A suggestion for preventing police brutality

Opinion

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Carl Nyberg

In recent weeks, some rather serious claims have emerged regarding police brutality in Forest Park. Very little information has been released concerning what was done about these alleged incidents when they occurred, and based on officers' testimony during the Dan Harder termination hearings, there seems to be three sides to every story.

Even more important than investigating past incidents, however, is preventing future ones. This is a goal everyone in the village can agree on regardless of what they believe happened in past years. So if a community like Forest Park wanted to minimize police brutality, how would it do it?

The following is the double survey and follow-up method.

Every individual taken into police custody would be given a survey upon leaving custody of the police department. The survey would include the names of the officers that had contact with the individual. The detained individual would be asked if s/he was mistreated while in custody.

The survey would be returned to a company that was paid to track data about the police department. Periodically, the company would compile a list of the incidents of alleged misconduct and anonymously survey the members of the police department. Each member of the department would be required to respond, but the responses would be put into a receptacle that ensured anonymity, like a ballot box.

The members of the police department would be asked to provide their feedback for the alleged incidents. They would have multiple choice categories for the alleged incidents. Some of the categories would be:

 I was there and the allegations are true.

 I was there and the allegations are not true.

 I wasn't there, but I believe the allegations are likely true.

 I wasn't there, but I doubt the allegations.

By soliciting feedback from the other officers the company doing the surveys would reliably be able to sort out the fictional allegations of police brutality. It would also be clear who the serial abusers were in the police department.

After the survey of the police officers the company would send a summary back to the police department which would be responsible for initiating formal investigations of the credible allegations of abuse.

(Note to Forest Park: formal investigations involve getting someone from outside the department and generating a written report.)

Old school cops are going to complain about the double survey and follow-up method. They will say it gives too much credibility to allegations by lowlifes. They will object to it making cops snitch on each other.

But these old school cops need to get it through their thick heads that police battering citizens is a crime. Because the cops have the sanctioning of the government, police brutality is a more serious crime than 90 percent of what gets people detained in Forest Park. Being drunk and obnoxious is far less serious a crime than cops beating citizens. Even fights and shooting squirrels are less serious crimes than cops beating citizens and cops covering for cops that beat citizens.

The double survey and follow-up method has a number of benefits. The police department will rapidly identify cops that can't control their behavior. Some cops that abuse detainees probably can control their behavior but merely enjoy the sadism. These cops will know their transgressions will be detected. The police department will be empowered to reduce incidents of police brutality by both types of abusers.

By having a system that reduces police brutality, insurance rates should drop. Forest Park is currently paying in the area of $500,000 per year for liability insurance. If Sgt. Dan Harder's allegations are found to be true, insurance rates could climb even higher. A company could probably be persuaded to supervise the double surveys for $50,000 per year or less.

Why haven't communities implemented something like the double survey and follow-up method already? It's innovative, but it seems like somebody would have thought of something like it already.

Here's my suspicion. Some regular citizens sort of like the idea of cops beating the snot out of society's ne'er-do-wells. What's the point of working a regular job and paying the mortgage if there are no thugs to keep the slackers down? Sure we're supposed to act outraged when a cop beats up a homeless guy like Sidney Hooks. But who is really outraged when you compare that to something important, like Jerry Reinsdorf dismantling the Bulls dynasty?

Remember, we're the same society that impeached Bill Clinton for having sex in the White House, but showed comparatively little outrage about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

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