The police in America belong to the people — not the other way around. Yet millions of Americans experience their cops as racist, brutal, and trigger-happy: an overly aggressive, militarized enemy of the people. For their part, today’s officers feel they are under siege — misunderstood, unfairly criticized, and scapegoated for society’s ills. Is there a fix? Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper believes there is.
Policing is in crisis. The last decade has witnessed a vast increase in police aggression, misconduct, and militarization, along with a corresponding reduction in transparency and accountability. It is not just noticeable in African American and other minority communities — where there have been a series of high-profile tragedies — but in towns and cities across the country. Racism — from raw, individualized versions to insidious systemic examples — appears to be on the rise in our police departments. Overall, our police officers have grown more and more alienated from the people they’ve been hired to serve.
In To Protect and Serve, Stamper delivers a revolutionary new model for American law enforcement: the community-based police department. It calls for fundamental changes in the federal government’s role in local policing as well as citizen participation in all aspects of police operations: policymaking, program development, crime fighting and service delivery, entry-level and ongoing education and training, oversight of police conduct, and — especially relevant to today’s challenges — joint community-police crisis management. Nothing will ever change until the system itself is radically restructured, and here Stamper shows us how.