Policing The Police: A Necessity?

Three things that I saw last week gave me the idea to write this article. First, was the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov. Second was this video of Montmorency County sheriff's deputies refusing to give a drunk driver, and Washtenaw County Lieutenant Brian Filipak, a break for being a fellow law enforcement officer. Finally, this video of a police chief getting pulled over for going more than double the speed limit with no immediate repercussions. (Authors Note: The drunk driver video is long so here’s a news article and short video if you do not have twenty minutes. You will need to watch the videos for my opinionated analysis to make sense. I also tend to be pro-law enforcement so please excuse my bias.)


My question is, In America who should be policing the police?

(Authors Note: Though this happened in Turkey it still holds significance in the argument) Mevlut Mert Altintas, the police officer who assassinated Andrey Karlov was on medical leave and was able bypass security by showing his police identification to enter the art gallery. He was allowed in even after setting off the metal detectors. This should not have been allowed in any circumstances. A police badge, at least in America, does not give one free access to enter any residence or property without permission or a warrant. I am not sure how it works in Turkey, but in America we have laws and procedures. In my opinion, only officers on a preapproved list should be able to enter special events (unless an emergency is occurring). Altintas was on medical leave, he should not have been able to use his police credentials to mimic conducting official police business if he was deemed medically unable to conduct it in the first place. I personally believe that any law enforcement official on medical leave should have to turn in their credentials until the leave is completed as they should not be conducting official police business.

The second video to me shows that even the brotherhood and comradery between police officers has its limits. Deputy Zachery Morrison, the deputy that pulled over Filipak,is extremely patient with him and reminds Filipak that “We are not above the law” (see the full video). This incident shows the two extremes of the American police force: the ones who serve and protect and the ones who try to abuse their power. No officer should have to be reminded that they are not above the law – sober or not. This brings us to the last video.

Police chief Ed Randel of the Brinkley, Arkansas Police Department, admitted to going 95 MPH in the video when officers said they clocked him going 107. The speed limit sign in the video shows 45 MPH as the limit. This video demonstrates everything that is wrong with police departments across America. The officers immediately gave the chief special treatment for being the chief (and maybe for being one of their superiors). Randel admitted to speeding, at the very least a recorded confession should have led to a ticket. What’s worse is that the officers who pulled him over didn’t even think twice. They literally just walked to the car, joked around for a bit, and let the chief drive off. The police officer that first saw the speeder was an officer under Randel and asked for the State Police assistance before knowing it was his boss in the car; I assume he called for assistance due to jurisdictional issues. The Brinkley officer was outside his jurisdiction and could not issue a ticket. Brinkley Mayor Billy Hankins is calling for an investigation of the incident.

So back to the main purpose of the article. Who should police the police? Clearly the police cannot police themselves. Two of the three examples demonstrate this (yes I know that’s not a large enough sample size but I only get around 900 words). Body and dash cameras do a decent job at this as it enables accountability as all interactions are recorded. The limits of these include battery life for the body cameras, field of range for the dash cam, and the point of view on the body camera. At times the camera angles just do not work. Most of the time these are used for internal review and it is up to the department about releasing the footage to the public. Independent civilian review boards are another useful tool to police the police. Personally, I think these review boards should have a rotating membership and include criminologists, lawyers, retired law enforcement, and the average civilians who have participated in a police ride along and a shoot/don’t shoot drill. These will provide the average citizen with the challenges that an officer faces almost daily in the line of duty. I wouldn’t want an elevator inspector that didn’t have a background in mechanics, so why should a person who inspects the police have no background in law enforcement?

Police are our first line of defense. They play an important role in our national security, a role many of us do not appreciate. Police know the neighborhoods they are in; federal agencies do not know them to the same extent. Police do patrols and have community relations. Federal law enforcement relies on the knowledge and expertise of local law enforcement. Local police have tools that the federal government does not and vis versa. Our nation is strongest when they work together.  It is up to the citizens to respectfully but critically overwatch the police. We need to them do their job, a majority of them do it right but we should not be afraid to question certain tactics, methods, or tactics. We just need to ensure that it is done in a way that does not cause officers to hesitate in the moment. If that occurs, which it has in the past, it puts the officer and public in danger. It is time the police got policed, we just need the right people.