Forum: Summit on policing will start ongoing conversation on reforms

The June 29 event in Everett offers panel discussions and interviews with law enforcement and others.

By Juan Peralez / Herald Forum

We are existing with an institutional failure in American policing, and this leadership failure can be seen sometimes graphically within the police and citizen encounters across the country. Say their names: Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manny Ellis and too many more. Perhaps less visibly, it can be seen within the health experiences of police officers themselves.

It is this suffering that must be framed as the suffering on both sides of the badge. There are two worlds that must be united, police officers and the people who are served. What stands in the way is a police culture and traditional police leadership models and the ever-growing hostility toward police officers themselves.

Failure to place police culture within the political and social context of policing has resulted in the need for rule-tightening and changing the culture. It is futile to guess whether reforms or a change the culture will be effective at the level of individual racism. However, patterns are discernible in overall culture and turn into structure, and structural change has an impact. We must bring the theories of policing into touch with contemporary policy and the present reality of policing. We must not be pessimistic about reform. It must be embraced.

I and others have organized a Summit on Policing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29 at the Carl Gipson Center in Everett. The purpose of this summit is to promote the idea of convening a partnership of law enforcement officers in our county and state including the Attorney General’s Office, community advocates, and members of the state legislature’s Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee to begin year-round dialogue to change police culture.

The summit will have three panels of speakers, former and current police chiefs panel, former sheriff and current sheriff panel and a panel of relatives of people killed by police. Three additional speakers, state Attorney General candidates and attorney and author, Jessica Pishko, whose new book is coming out this Fall, “The Highest Law In The Land: How The Unchecked Power of Sheriffs Threatens Democracy.”

With the goal of enhancing public safety for everyone we must begin an ongoing dialogue on changing the culture of policing in our state. It is very difficult to change police culture at the legislative level by bringing community advocates and law enforcement together to address legislation about police accountability for only two or three months out the year. This can paint a negative picture of police vs. community. Changing police culture requires collaboration and dialogue year-round among legislators, law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.

The discussions may not be comfortable bu let’s get uncomfortable! Why is it, that in the world’s greatest democracy that so many people of color are oppressed by our criminal justice system? Why is it that so many marginalized people fear the police? Why are the articulate and intelligent voices of police reform so frequently muted by the rhetoric of police systems and culture.

The questions are uncomfortable and there are no simple answers. What we all must acknowledge is that we must come together with open hearts and minds and find our way forward in changing police culture for everyone’s safety.

Community advocates, law enforcement and legislators acknowledge the need to change police culture and collaborate with focus on the paramount priority of saving lives. Change in police culture must focus on promoting transparency, much needed accountability that will lead to building severely needed trust in policing in communities of color.

The question we must all keep in mind as we go forward is: What will it take for an unarmed black man, woman or child to keep from getting shot or killed by police? One way is to start addressing racially biased policing by addressing the element of white supremacy within law enforcement. It is this element in policing that paints a biased and corrupt image of all law enforcement with the same brush.

It is this element in policing that also costs taxpayers money through what are called consent decrees imposed on law enforcement agencies by the federal Department of Justice. The City of Seattle has spent $200 million dollars in addressing its consent decree requirements. This is a complex issue that if not addressed will continue to cost taxpayers money with decrees and lawsuits filed against police departments for misconduct and brutality.

Please reach out to your respective legislators and urge them to support legislation that will save lives and make our communities safe for all regardless of class or color.

Juan Peralez is president of Unidos of Snohomish County, unidos-snoco.org.

Summit on Policing

The summit is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29 at the Carl Gipson Center, 3025 Lombard Ave., Everett. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. RSVP by going to unidos-snoco.org/political-events and scanning the QR code. The summit will be live-streamed and recorded.

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