Making Police Truly ‘Protect and Serve’

As President Trump suggests police should be rougher with suspects, other voices from the police community say the behavior should go in the opposite direction, treating the public with more respect, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who laments that many Americans have experienced police as “an overly aggressive, militarized enemy of the people,” believes “the police in America [should] belong to the people — not the other way around.”

In a recent interview Stamper asserted that “Policing is the public’s business, and the public has the full right and responsibility to work collaboratively with local law enforcement.”

A sign at a rally in NYC on November 25, 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. (Photo by The All-Nite Images Flickr)

Stamper is calling for fundamental changes “in the federal government’s role in local policing as well as citizen participation in all aspects of police operations: policy-making, program development, crime fighting and service delivery, entry-level and ongoing education and training, oversight of police conduct, and–especially relevant to today’s challenges–joint community-police crisis management.” Says Stamper, “nothing will ever change until the system itself is radically restructured.”

Norm Stamper was a cop for 34 years, the first 28 in San Diego, the last six as Seattle’s police chief from 1994-2000. He resigned in the immediate wake of the so-called “Battle in Seattle” of 1999, where police famously confronted the first major international protests against the World Trade Organization with extreme and excessive force.

Chief Stamper took full responsibility for the breakdown and police overreaction and resigned directly following the confrontations. He has since devoted himself to reforming police actions and procedures through extensive community involvement in policing affairs. His most recent book is To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. I spoke to Stamper in Oakland, California on July 26.

Dennis Bernstein: I’d like you to begin by telling us how you went from police chief in…

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