Given the growing list of recent tragedies throughout our country and our community, the Stark County NAACP joins in sounding the alarm for ongoing police reforms locally and nationally.
Nationally, we join activists, politicians and law enforcement experts calling for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This law would create a national registry of police misconduct, ban religious and racial profiling, overhaul “qualified immunity” and allow individuals to seek redress in civil courts when law enforcement officials violate their constitutional rights.
This law also prohibits chokeholds, no-knock warrants and confirms that deadly force is used only as a last resort.
NAACP News:‘It’s not a black organization.’ The Stark NAACP seeks to return to its diverse roots
The NAACP affirms our commitment to positive beginnings to change the landscape of our society, and we challenge change by making recommendations for developing pathways to a healthier and just society.
In June 2020, Mayor Thomas Bernabei signed an Obama Foundation pledge to reform police use-of-force policies and supported the 8 Can’t Wait campaign.
To date, the Canton City Police Department is complying with the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, and the Stark County NAACP applauds the city’s efforts. However, these policies are a floor and not a ceiling for reform.
Mayor Bernabei shared that there is a constant need to reassess policies and practices. The mayor also promised to review use of force policies with community input, report results to the public and reform policies.
The Stark NAACP believes that reform should be organic and ever-growing, moving the hands of justice toward the goal of equality. Changing the culture of a police department and community requires a strategic plan with a specific focus on establishing, building and fostering trust.
The core principle of safety and security is service to and protection of the greater community. The core principles of the police reform are joint dialogue, transparency and effective mutual change. A society that falters in respect and confidence in law enforcement will fail to foster healthy relationships between communities, police and local authorities.
A close study of cities like New York reveals the lowest crime rate since World War II; New Haven Connecticut, the lowest in 50 years; and Camden New Jersey, which at one time was one of the deadliest cities in America.
Community policing is an integral part of fighting crime, which includes police officers internalizing positive training goals that prioritize everyone making it safe at home that the next stop may involve the young person becoming the next mayor, judge, lawyer, a husband, father, mother etc. …
Officers must invest themselves in the community beyond the 9 to 5, walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors and participating in community events as citizens while maintaining the goal of protecting and serving.
Officers must accept increased accountability, transparency and community presence to gain respect and trust.
The Stark County NAACP continues to be diligent in calling for police reform in the Canton community and respectfully makes the following recommendations:
- An independent review of all Canton police policies that allow the use of deadly force.
- Expand the role of the Community Relations Commission to include review/recommendations regarding police policies, procedures, training operations and use-of-force policy.
- Recruiting two community leaders to the Internal Use of Force Review Board to help with trust and transparency.
- Develop and require continuous anti-bias training.
- End and permanently ban all repetition of racial profiling and “stop and frisk” policies.
- Require comprehensive reporting of all incidents where force is used.
- Review hiring policies for a more diverse and inclusive force that reflects community demographics.
- Create mandatory time-out policies consistent with psychological recommendations for officers involved in both use-of-force and shooting incidents.
- Provide initial and ongoing training in conflict de-escalation and restorative justice processes.
- Create a continuum of use of force to further regulate and limit escalations of force for certain offenses or methods of resistance.
- Exhaust all other means before escalating to shooting or using deadly force.
The Stark County NAACP believes the steps we have outlined are critical to building a framework for police reform and deeply important to our community. If we are to experience shared growth and positive social change, vigilance to truth and justice must be our sole mission.
Hector McDaniel is president of the Stark County NAACP.