Police Reform

Respectful Policing; Respected Police – A Proposal for a Solution 

Social media is forcing closer scrutiny of police conduct, touching off a groundswell of latent public frustration that is not likely to go away. Some of the public believes that some police may err on the side of violence if certain criteria are met, rather than avoid violence if at all possible.

As police are increasingly targeted for ambush, nerves are on hair-trigger, and this risks more police mistakes and a continued cycle of violence. Fundamental reform is imperative to protect both police and the public.

The public deserves a meaningful opportunity for input, and a peaceful outlet for frustration. At the same time, the police deserve meaningful acknowledgment of their professionalism and the greater risks they face. My suggestions:

1) Collectively increase risk pay for officers commensurate with data-verified increases in risks. This may be a deterrent for people angry enough to target police, as they would be unlikely to want police to receive increased compensation.
2) Institute independent performance reviews of shootings, high-speed chases, and police conduct to establish a baseline rating of police performance so that changes can be measured over time.
3) Offer voting measures for citizens to gauge satisfaction with police performance – are police respectful, professional, and serving/protecting the public? Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer agreed this was possible.
4) Separate of risk pay, periodically compile performance reviews and public satisfaction to determine a rating that can be applied to police salaries, collectively reducing or increasing officers’ salaries within discretionary limits, perhaps $5,000 or $10,000 above or below current salaries.

Bias and racial fears exist, even without ill intent, regardless of training or after-the-fact reprimands. If performance pay is collectively awarded, it will create peer pressure within the ranks, helping keep violence in check and encouraging more respectful policing. Peer pressure may be the best proactive check on excessive force in the heat-of-the-moment.

While police deserve respect and compensation for their vital services, the public demands consistent professionalism and compassion for all the public they serve. Historic circumstances demand that we explore every tool available, including collective incentives, to move forward toward a mutual civil regard.

Thank you for your careful consideration.

Steven Richmond; January 19, 2017 (a letter-to-the-editor sent to Seattle media and public officials).