Every year, tens of millions of Americans have contact with the police. It could be for any reason: a traffic stop, a noise complaint, a theft report — anything.
Roughly 24 percent of our population has some contact (about 11 percent initiated by the police, the other 13 percent initiated by civilians). (See DOJ, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics). Well over 90 percent of those interactions are non-violent.
However, as recent headlines tell us, there is violence in some police-civilian interactions. The question is: How do we eliminate it?
Police body cameras help if their use is enforced. Civilian cell phone cameras help, but random acts of civilian witnessing are not going to the root of the problem.
What is needed are independent local civilian review boards.
Consider the example of the officer who murdered George Floyd. He had 18 complaints on his official record, one of which was about an incident where Chauvin was among officers responding to a complaint by the mother of two young children. According to an ABC News report, videos from the scene were said to show Chauvin hitting a 14-year-old Black boy in the head with a flashlight so hard he required stitches, then holding him down with his knee for nearly 17 minutes, ignoring the boy's complaints that he could not breathe.
If there had been an independent civilian review board in Minneapolis in 2017, would the murder of George Floyd have taken place three years later, or would the murderer have been removed from the police force?
We don't know. Maybe. If he had been removed, it would have saved the Minneapolis Police — and countless other police departments around the globe — a world of trouble.
Yes, it's the "rotten apples" that cause the bulk of violence between civilians and police. Independent local police review boards can help remove them.