Another week, another apparently terrible police involved shooting. This time it was close to home, just over the border in Kenosha where Jacob Blake was shot in front of his kids despite being unarmed. It seems to be another case of unjustified, excessive force.
I don’t claim to be an expert on police issues, although it’s clear that something different than business as usual must be done. Not militarizing the police seems to make sense as does having social workers and other trained experts respond to calls that don’t need someone with a gun and a badge like traffic accidents and suicide calls. Certainly solutions for the City of Chicago might not be the right ones for a small, rural police department.
No matter where you are though, I question why police officers don’t have to have a license? You need a license in Illinois to work as a private security contractor or private investigator or even a hair dresser and attorney. We all had to go through background checks and pass a character and fitness test. We have to fill out an application. This is the step involved before going for a job interview.
If during our time as a professional we do something wrong, we are held accountable by an licensing board that has an independent hearing process. Results of complaints can range from nothing to loss of license or anything in between like censure or suspension. If we have substance abuse or other problems, there are resources for getting help.
Nobody (I think) wants unjustified police shootings. Everyone I know supports good cops. But it’s very apparent that we have a broken system. If you think cops are good and want good cops, is there any justification for opposing them to be licensed like most other professionals in Illinois including the ones that carry guns? I don’t think there is.
The fact that we have never done it this way doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way. This is especially true in Chicago where taxpayers have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against the police.
Would licensing law enforcement officers solve everything? Of course not. The realistic goal is to reduce bad behavior and be able to remove bad actors when they don’t live up to the professional standards that are set. This doesn’t require them to be perfect or always look over their shoulder. What is does is set standards and have a real accountability system in place.
It would certainly make sense if we make the move to have social workers take on some police work such as responding to some domestic abuse situations. Social workers in Illinois already have to be licensed by the State. We essentially ask police to handle matters that they are not trained for in place of people who have to be licensed to handle those matters. Licensing cops is the logical next step.
To me this is all an extension of calls to defund the police which are really calls to change the way the police operate and make them do it in a smarter, safer and more economical way. If there is a reason that police officers shouldn’t be held to the same standards and accountability as any other Illinois professional, I’d love to hear it.