One of the primary purposes of government is to provide safety for its citizens. For many, the police represent a long line of blue knights sworn to protect and serve the public for which they work. Most policemen and women do a great job. Many have given their lives in the line of duty for which we owe them and their families the deepest of gratitude for their sacrifice.
It is a shame that we even need the police but we must know and realize why the police are needed. Tom Paine said, in “Common Sense,” where he eloquently defined the need for government in the following quote: “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.” If we were angels the police would not be needed but we aren’t angels. The police are an entity that is part of government.
A community must trust the police if a real sense of cooperation and mutuality of interests will flourish. Today, in America, fear exist in parts of many communities instead of trust. How can we rectify this serious problem?
England’s Peeling Principles are a good place to start when it comes to establishing a new code of conduct in America for the police. The principles are based upon having an ethical police force based upon a consensus of support. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have adopted these standards as well. There are 9 principles of which number 6 is particularly prescient for today in America where there is a rising mistrust of the police.
Number 6 reads as follows: “To use force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”
If this standard were in place and used by our police in America certain tragic deaths could have been avoided. Take the death of the 12 year old child in Cleveland. Under two seconds took place between the time the police arrived at the park and shot and killed the young boy. What would have been the harm if they had announced their presence and given the boy a warning and asked him to put down on the ground the pellet gun?
For Mr. Garner in Staten Island could his life have been saved if only the police had observed their own rule regarding using a choke hold. And what about the amount of time in which they could have made an attempt to help him in a time of physical distress? They failed to use due care and he died from what they had reason to believe was a tactic, i.e., a choke hold, that they had reason to believe could cause death.
Policing by consent is what England has and they have an amazingly good level of public support and a much lower rate of deaths by gun than we do.
One should look to other countries for examples of success if you truly want to improve ones results. Our police should live by the standards of honor, integrity and accountability. We should ask no less of a group of men and women who are sworn to protect and serve the public.