At a meeting this morning of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on the subject of police reform, state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), himself a former Newark Police officer, expressed the importance of contextualizing the issue.
“Community policing does not work,” said Rice. “It’s one of the words people use to [feel better].”
But it packs no punch without a deeper consideration and active response to underlying ailing societalproblems.
“Police departments should remind government that we need to get rid of abandoned buildings; we need to get rid of vacant lots,” said Rice. “We need healthcare and public housing.”
If there is a relationship problem between police and citizens, it probably goes hand in hand with lack of opportunity, lack of basic services and an absence of basic quality of life.
“The people in our community see billions of dollars being spent on infrastructure work and no black folks employed on those work sites,” said the veteran state senator from Newark. “That means more than having someone in a uniform showing up and saying ‘How are things?'”
“The police are supposed to be the eyes and ears,” said Rice.
What they see and what they hear are communities in decay.
“We cannot talk about policing,” he said, until society addresses the root and systemic problems. “I don’t care if they are black or white or whatever. We have to talk about all the things around that. They’re tough conversations.”
Rice did praise the committee chaired by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14) for working to bring out and expose some of the problems he says supercede the specific issue encapsulated by the term “comunity policing.”