In his State of the City address two months ago, Mayor Tom Potter reasserted his commitment to community policing. It is an oft-used refrain for the mayor. But isn't it time for Potter to stop promising and start delivering?
As the candidates for two city council seats are spouting evermore about what they will do, it's an important gut-check to consider how well Potter has delivered the central promise of his campaign. At the time, the idea of community policing struck an important chord. Under Mayor Vera Katz, the police department had become increasingly militant and was facing several lawsuits for police brutality.
But nearly a year and a half into Potter's term, delivery of community policing largely remains vague and elusive, and continues to be couched in the future tense. A mayor's office operating memo on community policing lists about a dozen guiding principles to be implemented within the next 12 to 24 months, like more community forums and "requiring that every [police] bureau member's job duties require community policing." Then there's my favorite: "require that promotions are made on the basis of a demonstrated commitment to, and practice of, community policing." What would that mean for someone like Lieutenant Mark Kruger, who has faced several lawsuits for beating the shit out of antiwar protesters, yet has been expediently promoted through the bureau?
Maria Rubio, a policy analyst for the mayor's office, admits that progress can be difficult to track. "In terms of really implementing community policing," she explains, "it needs to be a philosophy change rather than simply a new program."
But such vague policy-speak makes it too easy for Potter to slip away from real accountability. Indeed, there are very real benchmarks the mayor's office could use. Here's an easy one: require officers to get out of their patrol cars and walk their beats. Or, how about requiring officers to spend at least half of a day during the month working with a community organization, like the Boys and Girls Club?
As the current candidates court your vote, demand specifics! And, demand promises that have real accountability—which will ultimately bring about real change.