Well, there are two camps in Austin as well. Those who live West of the freeway, and are generally inconvenienced by traffic citations, and those who live East of the freeway (if they're brown or black), who are generally inconvenienced by excessive force, cultural insensitivity, and the occasional unpunished, unjustified shooting/tasering. It generally takes one of those incidents to undue years of conscientious police officers' work in community relations.

The Happy Feminist

No doubt.


I agree with norbizness.

Those whose families or neighbors have not been exposed to the police trust the police. Those people who have been exposed to the criminal justice system do not trust the police

The Happy Feminist

I don't know. My family never had any dealings with the police but I was raised with a profound distrust for them. It was just that the notion of police bullying citizens, especially poorer citizens or minorities, was so repugnant and we weren't stupid enough to think it never happened. You can even SEE it happening on shows like "Cops."

I developed a rosier view of police when I somehow found myself as a prosecutor in a very rural county. Small town police in a homogeneous community tend to be, I think, far less likely to abuse their power than perhaps in other areas.

My main point is that, regardless of how much external accountability you provide for police, I think the best solution for improving police conduct is improving the culture of individual departments. How this is accomplished exactly, I don't know, but I remain convinced that policing can be a great profession and I know a number of officers whom I believe do their jobs with a great deal of professionalism.


What are your thoughts on residency requirements for cops? For instance, should a city cop have to live in the city that he patrols (as opposed to Long Island or upstate NY/NJ for an NYPD officer, or an LA Cop living in OC)?

The Happy Feminist

Hmmm . . . I am not sure I have any profound thoughts on that question. I am only now in my capacity as a civil attorney just starting to work with the police in a more urban area.

In the rural area where I prosecuted, the police were very much a part and parcel of the communities where they worked. Everyone knew everyone and I think that was helpful. Since it was so homogeneous, there were no racial or ethnic tensions of which I was aware. (For example, I've never prosecuted a black defendant.)

My gut answer is that it probably is better for the police to live in the city and area they patrol because it reduces the "us against them" mentality. On the other hand, urban settings have their own divisions -- the culture of a community can vary dramatically from block to block in a place like New York City for example.

Also, racial and ethnic diversity is crucial for a police department. You don't want an all-white police force enforcing the laws in a community of minorities.

Mrs. B

I liked this post and agreed with your 'reflections'. In my early 20's I worked for the police department as a 911 call taker. I, too, have a lot of respect for police officers(yes, I do acknowledge there are some bad ones...as there are in ANY profession). As part of my training I had to do a ride along which I enjoyed immensly...nothing exciting or out of the ordinary happened, it was just interesting to see the ins and outs of police work. Also, the police officers for that city were required to have a Bachelors degree and I think part of that requirement was so 18 year olds couldn't be on the force. Another interesting thing was that ANY citizen could do a ride along once a year(that's been many years ago , so that policy maybe different now), so even when I didn't work for them anymore, I did one more ride along just for the fun of it.


Those whose families or neighbors have not been exposed to the police trust the police. Those people who have been exposed to the criminal justice system do not trust the police

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that being a criminal is one of the main ways you get "exposed" to the criminal justice system.


I agree with you. I also think that good old fashion community policing principles (walking the beat)could overcome some of the "us v. them" issues otherwise attributed to the racial imbalance between police and the communities that they work in.

I also appreciated your comparison of the rural v. urban scenarios. My career choices took me from the biggest of the big cities to the most rural of rural areas. I now consult with local law enforcement agencies - think Cowboy hats and spurs in court. When people have a police emergency, they don't call 911, they call the sheriff at home.

So, the problems in this context in these communities may not break down along racial lines, but along the lines of who is closer to the family of the victim versus who is closer to the defendant, or the cops, or whomever. This is a dynamic that will take some getting used to.


Yeah, that is true Jay, but very few family members - most notably children - will side with the "system" when their loved one is accused and/or convicted of a crime. On top of the other ways that these folks may feel alienated by their local law enforcement agencies, such events can and will lead to an irreversible circle of mistrust.

I used to lecture to kids from grades K to 5 on various criminal law related topics, and I was always shocked at how deeply mistrustful of the police these kids were. Many would ask incredibly sophisticated questions about how the system applied to specific circumstances, usually having to do with how or why their brothers, fathers, uncles, etc. were "set up and framed by the police".

The comments to this entry are closed.