When the police are wrong, we in policing must admit it, learn from it and change. Policing was wrong in the North Charleston shooting and the recent San Bernardino beating. Policing must change and do so quickly or our credibility will erode even further.
While the Eureka Police are making strides to change in a deep, thorough and pervasive manner, we admit we have a long way to go. This change cannot come quickly enough and I am proud of the effort those in EPD blue have made so far. EPD, let’s not ease up or be satisfied with what we have accomplished, but strive for comprehensive transformation.
EPD has a document penned by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 on the founding principles of law enforcement hanging next to commendations written by citizens to our officers. This posting and location is purposeful. The document reminds our officers why we police. It states our most basic mission is to prevent crime with the willing cooperation of the public. The Peelian Principles must be a guiding light for EPD and American law enforcement. EPD is re-examining these principles anew and are intent to model ourselves after them. You can find these principles.
To change EPD must:
• Ensure greater transparency and accountability. This is why the Chief’s Advisory Panel is vital to sustainable transformation.
• Focus on Problem Oriented Policing and Community Policing. Policing that places officers side by side with community members and focuses on effectiveness, not merely incarceration. When we work together, shoulder to shoulder, to prevent crime it builds rather than breaks the fabric of society. Let’s be clear, there are some who must be removed from society for the sake of safety and public order.
• Change our views on the use of force. EPD is training to de-escalate incidents. Through time, talk and tactics we can resolve many incidents. We have also expanded the use of less lethal munitions.
• Understand that the police must only use force as a last resort. Policing needs to change its thinking from a standard of legal justification to, a process of legal and moral justification. I do not however expect our officers to take foolish risk.
• Work with you in crime control. Residents of Eureka and Humboldt County need to participate in crime prevention and the maintenance of social order.
• Break the silence. EPD’s mantra is “If you see it, you own it.” There can be no code of blue silence nor can the community be silent. We must all speak up.
Each EPD employee has be given a copy of the Peelian principles. You too must do your part. Eurekans must willingly comply with the law ensuring that civility and order reign in a culture where lawfulness is the rule, not the exception. EPD desires to partner with any citizen who wants to have genuine discourse. There are some who dwell in a world of vitriol hatred toward the police based on a personal agenda of abolition of authority. That is destructive and continues to hurt Eureka. The police are not always right, nor are we always wrong.
As EPD changes come work with us to lift up Eureka and build a positive environment where a vibrant and safe community flourishes. Eureka, we can do this together!