Is America ready for the true cost of police reform? by Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed. D.

Some people calling for changes in policing probably do have a handle on the answers to those questions, but I contend that many do not.

Protesters across the country have been shouting for “police reform.”  But do they really know what truly reforming American law enforcement would entail–what it would cost?  Do they know what they themselves would first need to bring to the table?  Some people calling for changes in policing probably have a handle on the answers to those questions, but I contend that many do not.  Here are six things that politicians and protesters need to know about what they’d need to do to enable the changes they want in law enforcement:

1.  Bring us at least 25 percent increase in personnel.  If you demand more training, we’ll agree.  Just remember that for every hour a cop is in a training environment that’s one less officer responding to calls.  Either add some badges, or explain to the public why they’ll have to wait for a patrol car to show up.

2.  Bring us holistic support for our minds and bodies.  The realities of police stress are well documented.  Cumulative stress — especially with poor community support — will show up in all the wrong places.  Keep us strong.  That means professional, sustainable mental health initiatives.  Don’t make us wait for a crisis to see the chaplain or counselor.

3.  Bring us education for the public.  Everybody seems to know their rights and not their obligations.  The law requires compliance with a lawful command.  That’s the very un-mysterious resolution to the vast majority of police use-of-force encounters.

4.  Bring us minority applicants that you want to be your police officers.  We would love to have a department that represents our community.  Work with the children in your community — when they are young — to ensure that when they reach the age at which they may apply to become officers, they meet the criteria the profession demands (no criminal history, for example).  One big way to start is by respecting the profession.  It might rub off on somebody who could step up and be a great police officer.

5.  Bring us dignity as victims of violence.  Every justified use of force begins as an offense against the officer, whether resisting or assault.  Stop dropping charges where police are crime victims.  Stop writing checks to every arrestee who says “boo!” Let us sue bad guys.  Give us police leaders and prosecutors who know that a crime against the police is a crime against everyone’s peace and dignity.  We really do carry the badge on your behalf.

6.  Bring it from downtown, not DC.  Policing in a democratic society must be under scrutiny. But let’s do this examination together.  And Let’s do it locally whenever possible.  Washington DC has plenty to do without meddling in the most important function of local government.  We want to server better, not cater to a voting block or approval ratings.

About the author:  Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He is retired as Chief of Police for Adams State University in Colorado.