Opinion | Police Reforms That Might Actually Work

To the Editor:

Re “New Police Reform Laws Seize on Calls for Change” (front page, April 19):

We can train police officers from here until forever, but as long as police are humans their emotions will overtake their intelligence in emergencies. If we care about justice for our Black and brown citizens, it’s recruitment, not training, that needs to change.

We need to send out on patrol only police officers who score low in anger, the need to control and personal anxiety. Only they can be expected to retain their cool in stressful situations.

Their opposites will be unable to put aside personal insecurity well enough to even consider police-academy guidelines. We can’t train away human nature.

Merrill Harmin
White Plains, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Certainly, the many types of police reforms that have been proposed and implemented in recent months are needed. However, these reforms are effective only to the degree that violations are reported and properly sanctioned.

Community members experience and observe on a daily basis multiple forms of police misconduct, most of which do not rise to the level of felonious assault. These include but are not limited to verbal abuse and overly aggressive police stops. Citizen review complaint boards have been established to investigate these lesser forms of abusive behaviors.

However, in the vast majority of cases such complaints are inadequately investigated, are rarely sustained and don’t result in any kind of meaningful sanctions. Ignoring these lesser forms of abuse sends a signal that more serious forms of abuse will be tolerated. We must ensure that complaint boards are staffed by community members, have the authority to properly investigate reported infractions and are granted the authority to impose sanctions.

Michael B. Greene
Montclair, N.J.
The writer is the chair of the violence prevention work group and a board member of the National Prevention Science Coalition.

To the Editor:

Police reform deserves to be front-page news until comprehensive, sane (no “defund,” please) changes are proposed, discussed and enacted. There are bad apples in every occupation, but the police carry guns, because they often are called to situations where other guns are being used or likely to be present. Yet no one seems to be connecting needed police reforms with desperately needed gun reform.

The officers’ job is to maintain safety in a society that is armed to its teeth. Perhaps the police would be more welcoming to the reforms listed in the article if at the same time gun buybacks and other safety measures were also being pursued. Police reform won’t happen overnight and might never occur if not also accompanied by reducing the world-topping gun firepower in our country.

Elizabeth Bjorkman
Lexington, Mass.

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