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Phil Stinson on BBC Newshour June 16, 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
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Photo of President Trump holding a signed copy of his Executive Order on Police Reform

In a hard-hitting six minute interview by BBC’s Tim Franks, UDC Law alum Phil Stinson, '92 explained America's police violence predicament to BBC's vast worldwide audience.

The segment is introduced at about the one minute mark on this link and includes the voice of President Donald Trump at the press conference announcing his Executive Order on Policing Reform.

In response to a question about how significant and how effective will this order be, Stinson, himself a former police officer and a current professor of criminology at Bowling Green University, explains,”I’m not sure the executive order will carry much weight in terms of actually making practical differences at the street level…It’s not an issue of not having policies or not having good policies, frankly, it’s a matter of police behaviors.”

“We see the police subculture is so strong that officers engage in acts of street justice.” 

“I think the issue that needs to be addressed is police behaviors and the issue of institutional racism in policing and other parts of the criminal justice system."

Professor Stinson explained to the international audience that in the US, the federal government can’t mandate police procedures except through the provision of, or threat to withhold funding and, as a result concludes, “All policing is local in the United States”

Tellingly, in response to a question on "qualified immunity" Stinson explains that ending it would be no panacea as it is a civil remedy aimed at recouping monetary damages which would be often thwarted by[ the fact that the police are often "judgment proof" as they typically do not have deep pockets, can declare bankruptcy, and are often indemnified by their agencies. 

However, Stinson explains, the underlying conduct of in such civil suits is often criminal behavior and “What police officers are fearful of and what would deter then is the threat of being convicted of a felony and going to prison.”

Stinson also described that the provision of more data on past abuses will not solve the problem of police with bad conduct records jumping from department to department because law enforcement agencies can already easily find out about problem cops during the hiring process by picking up the phone.

They don’t because they are seeking hires who do not need to be re-certified, which takes time and money, and, in some instances, “they actually seek out officers who are known to be aggressive, who have had citizen complains, which, frankly, police departments often consider not a bad thing but an indication that an officer is proactive and doing their job on the streets.  So it’s really twisted but that’s often the way it works out.” 

In Prof. Stinson’s opinion, real reform will only come as a result of “sustained public sentiment at a very vocal level for a prolonged period of time before we see any changes at all” and concluded by saying “I’m hopeful that maybe at least we’re having the right discussions.”

Listen to the interview HERE.

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