Who’s for reform? Everybody.
Demands for reform permeate the air in the aftermath of the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer now charged with murder and manslaughter.
Everybody’s for it while hardly anyone has spoken up against it.
But what, specifically, does “reform” mean? Rarely has a word ever meant so many different things to so many different people, including editorial writers.
Everyone is for their idea of reform, which of course might not be someone else’s idea of reform. The devil is in the details.
Nonetheless, invoking reform is an easy way to win plaudits from an audience, any audience.
That explains why U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was well received when he spoke recently at a black church in Springfield and embraced police reform as a means of preventing tragedies like the one involving Floyd.
“Sen. Durbin touts police reform bill in Springfield,” stated a headline from a local newspaper.
Durbin, of course, wasn’t doing anything unusual or incorrect in his declaration, and he put a little meat on the bone when he identified potential improvements. They include bans on the use of chokeholds, written policies outlining the acceptable use of force by officers and improvements in recruitment and training of officers.
But none of those are new.
Chokeholds have long been considered dangerous by law-enforcement agencies, many of which have banned the practice.
No police department worth its salt is without a use-of-force policy. But that’s no guarantee there won’t be problems.
The Urbana Police Department faces pushback in a use-of-force case in which city officials said the officers in question followed department rules. That hasn’t satisfied critics, who demanded and won an examination by an outside party of the force used to arrest an Urbana woman.
As for the goal of recruiting and training the best potential police officers they can get, every department wants to do so.
There are, no doubt, other proposals on the drawing board that are just as widely embraced.
The point is there are no magic-
bullet policy proposals when it
comes to reducing the potential for bad outcomes in the hundreds of thousands of police-citizen interactions that take place each year. Individuals and circumstances set the stage for what transpired.