Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Respect and Trust Law Enforcement Depends on Both to Function

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Respect and Trust Law Enforcement Depends on Both to Function

Article excerpt

The police "represent the rule of law itself. If you take aim at that and at them, you take aim at all of us."

Those firm words are from Hillary Clinton's speech last month to the NAACP's convention in Cincinnati. But what makes Ms. Clinton's speech important goes beyond her tribute to law enforcement and her proposals for making law enforcement more just, to which much of the speech was dedicated. It was that she tied the two together. "Everyone is safer," she said, "when there is respect for the law and when everyone is respected by the law."

Thus, Ms. Clinton was right to say that "we all need to be partners in making law enforcement as secure and effective as it needs to be," and then explain that "that means investing in our police in training on the proper use of force, especially lethal force [and] how to avoid using force to resolve incidents."

Ms. Clinton acknowledged that black Americans are disproportionately killed by the police. Going beyond deadly incidents, she noted that black men are also more likely than whites to be stopped and searched. These discrepancies as well as the individual losses and humiliations that go into them undermine trust.

Ms. Clinton mentioned a variety of proposals to reform criminal justice. Among the most important, she called for "independent investigations" when the police kill people. She said accurate data should be required on deaths in custody.

And she called for "end-to-end reform in our criminal-justice system," reform that would address the "school-to-prison pipeline" and "mass incarceration."

These are not the only policies Ms. Clinton identified to protect the police. "Getting assault weapons off the streets" and requiring "comprehensive background checks" on gun purchasers would also, she said, make officers safer.

The conversation, while important at the national level, must occur at the grass-roots, too, with government and activists working toward a meeting of minds and learning from mistakes. After the beating of Jordan Miles in 2010, for example, Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess pushed through a number of bills to make police here more accountable. …

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