Painful Stories, Thoughtful Observations
25 September 2014
In introducing the “Police and Community Relations” session at ICMA’s annual conference, Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee, ICMA-CM, acknowledged the challenges that Ferguson, Missouri, has faced in the aftermath of the August 9, 2014, fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African American man.
Carlee posed the pressing question: What do managers need to be doing right now in their own jurisdictions to address not only deadly-force incidents but also, more broadly, the issues associated with police–citizen relationships.
The statistics Carlee cited are unsettling. According to FBI numbers, roughly 400 police homicides have occurred every year for the five years from 2008 to 2012. According to Fusion.net, 22 unarmed African Americans have been killed by police since 2000, while Mother Jones reported at least four shootings of unarmed African American men by police in the last few months.
A recent YouGov poll shows that whites and African Americans perceive the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police differently: 40 percent of white respondents think the shooting was an isolated incident, and only 35 percent see it as part of a broader pattern. Conversely, only 6 percent of African Americans think it’s an isolated incident, while 76 percent see it as part of a broader pattern.
The panelists of the session each had direct experience with deadly-force incidents:
The panelists and members of the audience offered their observations about the circumstances surrounding deadly-force incidents and the long-term implications:
Ferguson doesn’t have a monopoly on tragedy:
The panelists and audience participants stressed the importance of being prepared for the worst-case scenario:
Managers need to establish solid relationships with their police departments as much as managers and the police need to build solid relationships with the community.
All the players need to know their roles in a variety of circumstances following an incident.
Investigating why and how a deadly-force incident has occurred typically reveals complex circumstances.
The more managers understand their communities and police policies, the easier it is to establish relationships and agree on protocols.
In a wrap-up of the session, Carlee asked panelists to offer one lesson stemming from their experience in a community in which a deadly-force incident resulted in the death of an unarmed resident. Here are their responses:
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