The current moment is certainly about understanding the pain felt by victims of police abuse. But it is also about understanding and improving police-civilian interactions.
A striking feature of the national conversation about police reform has been the near-total absence of the perspective of police officers themselves. Whether it is because they feel the time is not right or because they fear backlash, law enforcement personnel, with a few notable exceptions, have been largely absent from the national dialogue. This leaves a major gap in the public’s understanding of the current moment. What is the job of policing like from the inside? What is going through a typical officer’s mind when performing a routine traffic stop? What challenges do they face that might not be obvious to civilians?
As a civilian, I cannot fully answer these questions. But I can make the case that we should ask police.
To some, becoming interested in a police officer’s perspective will sound tone-deaf. This moment, they would argue, should not be about elevating the voices of police officers, but about elevating the voices of their victims.
This perspective is only half-right. If reforming the medical system were at the top of the national agenda, it would make sense to seek out the perspectives of nurses, doctors, surgeons, and hospital administrators so that the general public might better understand the challenges they face, and the most promising avenues for reform. The same, I would argue, is true of policing.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images