(June 8) Police departments should not be defunded, but they should be reformed. Some reforms should be able to attract broad consensus. Herewith, then, are the ideas that should be the most unifying and the least divisive.

Research on all this is widely available, but this brief column isn’t meant to cite research to prove each suggestion is wise. Instead, it’s just a distillation of research, common sense, and a rough analysis of what many people of goodwill seem willing to accept.

Implicit bias training. Research shows the effectiveness of this as a solution may be overblown, but if it isn’t too heavy-handed (if it doesn’t try to browbeat white police into guilt trips but does promote understanding), it can’t hurt….

Restrictions on “qualified immunity” for police. This Supreme Court-created doctrine that protects police departments from liability lawsuits has come under heavy fire in recent days. Whether or not such immunity should be fully eliminated is debatable, but there’s no reason lawmakers at all levels of government shouldn’t at least tighten up the doctrine, perhaps leaving police with some level of protection but far less extensive than they enjoy today.

Restrictions on the use of surplus military equipment and on SWAT teams. Again, it actually does make sense to make some military equipment available to police in some circumstances. Still, the practice should be strictly limited, and the use of special weapons and tactics should be reserved for truly dire circumstances….

Make it far easier to discipline bad police, and make the discipline have weight. Police unions should be used to secure better pay, better safety, and better training conditions but should not work to shield bad police officers from discipline. Appropriate discipline perhaps could recognize that, in some cases, an officer may not be a good fit for the stress of street work but might still be useful in desk jobs. The idea isn’t to kill a police officer’s career but to protect the public from ones who are well-intentioned but lacking some measure of self-restraint….

[The rest of the column is here.]


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