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Allegations of police departments using excessive force during investigations or arrest procedures have not stopped appearing on the national headlines since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Furthermore, the events like the killing of Eric Garner in New York, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and the death in custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore contributed to fueling the public’s distrust of the police forces (Wihbey and Kille par. 1).
What Went Wrong in the Department
The example of the Cleveland Police Department can be beneficial for illustrating the issue and coming up with a solution to how change can be implemented to minimize conflicts and getting back the trust of the community. The investigation of six police departments in Cleveland has shown that uncalled for police practices, and conduct deficiencies became systematic.
Issues such as inadequate police training, escalation of conflicts through excessive force, violation of the Constitutional rights of citizens, lack of transparency in accountability, using force to already handcuffed individuals, and unamicable engagement with the community are reasons for why change is needed (McCarty par. 3). By identifying major problems existing in Cleveland Police, the Justice Department is planning to start a close cooperation with officials for introducing reforms that will potentially eliminate the inappropriate police practices.
Cleveland police department was also notorious for committing acts similar to the events in Ferguson. In November 2012, the police chase ended in the shooting of two unarmed people Melissa Williams and Timothy Russel (“Cleveland Police Shooting: What Happened, Who’s Involved and What is Next” par. 1). Officer Brelo is currently awaiting trial for firing forty-nine rounds at the victims, while other members of the police department are changed with duty dereliction and disciplined for playing a contributing role in the car chase (McCarty par. 6). Therefore, radical changes are needed to eliminate police misconduct in the future and win back the trust of the general public for the forces designed to protect the community, not to attack it.
Effective Police Leadership
One of the primary changes that can be made in the Cleveland Police Department is associated with the notion of effective police leadership, which has not been exhibited by the department. By introducing new and educated police executives in the department who will articulate the law enforcement standards both to the general public and to department officers, it will be possible to create a unifying police conduct framework that will guide the change. The community should be given information about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate police conduct, as well as provided with an explanation of procedures during which deadly force is applied so that any cases of police misconduct and over-use of force will be eliminated straight away (U.S. Department of Justice 37).
To implement changes in reducing police violence, new department executives should integrate a multidimensional approach to their professional practice. New police procedures and practices should be communicated on both operational and administrative levels. It is also important to accomplish the transition of new ethical values on every level because only a multidimensional approach has proven to be effective.
Dimensions of police culture and community culture should also become significant components of the change implementation. Because many of the police violence cases were associated with using force to diverse members of the community, educating police officers on the importance of respecting other cultures and races is integral. Since the majority of the past approaches towards police reforms were one-dimensional and therefore unsuccessful, progressive changes in the Cleveland Police Department should encompass a broad spectrum of levels and dimensions associated with effective police leadership (U.S. Department of Justice 39).
The lack of effective police leadership is what caused many issues present in the Cleveland Police Department. Therefore, new department leaders should focus on fostering support teamwork, committing to the process of problem-solving grounded on factual data rather than personal opinions or beliefs, seeking the input of their employees before making important decisions about their practice, and looking for effective ways of developing mutual support and respect within the department (Couper par. 5).
Changes in the current policing models are ‘problem-oriented’ and targeted at addressing the problem of the partnership between the community and police departments. Without increased cooperation between the Cleveland Police Department and the public, the implemented changes will not be long-lasting (Giacomantonio 17). Effective police leadership should also focus on engaging the community in conversation and cooperation.
Maximizing community engagement and acceptance will only be possible if new department leaders ensure transparency and accountability. Appropriate accountability and transparent track records will be effective in establishing ‘no tolerance’ attitudes towards unnecessary police brutality, racial discrimination, and improper use of force. Investing more into creating new methods of police training will eliminate the occurrence of bias within the police department as well as improve officers’ problem-solving skills, conflict mitigation strategies, and increase responsiveness to the needs or concerns of the community.
Components of Change
It is important to mention increasing diversity in the police department as one of the components of change. Through implementing new practices of hiring diverse employees in the department, police will acquire a better understanding of various cultural perspectives on policing and helping the community (PolicyLink 4). Rejecting militarization is another aspect of the change implementation, which will contribute to winning back the trust of the community. By being cautious about what military equipment is present on the police department sites, police will establish trusting relationships with the community representatives.
Lastly, the modern environment calls for changes that will be deeply connected to the application of innovative technologies. Equipping police officers with technologies such as body-worn cameras for reducing the instances of misconduct as a component of change implementation has proven to be successful. Because the Cleveland Police Department is known for many cases of misconduct, body-worn cameras should be compulsory for every officer in the department. Any effective technological solutions will become key in eliminating racial discrimination when interacting with citizens, reduce instances of misconduct based on sexual orientation, class, or religion, as well as ensure the public that the cases of unnecessary violence will be identified, and, if necessary, eliminated.
To conclude, changes in the Cleveland Police Department for ending professional misconduct and gaining the trust of the community should stem from a multidimensional approach that takes into account a range of components. First, the major focus should be put on establishing an effective police leadership framework. New department leaders should communicate new policing standards to both officers and the public to avoid misconduct and misunderstanding. Community engagement, increasing diversity, investing in training, and technological solutions are also components of successful change.
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Couper, David. Principles of Leadership. 2012. Web.
Giacomantonio, Chris. Policing Changes: Towards a Contemporary understanding of Police Decision-Making, Discretion and Legitimization. 2009. Web.
McCarty, James. Justice Department Wants Sweeping Changes in Cleveland Police Department; Report Finds “Systematic Deficiencies”. 2014. Web.
PolicyLink. Engaging Communities as Partners: Strategies for Problem Solving. 2014. Web.
U.S. Department of Justice. Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens. 2003. Web.
Wihbey, John, and Leighton Walter Kille. Excessive or Reasonable Force by Police? Research on Law Enforcement and Racial Conflict. 2016. Web.