Are policymakers doing enough?

June 16, 2020. In this episode of Keeping the Peace on the Law & Crime Network, Bob Bianchi discusses recent events involving police shootings, seemingly mysterious deaths of black men found hung from trees, and how this country is handling the demand for police reform.

We start by discussing the Atlanta Mayor’s announcement of new guidelines for policing. The mayor outlined efforts to train de-escalation techniques, refrain from the deadly force, and enforce more accountability on the part of police officers to stop fellow officers from overreaching. These measures say Bianchi, are a “patchwork of ineffective and too-little-too-late policies” that won’t go far enough to create real change.

Bianchi brings Vikas Bajaj, a criminal defense attorney, into the conversation by asking his thoughts on creating a “red flag” system allowing problem officers to be identified early and often. Bajaj relays his agreement on both the creation of such a program and also on the need for public office to be held by those who know the issues that come with criminal and civil rights litigation. Bajaj also points out that experienced litigators in criminal and civil rights cases know that getting your hands-on disciplinary records of police officers is nearly impossible.

Bianchi goes on to point out that the culture surrounding police departments needs to change, noting specifically that internal affairs departments ought to be made up of the very best and seasoned officers, and not be prioritized last over other departments.

With these thoughts in mind, NYPD has announced that they are dismantling the plainclothes anti-crime unit and committing to a “seismic shift” in policing culture. Overall, the consensus is that a top-down and inclusive approach to police reform is necessary. Bianchi notes that we must encourage and promote good police practices without demoralizing or decimating police departments with bad policy making.

In the second half of this episode, we discuss new developments in the George Floyd case. A dispatcher recording depicts a 911 dispatcher reporting to her supervisor concern that foul play took place in the death of George Floyd. Brian Buckmore weighs in on the importance of actual consequences for officers who sit by and do nothing when another officer is using excessive force.

Finally, Bianchi and Buckmore discuss the recent cases of Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch. Both black men were found dead, hanging from trees, within about 45 miles of each other. Both cases were at least initially ruled suicides. Bianchi says that any unattended death should be first considered homicide. These cases of course leave us asking a lot of questions.