June 11, 2020
The Moral Imperative for Reforming Police Departments
It starts with anger; it always does. Cops kill an unarmed black man, someone shoots a video of it, and the world reacts--either by taking to the streets to protest the unnecessary use of force, or by voicing support for the officers who risk their lives every day they go to work.
What separates this latest round of police protests from earlier ones are two things. One is the size and diversity of the people out in the streets, and those in support of justice. The other is, at least in some places, the folks in positions of power are listening and the desire for moral leadership is growing.
When anger alone fuels and rules the debate, long-lasting effective change can be more difficult. And those changes need to engage everyone’s hearts and minds to be enduring.
LRN’s research on the importance of moral leadership shows a great hunger for just that, leadership infused with values and courage. LRN’s 2019 Moral Leadership report found 87% of respondents said the need for moral leadership is urgent.
In just the last week there have been changes to laws in some cities as to what police can do, ie. no more choke holds. In others, lawmakers approved a bill to make public the disciplinary actions taken against police officers.
In still others, council members are committed to tearing down the entire department and rebuilding it from scratch, the way Camden, N.J., did with much success several years ago.
In areas where elected officials still are dragging their feet, individuals are filing suit against cities and police departments for their wanton use of tear gas and other violent measures during what are overwhelmingly peaceful protests.
This pivot from anger to action is important if the movement for social justice is going to take hold and become more than a momentary reaction to what is happening.
Black communities must be heartened to see all the support from white people who in the past have sat on the sidelines, or kept their outrage to themselves.
But the people in these communities can and must demand more from those of us who stand in support. They must demand more than empty statements from companies who put in words their support, but whose actions often are at odds with those oh-so-eloquent words they were so proud to promote on their social channels.
You can support police and be against brutality, and murder of unarmed citizens. You can support law and order, while demanding bad cops be removed from police work. You can demand looters and rioters be jailed, while standing with peaceful protesters who want a better world.
There is a moral imperative to do this.
We talk often at LRN about purpose. We speak in lofty tones about trust. There is no purpose absent trust. There is no trust without respect. There is no trust without transparency. There is no trust without accountability.
It is these values that create cultures worthy of praise, that allow people to come together to work in the best interests of everybody.
Police department cultures are broken. Officers are more worried about not reporting wrongdoers for fear they will be ostracized, for fear they won’t be respected by the people with whom they ride on patrol.
I’ve been hearing a lot of arguments that say the vast majority of police are good people who want to do right.
My response to those people is: If there are so many good officers, and their numbers are so much larger than those of the bad officers, why don’t they speak out?
It makes no sense. Bad officers are the ones putting good officers at risk. Why do officers who rightly wonder if today is the day they don't make it back home sit silent and allow the bad apples to rotten the whole orchard?
People protesting in the streets can’t tell which officer is good, and which is bad--the same way officers can’t look out and see which protesters are peaceful, and which may be looking to create havoc.
The difference is peaceful protesters are calling out those trying to start trouble, are telling them to stop, and to not taint the work being done to bring justice to all.
Until police are willing to patrol themselves, to demand that the bad, violent cops no longer get to wear a badge, not much will change, regardless of how many new laws are enacted.
And, without that change, we’ll be back to anger before we know it.
FROM THE LRN BLOG
LRN's Ben DiPietro shares deeply personal stories as he tries to understand why unarmed black people keep being killed by police who are mostly white.
It's time for U.S. businesses to take real action against racism, Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F. Washington write in Harvard Business Review. To that end, the Business Roundtable formed a special committee to address racial injustice.
Should companies that issue statements in support of Black Lives Matter stop doing business with police departments?
Talk is cheap, and it is the actions of organizations that will be the true test of their commitments to bring about racial equality, Richard Levick writes on his blog.
Despite the heath risks of COVID-19, people are pouring into the streets, standing shoulder to shoulder, to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Pandemic? What pandemic?
Technology helps perpetuate racism; Charlton McIlwain writes in MIT Technology Review that it was designed that way.
What can boards do to address systemic racism? And what role can a board play in managing a crisis?
The Government Accounting Office says federal workers who file whistleblower claims are 10 times more likely to be fired.
IBM told Congress it is against the use of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance and racial profiling.
China is holding sham trials for members of its Uighur Muslin community, then forcing some into labor camps, Deutsche Welle reports.
Three in four U.S. human resources directors say working from home will remain prevalent, even after COVID-19 subsides.
BSL writes on its blog about economics, ethics, and the fair use of public spaces.