From: East Bay Times
By Tom Lochner 9/13/16
BERKELEY — Police could improve communication skills, while the public needs to understand the tough job cops do — that was the consensus of a panel discussion on officer safety and community policing at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School this week sponsored by The Federalist Society.
Featuring mostly law enforcement insiders, it offered few solutions to what the panelists agreed are tough times nationwide in the relationship between police and the communities they serve. It also largely steered clear of issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and its critique of deadly police shootings of unarmed black people. While acknowledging that racism exists in America, several panelists argued that it is wrong to blame society’s ills on police.
Kenton Rainey, chief of the BART Police Department, reflected on the dual images of officers as warriors and guardians. When people don’t trust the police, and start to question the legitimacy of their authority, “that’s when you have a breakdown,” Rainey said, adding, “the public wants fair and respectful treatment.”
Scott Erickson, who describes himself as a conservative writer and a “street cop” for 19 years, lamented the “tangible impact” of the current “anti-police atmosphere” on officer behavior, productivity and morale. The result is less proactive policing, to the detriment of public safety, as officers fear becoming the butt of “viral videos” shown out of context, he said.
Daryl Jackson, a former Richmond police officer and now an investigator with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, said law enforcement must do a better job of educating the public on what it takes to do a successful prosecution.
“If there is a war on police, part of it is based on our own credibility issues, especially of late,” Jackson said.
“Is there racism in law enforcement? Yes, there absolutely is,” he said, citing recent reports of racist texts by some police. Jackson, who is black, noted that when the Richmond Police Department hired him in 1987, it was under a consent decree to hire more minority officers, and that when he joined the homicide division, his white sergeant quit.
Harry Stern, a lawyer and former Berkeley police officer and board member of the Berkeley Police Association, said police are “under attack from both sides of the political spectrum,” and blasted as “Orwellian doublespeak” some of the contemporary discussion about community policing. Police are unfairly blamed for many of society’s ills, he said, and added that the public expects perfection from police.
Heather Mac Donald, author of the book “The War on Cops,” said some officers exhibit an “often stubborn and officious attitude toward the public,” and could use better training and leadership. But overall, Mac Donald credited police for bringing down the crime rate — she spoke of “a 50 percent drop in felony crimes since the 1990s” — and defended the “broken-windows policing” and pedestrian stops that have been criticized by police detractors.
“Why do they do that?” she said. “People in high-crime neighborhoods beg them to do it.”
She said that the Black Lives Matter narrative of racial bias in policing is wrong. Police “look at crime, not race,” she said, adding that the murder rate in black communities is higher than in white and Hispanic ones.
“Police today are data-driven,” Mac Donald said.
Early on in the forum, a group of audience members rose and held papers with the names of people killed by police, before leaving the auditorium.
The event was moderated by Kevin Walker, a third-year law student at Boalt Hall who is a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy.