Psychology at Work

Serving or Policing with Chief Danny Barton: Identity (Part 2 of 3)

April 23, 2021 Season 4 Episode 7
Psychology at Work
Serving or Policing with Chief Danny Barton: Identity (Part 2 of 3)
Show Notes

This episode is part 2 or a 3 part series with Police Chief Danny Barton.  When George Floyd was murdered in May of 2020, Danny Barton released this statement:

To the Citizens of Coppell,

The members of the Coppell Police Department strive daily to serve a diverse community equitably and respectfully.

We have had an outstanding relationship with our community and strive daily to strengthen it. We will continue to hire men and women of character and train them to serve a community, not police it. Our actions are our promise to you.

After watching the national news and hearing police leaders begin to move the narrative away from the real issue, I feel compelled as a Police Chief and a citizen to share my feelings about what ‘s going on today. I am prepared for the criticism I will receive from my profession.

I did not begin my career in Coppell and my first years as a police officer were spent serving an African American community.

The following is from the observations of a career police officer. Nothing will change in this nation until we, the police, take the first steps.

To citizens everywhere,

I began my law enforcement career in December of 1991.

Five Officers who were accused of beating Rodney King in Los Angeles were acquitted in April of 1992. Riots began nationwide. The trial of those five police officers was less about their actions and more about the culture of policing. I had some instructors in the police academy who felt the officers responded appropriately and others who were disappointed. That was 28 years ago.

Police Chiefs throughout the nation were assuring citizens that their police officers were different and that it was time for a change in policing.

What has changed? Not much.

I am not satisfied that we have only a few bad apples. We have serious systemic issues profession-wide that are ignored and sometimes taught to the new officers coming out of the academy.

Make no mistake, the vast majority of police officers are good people, but there are too many wearing the uniform who should not be.

Every department knows who and what I am talking about.

The death of George Floyd did not happen suddenly.

It was not this one police officer’s actions that caused this death. It was the actions and inactions of police officers and police departments that feed the bad aspects of police culture. Over policing is awarded within our ranks. We call it proactive policing and it has filled jails and prisons throughout the nation.

No community has suffered more from over policing than the African American communities.

When we over police, we introduce men and women of color into a justice system that is biased, broken, and difficult to get out from under.

Police Chiefs must be allowed to remove those officers whose behaviors add to this narrative. We have to stop, as a profession, making excuses for the biased and sometimes criminal policing that takes place. Citing violence toward the police as a rationale for our tactics and strategies has no merit. Perhaps if we changed our tactics and strategies, less police officers and citizens would be injured or killed. Many Police Chiefs, Police Departments, and Police Officers are working every day to improve the culture of policing.

Let’s keep working and not look up in a few years and see that nothing has changed.

Chief Danny Barton

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