Of course there are people who weren’t invited to join a
partnership with their local police, and have no interest in
doing so because of their experience. Because of the stories
that have been told over the dinner table, not just for a few
years, but literally for generations that date back to the
antebellum slave patrols and night riders.
I’ve talked to so many white cops who’ve said, “Please,
don’t talk to me about slavery. My daddy was not a slave
owner, his daddy was not a slave owner, his daddy’s daddy
was not a slave owner. So please, let’s be relevant, let’s talk
about today.” With zero appreciation of the truth, of the
tradition, of the heritage as it is experienced in this country.
Outtakes from the Washington State Bar Association's December panel on Race Relations,
Policing and the Law: What is the legal system's response in this time of racial tension?
Moderator: William D. (Bill) Pickett, President-Elect of the Washington State Bar Association
Panelists: Norm Stamper, Sue Rahr, Michele Storms
NORM STAMPER was the chief of
the Seattle Police Department from
1994 to 2000 and has 34 years of
policing expertise. He is the author
of "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s
Exposé of the Dark Side of American
Policing" (Avalon 2006).
We’re here talking about the subject of race relations and
policing. Norm, I’d like to know your thoughts on the intersection between community policing and race relations. Is
there a role for community policing, or is it something that
has come and gone?
There are 1,001 different definitions of community policing—here’s mine. Community policing is the community
policing itself. … A neighborhood has partners involved in
the effort to achieve public safety and honor human rights
and civil liberties. That partnership is critical. But the
senior partner in that partnership is the citizenry…
There’s a large group of people who have no interest in
joining with their local police department in this partnership. I refer to those who have developed over time deep
mistrust of law enforcement. [This group is] disproportionately represented by young people, poor people, and
people of color. If in fact in a pluralistic society, in a free
and democratic society, those voices matter, it matters that
those citizens participate in this partnership… We’ve got to
find a way to drop some barriers. And one of them is to stop
shooting so many of them.
The question for you, Sue, is how are we training police officers
today? I was down at the Academy last week and I saw a long
corridor of officers lined up. I saw a lot of white faces and mostly
male… I’m sure there are strides that you are making to somehow
change some of that, but I want to drill down a little bit … specifically to the training of officers and the selection of who gets to be
trained in regards to the issue of race and policing.
Well I can talk to you about the training. In our state, we
have a single police Academy that does the training for all
300 city and county police departments and a few others.
SUE RAHR is a former King County
Sheriff who is now the Executive
Director of the Washington State
Criminal Justice Training Commission. She has been quoted as describing police officers as “the guardians
of our community” as opposed to the
“warriors of our community.”
Decoding the Law is a conversation series hosted by the
Washington State Bar Association for members and the
community intended to share information and facilitate dialogue
on timely and relevant legal topics in a nonpartisan fashion.
The next Decoding the Law topic will be sexual harassment,
in March. For information on date, time, and panelists, check