather than protectors of regular folks. With the effects of implicit bias on policing becoming clearer, and given irrefutable evidence that it happens, there's a call from liberals and conservatives alike to review the purpose of cops as part of a broader introspection aimed at “figuring out what justice is,” says Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

“Until you have a situation like we've seen in Ferguson, there's often not a lot of thought given to the role of police,” says Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, who has called for police to engage in problem solving with communities rather than enforcing blanket anticrime policies. “One of the reasons that I use the term 'policing' as opposed to 'law enforcement' is the distinction where, yes, local police do enforce laws, but they have a much broader responsibility than that.” This broader duty is why, he adds, “they've historically been called 'peace officers.’ ” Given that policing is “the most complex job in America,” says Stephens, many officers themselves want more clarity when it comes to what society and municipalities are expecting them to do. A wish shared by many officers, including some in Ferguson, is to at least partly replace the controversial “stop and frisk” practice with “stop and talk.”

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