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Thinking About Police Crisis and Reform

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Rethinking and Reforming American Policing

Abstract

Policing is a profession that has repeatedly cycled through periods of crisis and controversy, followed by calls for reformation. These reform processes have failed to alleviate persistent concerns with police abuses of authority, the policing of disadvantaged communities, and the nature of police–community relations. This chapter frames the evolution and context of the problems explored in the balance of the book. It introduces the concept of futures studies as a strategic leadership tool for police personnel. It reviews aspects of how American policing is structured and how this contributes to some of the recurrent crisis observed across history. The chapter concludes by providing an overview of the book’s contents.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    State legislative responses have become so numerous that the National Conference on State Legislatures maintains an active database to track the 140 police reform bills states passed (and the many other bills presented and discussed) in the year following the killing of George Floyd https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/legislative-responses-for-policing.aspx (see also Eder et al., 2021).

  2. 2.

    Despite conversations about whether a ‘Ferguson Effect’ exists (i.e., officers engaging in ‘de-policing’ as a result of increased public scrutiny) scholars have not found limited evidence it actually exists in most communities (Pyrooz et al., 2016; Shjarback et al., 2017), nor has research substantiated the existence of a large scale ‘War on Cops’ (Maguire et al., 2016).

  3. 3.

    Our intention in this volume is not to imply all aspects of policing are broken and that all police officers are abusive, inept, or otherwise ‘bad.’ In fact, our beliefs as editors are quite the opposite. We believe that policing does a lot of good in our communities and that police agencies employ a lot of dedicated, hardworking, and fair officers. Unfortunately, policing is a profession often judged more by its failures and mistakes than its successes. The challenge for police leaders is to explore new ways to reduce the former so the latter are amplified.

  4. 4.

    See https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/.

  5. 5.

    In the context of organizational change, “quickly” might be measured in years, unfortunately. However relative to the enduring power of culture, a change that takes 5–10 years is still preferable to being unable to bend the arc of cultural inertia.

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Schafer, J.A., Myers, R.W. (2022). Thinking About Police Crisis and Reform. In: Schafer, J.A., Myers, R.W. (eds) Rethinking and Reforming American Policing. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-88896-1_1

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