The Pendulum Will Come Back Around. The history of criminal justice in the United States is often described as a pendulum, swinging back and forth between strict punishment and lenient rehabilitation. People on all perspectives are coming to the realization that police defunding is a debauched idea. One has to look no further than some cities who tried it, only to realize an increased response time, slower investigations, less officers for service calls, and most importantly increase higher crime rates. Soon when citizens will demand more once again from their police and sheriff departments, asking “where’s the police?” only to look no further then what they asked for a year earlier. Defunding or dismantling the police means different things to different people, but largely, those who call for it are asking for money to be divested from the police and instead put into community initiatives like for education, jobs and mental health services. Which is still a noble idea for improvement, and should be explored. But is good at the use of monies and it will protects citizens of city or county?
Recently implemented changes of policing can be helpful and good for law enforcement and the communities they serve. So when the pendulum returns back, police need to be ready with improvements from ideas born of this movement. Certain ideas from police reform can aid a dept. in doing better and not relying on the old ways of conducting business. More transparency in arrests and operations, increased de-escalation skills, community policing, improved hiring practices can only improve relations with communities as an examples. Police culture is changing, but not as fast as many want. But good things take time to build, and putting all the pieces in the right places.
People who complain about what the police do or how they behave and act, seem to be the same ones complaining when their neighborhood is in flames and rioting asking what the police are doing. A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions converging together.
There is defunding the police, it places a greater strain on existing officers and reduces the likelihood that they will quit or perform their jobs ineffectively. This is due to being burned out. Furthermore, defunding the police will harm law enforcement’s ability to recruit and retain good officers. Police and sheriff departments across the nation already have a problem recruiting minorities, especially from the African American community. There needs to be a stronger diverse representation in police departments for reform to achieve this goal.
According to a leading attorney specializing in Public Safety, Matt Dolan raises several valid questions, such as: Were the cities served by prosecutors seeking to reform their systems of justice by way of shorter sentences for repeat offenders likely to see more deadly violence? Did the release of violent offenders so as to protect them from contracting COVID-19 lead to increased victimization in the communities to which they returned? Is there any correlation between demands to defund the police, low officer morale and increases in homicides? All solid questions which should be addressed for the future.
These questions and answers will make the public perception pendulum swing back from citizens concerns in the near future. We can learn and improve on policing and criminal justice reform by looking at these issues, and honestly answering these questions in time. Criminal Justice reforms can still be achieved. We need real criminal justice reform that will focused on improving public safety and making the system fairer. The law enforcement community, as a whole, must work with legislators to reevaluate tactics and training, including the utilization of best practice methodology for police tactics and techniques.
Good reform comes with focusing policing on more serious crimes. We can increase access to community solutions to poverty, mental illness, and addiction, instead of throwing people behind bars. But to achieve this, funding needs to come from other sources, not on the backs of police budgets. Develop innovative resources and partnerships, not blame police for the problems of society.
Transparency is a new buzz word thrown about in circles of society pertaining to police. Yet no one wishes to discuss transparency for medical, educational or political institutions. However, this is a two way street, departments are now releasing the entire video of a suspect’s behavior If people understood what their local police departments were doing, there would be less uncertainty, fear, and violence breaking out across the United States. Departments have to educate citizens as who policy, procedures or why certain actions may have been taken. Thus, informed communications from law enforcement can explain what may be perceived as unjust.
Optimism remains key to this profession. Law enforcement knows in time the pendulum will swing back, but with fresh improvements for both law enforcement and communities in the future. The momentum may move slowly though. Patience is a key for police personnel and citizens as a whole. Some factions unrealistically demand changes immediately, and that is not going to happen when we examine the collective good for everyone.
The overwhelming majority of police in America are good, solid and decent people who should not be stereotyped as bad cops. We know the profession is still trusted and respected by a majority of citizens in this country. There is still appreciation for law enforcement officers that will hopefully continue into the next decade. The strong silent majority of Americans still and will always support the police. This will never change, citizens saw a glimpse of what can happen when police are not available to respond. There is a strong understanding society still needs law enforcement. Make no mistake, it will take some time, but the pendulum will come back to better law and order.
About the Author and Instructor.
Charles W. Dahlinger has retired in law enforcement for thirty years, working for the Kalamazoo Dept of Public Safety since 1990, and prior to that Western Michigan University Campus Police. Mr. Dahlinger also served active duty United States Army, assigned as a Reconnaissance Specialist, earning an Honorable Discharge. In addition, Chuck has been the past Coordinator for In-Service Training with the Kalamazoo Law Enforcement Training Center, and has served as a resource person and instructor for the Kalamazoo Regional Police Academy. Mr. Dahlinger is currently serving as an Adjunct Faculty member with Kalamazoo Valley Community College, prior to that teaching at Western Michigan University for five years. Mr. Dahlinger is also a past guest lecturer for Cooley Law School.
Mr. Dahlinger received his Bachelor Degree from Ferris State University in Criminal Justice and has completed his course work towards a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Management from Ferris State University, pending the acceptance of his thesis entitled “Civil Litigation and Analysis of Application of Proposed Standards to Actual Training”. He’s also been enrolled in the past at Western Michigan University as a doctoral candidate working towards a PhD with an emphasis in Criminology.
Mr. Dahlinger has written one text book and several training manuals, including over two dozen articles for several law enforcement magazines. He has been cited as an expert by other publications as well. He is a past member of elite organizations such as American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET) and Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Chuck’s research has been utilized by National Criminal Justice Reference Services, Dept. of Justice, as well as the FBI Research Library, FBI National Academy, Quantico, VA. Mr. Dahlinger’s work has been cited and quoted in the Harvard Law Review. He is regularly consulted on training issues by law firms and police departments across the country and has providing expert opinions.
Chuck’s national seminar “Combat Thinking for Law Enforcers” has been attended by over 3000 law enforcement professionals across the United States in the last several years. Besides the previous seminar, he is also conducting “Enhancing Policing in America” for law enforcement officers.