Police-Community Crisis: Rise to the Occasion

May 29, 2015 Updated: April 24, 2016

On May 20, 2015, Officer Kerrie Orozco, a beloved member of the Omaha Police Department, was shot and killed while trying to serve a felony warrant.

Every fallen officer’s death is tragic, but Officer Orozco’s is particularly heartbreaking. She was scheduled to begin maternity leave the following day to care for her daughter Olivia Ruth, born prematurely in February.

“Officer Kerrie Orozco gave her life for all of us in her service to the Omaha Police Department. She will be missed and remembered as a loving wife, mother, daughter, and dedicated police officer,” said the Omaha mayor in a statement.

Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco tribute. (Courtesy Omaha Police Department)
Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco tribute. (Courtesy of Omaha Police Department)

Orozco reminds us of the courage, sacrifice, and the facing of danger of all who protect and serve our communities. As of May 26, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports a 6 percent increase in total fatalities over the same time last year.

Polishing the Shield

Over 900,000 dedicated law enforcement officials perform countless acts of respect, courtesy, and bravery each day throughout America, and these dedicated professionals deserve honor. Yet, there are issues emerging that crystalize necessary police reforms.

On Oct. 2, 2014, Commissioner Bill Bratton was crystal clear to over 800 NYPD executives that abusive cops are “poisoning the well” during a one-day retreat.

These remarks were shared with the NYPD leadership before they were shown a disturbing video montage of violence by cops against suspects and innocent community members.

Bratton remarked there are “some officers in the department, unfortunately, who should not be here.” His demand for zero tolerance deserves the support of every dedicated police officer against anyone who would tarnish the noble police shield by, as he forthrightly stated, “brutality, corruption, racism, and incompetence.”

Complementing Bratton’s honest appraisal, another poison to any law enforcement official or agency is apathy. This is why I stress altruism in my training initiatives as an antidote and something critical to be held in the heart of every healthy police officer and agency.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. (Courtesy of Baltimore Police Department)
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. (Courtesy of Baltimore Police Department)

In Baltimore, Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts said in an interview, “We are part of the problem, the community needs to hear that. The community needs to hear us that we haven’t been part of the solution, and now we have to evolve. Now we have to change.”

Cleveland Settlement: Unbiased Policing

On May 26, Cleveland reached a settlement with the Department of Justice based on police abuses including shooting people who posed no threat, punching and kicking unarmed people, and excessive and retaliatory use of Tasers.

Cleveland Police recruits. (Courtesy of Cleveland Police Department)
Cleveland Police recruits. (Courtesy of Cleveland Police Department)

The official settlement requires improvements of the Cleveland Police Department that includes the following training and development issues:

• community engagement and building trust
• community and problem-oriented policing
• bias-free policing
• use of force
• crisis intervention
• searches and seizure
• accountability
• officer assistance and support
• supervision and police body cameras

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio said this agreement “will not only serve as a roadmap for reform in Cleveland but as a national model for any police department ready to escort a great city to the forefront of the 21st century.”

Rise to the Occasion

This is a defining moment for police reform in America and the training of ethical protectors.

In my previous column titled “NYPD Mission: Cultivating 35,000 Ethical Protectors,” I stressed that ethics was the principle critical to all law enforcement. Specifically, ethics is the law of right conduct and must be paramount in law enforcement’s mission to protect and serve.

Ethical training initiatives must be world class for police because of their moral responsibility to our communities. Our police deserve every tool necessary to uphold the Constitution in a society that at times holds ethical values in contempt.

Final Reflections

America, the eyes of the world are upon us. The clarion call is for police-community collaboration with moral courage, character, and compassion as our heartbeats.

The police and the community must be fully committed to a unity of effort as this is the pathway to reawakening the nation.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com