It’s easy to criticize. But often it is more important to highlight real change when it comes. Thus, this: the first in a “hats off” series on positive moves being taken to strengthen policing though democratic governance.
The most populous county in Missouri, St. Louis County, which includes Ferguson and 56 other municipalities, just proposed new rules for all the local police departments. The rules give departments six months to meet standards for new police officer hiring, continuing education training for current officers, and use-of-force guidelines. The departments must meet these standards in order to receive what will now be mandatory accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), a nationally recognized police credentialing authority. Moreover, in line with one of the recommendations by the Ferguson Commission, which was established in the wake of unrest following an officer-involved shooting that led to the death of Michael Brown, the law requires use-of-force policies to be public. The new rules also set standards for licensing police officers, and bars officers from stopping people based on race or ethnicity. Failure to achieve these standards could result in the county forcing municipalities to surrender control of the police department to a neighboring, compliant political jurisdiction.
This sort of rule-making lies at the heart of democratic governance. Democratic accountability requires transparent, publicly available policies. Actions like those taken by St. Louis County will help to foster strong police-community relations, and build trust.