Opinion: Why Congress, state lawmakers must address police reform

The U.S. Senate recently had an opportunity to debate legislation to reform policing in America. Sadly, a minority of senators blocked consideration.

But while partisan games in Washington might prevent the Senate from acting, there is much our own state can do — and lawmakers in Columbia should waste no time.

The men and women of law enforcement nationwide have been in the spotlight during these painful weeks. 

We’ve been reminded how important it is that we select the brightest candidates, give them the best training, and then create a system that keeps a focus on protecting lives, property, and the safety of the community without imposing expectations that are impossible to meet.

If we add too many additional missions and create unrelated incentives, we shouldn’t be surprised when law enforcement is less effective on the core mission.

To ensure the best results, we need to reform policing by improving the culture, removing structural barriers that block improvement, and eliminating unnecessary criminalization. 

The bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by South Carolina’s Tim Scott that was blocked recently would institute a number of worthwhile reforms at the federal level. It would also support state efforts to prioritize community safety, focusing officers’ time and effort on the most serious problems. 

Scott’s bill would improve data collection on use-of-force incidents and no-knock raids, to help improve our understanding of both. It would empower the Department of Justice to offer curriculum and certification for training on use of force, de-escalation, and responding to behavioral health crises, as well as on intervention when another officer engages in excessive use of force.

For too long, bad policies and some bad officers have damaged the relationship with the people police are sworn to protect. That has to begin to change, before the situation grows worse. We owe it to the communities we want to protect and to law enforcement that we count on for protection.

The U.S Senate has time to reverse course and begin a timely debate on policing. We hope that those who voted not to debate will reconsider. At the same time, we encourage state lawmakers to begin a similar debate. It’s the best way to help ensure the safety of our communities in the future.

Full article here.