To briefly recap, in parts one and two we discussed the police “reforms” recently promoted by Elgin City Councilpersons Corey Dixon and Tish Powell. Our contention has been these proposals are more about pandering to their posse than they are about real change.
Adding two minority civilians to the Police and Fire Commission isn’t a bad thing, but if those appointees don’t have a minimum of law enforcement experience or knowledge, they’ll only make matters worse.
A police officer residency requirement? That won’t solve a single problem and it will only serve to further limit the police officer recruitment pool.
Insisting that any internal police investigation be conducted by a board of folks who have absolutely no ties to law enforcement is patently absurd. That’s like asking the average American to referee a soccer game. Trust me! It won’t end well.
Ah! But if I were in a position to implement real police reform, here’s exactly what I’d do:
1. Traffic and misdemeanor court imbalances
Our newly “woke” social justice warriors may fervently believe that defunding the police as they beat people over the head with their perceived shortcomings is the road to real reform, but some of us have been consistently arguing for the kind of smaller shifts that would bring balance to an already difficult day-to-day minority existence.
Just once, I’d like to cover a Kane County misdemeanor traffic/misdemeanor court call where our black and Hispanic compatriots aren’t overly represented. Considering Geneva is 95 percent Caucasian, how it that those defendants are always 50 to 60 percent minority?
I’ve seen how white people drive, and to quote a great philosopher, “It ain’t that pretty at all!”
Even my Republican attorney friends agree that traffic/misdemeanor court has become nothing more than an institutionalized scheme to separate minorities from their money. The real crime there is, it’s typically the minority defendants who can least afford those ever-increasing fines, court costs and fees.
The problem for our perpetually pandering Elgin politicians is, real reform takes the kind of retraining time, persistent effort, and Springfield lobbying perseverance that doesn’t lend itself to grand gestures and vote soliciting soundbites.
2. Asset forfeiture
This purported law enforcement tool by which cash and property can be seized from suspects and their families without any form of due process, is nothing more than legalized theft, and the only solution is to repeal these statutes outright.
Most folks think it was police brutality that incited the Ferguson, Missouri, riots, but they’d be wrong. The Michael Brown shooting was simply the spark that set off that already smoldering powder keg. That simmering anger and resentment was the direct result of how that department funded themselves on their predominantly black population through rampant property seizure and absurdly high traffic fines.
Even the best departments abuse asset forfeiture (the current Kane County Sheriff literally wrote the book on it), so if Dixon and Powell were truly concerned about their constituents and real reform, this would be the place to start. But that kind of change requires a subtle long-term partnership with the Illinois General Assembly, which doesn’t translate into city council votes.
3. Minority officers
Whether we want to admit it or not, Homo Sapiens haven’t begun to evolve beyond their basic tribal instincts, and the men and women in blue are particularly prone to that kind of exclusionary thinking.
When you have no reference point to see the other reference point, it becomes too easy to allow the prevailing “us against them” mentality to turn into the kind of poison that makes blacks and Hispanics your sworn enemy.
And that’s particularly true when a command staff consists solely of white males. Think about it! Who wants to be the only black police officer in Geneva?
Though they took a boatload of crap for their Puerto Rico recruitment venture, the EPD is pretty good in this regard, but given the inherent difficulties in attracting minority officers, this reform takes a dogged and relentless effort, something neither Powell nor Dixon are known for.
If it don’t rile their base, then it ain’t worth the chase.
Since no one wants to see part four, let’s briefly cover the last three potential reforms:
1. Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea made the mistake of telling the truth about dealing with gangs and gang members, but he was dead on. We have to put the irrecoverable 17-year-olds away while applying the best community policing standards to those still recoverable ten- to twelve-year-olds.
2. If my wife is required take massage classes every year to keep her license, then police officers should be required to attend annual de-escalation training.
3. Considering the ridiculous amount stress involved in the job, and with suicide claiming twice the number of officers killed in the line of duty, every department should hire a part-time in-house psychologist who talks with the officers on a regular basis.
4. The psych eval should be the first thing an officer has to pass, and not the last. Just like it is with airline pilots, we can’t afford a few bad law enforcement apples.
The truth is, while our suddenly shrieking social just warriors have been far too busy ordering the avocado toast, I’ve been advocating for these changes for years. But the problem is, the debate has become so personal that the truth tends to fall on deaf ears, particularly if those ears sit squarely on the heads of politicians like Mr. Dixon and Ms. Powell.