A MAPLE Approved Statement
June 14, 2022
American policing has born the brunt of very intense criticism over the past decade. Much of this has been justified. Steps have been taken to heighten the accountability of officer conduct but there continues to be an erosion of public respect and confidence in the police as an institution. This should beconcerning to us all. Police reform cannot just stop at accountability. It must extend to how officers are selected, trained and directed so that we can ensure the most effective,credible and reliable service possible, to every person in society. This is the only way that public confidence in the police can truly be restored.
Here in Massachusetts, a Peace Officer Standards andTraining Commission has been established with the authority to decertify officers, who the commission finds have violated fundamental standards of conduct such as; excessive force,falsification of testimony or criminal conduct. However, holding people accountable for standards of performance for which they have not been properly trained or directed is as equally unjust as police misconduct.
Police officers today are dealing with significant tension and pressure caused by the legal and personal risks they faceevery day in their efforts to maintain peace and security within our communities. This tension and pressure has caused many officers to resign, and it has been a significant impediment to recruitment. The inability to attract and retain quality persons to serve as police officers, will have significant implications for the future sustainability of our democratic society, if it is not addressed. The public and civilian leadership appear largelyunaware of this situation or in some cases indifferent to it.
When police misconduct is encountered it must be dealtwith, but holding individual officers responsible with no concern about the systemic failures that contributed to their malpractice will ultimately defeat reform. An officer on the street is a product of the policies and culture of his or her department. These are inevitably determined by police leadership and the overarching civilian administration. This is where the nextreform effort must focus. Until a firm effort is made to provide officers with proper training, adequate material support and professional leadership and guidance, to accompanyaccountability, authentic police reform will remain elusive.