Most police are conscientious and professional. However, as the cases of Philando Castile, Daniel Shaver and Walter Scott show, there are bad apples in the police force and they must be removed.
The performance and oversight of the police is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments. However, the Federal Government can also take actions to reduce the risk of police violence and improve accountability.
The Federal Government supplies excess military equipment to local police forces. This can include things like armored vehicles, bayonets and grenade launchers, items more suitable for an occupying army than a police force. There is evidence that, when this equipment is made available, it will be used, including in circumstances where it is not necessary. This should be stopped.
The Supreme Court has invented, without Constitutional or legislative backing, a doctrine of “qualified immunity” that makes it virtually impossible to sue a government employee, including a police officer, for actions taken in the line of duty. Under this doctrine, police are unaccountable even for gross and obvious violations of rights. Reversing this doctrine is particularly important because the internal processes for investigating and punishing police misbehavior, which are frequently hamstrung by the protective rules of police unions, are clearly inadequate. Restoring a right for civil suits can help make police accountable.
Finally, the failed War on Drugs is a major cause of conflict between the police and local communities, especially minority ones. The persecution of these victimless crimes needlessly puts police and local communities on a collision course, often with deadly consequences. We cannot expect a constructive relationship between police and many local communities so long as the War on Drugs continues.