July 9th - Criminal Justic Position - Thoughtful Lively Conversation
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is engaged this year in a consensus study to update our criminal justice position. The participation of local Leagues is essential. You might ask, why is this essential? The last time we updated our position was in the 1990s and a lot in terms of criminal justice reform has happened since. Our position needs to catch up, informed by the research and best practices that we have learned since then. Our current position does not address the importance and role of the police in the criminal justice system. The police decide who is arrested. They have the power to deflect an offender to needed drug and mental health services if those are available.
Police officers too often adopt warrior persona instead of a guardian persona. Community policing with a guardian mindset is a philosophy that emphasizes working with neighborhood residents to coproduce public safety. To make this shift, police officers need training, education, and appropriate health care to carry out their work and to deal with the often stressful situations they face. Police are too often feared, not trusted.
Should law enforcement devote more time to changing this culture so that the communities they serve grow to trust them and to work with police to enhance the safety of their neighborhoods?
Is building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police/citizen divide foundational to positive relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve?
Should law enforcement agencies collaborate with community members to develop policies and strategies to reduce crime?
Should community policing be the guiding philosophy for all stakeholders?
Should quality training and education begin with recruits and continue throughout an officer’s career?