That pic up there is what came up image searching for “police site:gov”.
Yeah, that’s not good.
But it’s a pretty accurate depiction of how the police (and government) in the United States seems to think of themselves.
OK, so that’s really not good.
Nope; it’s not.
“What was a policeman, if not a civilian with a uniform and a badge? But they tended to use the word these days as a way of describing people who were not policemen.
It was a dangerous habit. Once policemen stopped being civilians the only other thing they could be was soldiers.”Terry Pratchett
Cops are not soldiers.
We can’t have the police going around thinking of themselves as soldiers in a war; that line of thinking ends with them behaving as an occupying army in hostile territory.
So that has got to stop.
Reforms at the individual officer level are important, but they won’t reverse this trend.
For that, we need the head of every police force to be directly elected.
(And the head of each force’s oversight body should also be directly elected; see Failed Constitution Check: Executive Oversight for that; but that’s a different topic.)
We need to get rid of the candidate qualifications too.
Sherrifs, of course, are already elected but (at least here in California) the candidate requirements mean that no one is eligible except career officers.
And when you’re trying to solve a cultural problem in the police forces, that’s … not great.
You can elect a new sherrif, but you can also be certain that they will also be steeped in the same paramilitary, us-vs-them culture that’s the heart of this problem.
That’s not ideal.
No, it’s not.
It can be made less not ideal, though, by establishing some training requirements that newly elected heads of forces would have to follow through on in their first months and requiring that they be shadowed during that time by a qualified officer.
That weakens the new head for a bit, but it’s probably better to do that than have a completely unqualified rando in charge of a department.
Though an unqualified rando is arguably better than a gung-ho copwar enthusiast.