Making a better world is inextricable from making a safer world, for everyone. I became a police officer because of a belief that every individual is his brother’s keeper, and that life is only a zero-sum game if it’s played that way. But policing faces sweeping challenges in the 21st century: intransigent racial disparities both in who commits urban crime and how severely they’re punished for it, the quagmire of the drug war, domestic counterterrorism, the rapid development of new technologies and mediums that may be exploited by criminals or abused by government. This blog will address some of these topics, as well as the digital-media topics associated with the Kennedy School class for which I’ve begun this project.
While these are the most immediate issues confronting policing, the subject about which I’m most passionate is something a bit farther over the horizon: the expanding role of police in international stability operations. In light of effective police missions in Kosovo and Haiti, and with lessons learned from more challenging efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’ve come to believe that policing represents a logical ancillary to—and, in some cases, substitute for—military force. It is not a tool for war-fighting, and in hot combat zones no entity can replace or replicate America’s armed forces. But local police, advised by foreign police mentors or, in extreme situations, augmented by foreign police partners, can create security while assuaging both local polities and international observers. Doing so, however, requires de-emphasizing policing’s paramilitary aspects. (In Afghanistan, for example, the efficacy and legitimacy of both the Afghan Local Police and the national police have suffered owing to the militarization of their operations.) Instead, successful police missions must strive to establish popular support by fomenting justice, treating the public with respectful equanimity, and embracing otherness rather than aggravating us-versus-them divisions. No one can surpass police from large, diverse cities, such as the NYPD or the London Met, in attaining these objectives. And when American police officers share a language and culture with the regions in which they’re sharing best practices, real change can be effected.