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article imageOp-Ed: United States should consider a draft for police officers

By Calvin Wolf     Aug 14, 2014 in Politics
In the wake of the tragic shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri people are asking tough questions about how law enforcement operates in many American cities. Frequent questions involve thin blue lines and militarization of police.
Liberal commentators tend to argue that our police are over-militarized and socially isolated from the citizens they are supposed to serve, making community-oriented policing a distant dream in many cities. Critics question why many police departments have vastly different demographics, including places of residence, than the surrounding communities. For example, some critics wonder why cities and towns with majority-minority populations are policed primarily by white men who live in adjacent suburbs.
From cruisers with tinted windows to military surplus hardware to insular, hyper-masculine cultures where police officers seem to hail from families of cops, it can be understandable that many people feel alienated from, and intimidated by, local law enforcement. Jelani Cobb writes in The New Yorker about the unfolding aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, describing the heavily-armed police presence in Ferguson, Missouri. For several nights, protesters have clashed with police. Looting and violence have occurred.
Some blame the protesters for stirring up trouble. Others blame the cops. As is often the case in life, the truth probably incorporates the arguments from both sides. Undoubtedly, there are some protesters looking for trouble. They deserve no sympathy. Also, there are certainly some cops who tend to look for trouble as well. They do not deserve sympathy, either.
How can America improve relations between law enforcement and local communities? How can we create true community policing? One option, which may seem unorthodox, is to create a draft for local police officers, compelling qualified men and women to serve either full-time or part-time as trained, sworn officers.
The U.S. military has had a draft at various times throughout history, mixing draftees with volunteers and creating the powerful armies that fought to decisive victory in the U.S. Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Police departments should be able to do the same, mixing together draftees and volunteer applicants for training classes at police academies. Draftees could serve a few years as full-time officers before returning to civilian careers while volunteers could remain on to be career officers.
Over time, police departments will become more representative of their communities and help generate positive benefits for the young men and women who are drafted to serve, providing them with pay, training, and healthy discipline. Select college graduates, for instance, could be drafted upon graduation to serve as local police officers, developing skills and connections that will be useful when their service is concluded.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Ferguson, Policing, Law Enforcement, Racial bias, militarization
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