Since the tragic death of George Floyd in May, the topic of police reform has been elevated to the forefront of the public consciousness like never before.
After the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, the national reckoning over policing has become even more intense and polarized.
In the eyes of many, it seems, a person has to choose between supporting the cause for social justice or supporting the police.
Against the backdrop of an election season, it would almost appear as though the middle ground has become the third rail of contemporary American politics.
As a result of this dynamic, very little progress has been made relative to the various reform proposals that have been offered at nearly every level of government during the last few months.
We appear to be losing our collective ability to engage in a reasonable discourse on policing, and by our extension, to take any meaningful action to improve the world around us.
This is detrimental to everyone—including police officers.
This climate was the impetus for the comprehensive series of detailed reforms recently unveiled by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
Entitled “A Blueprint for Change,” this initiative outlines proposals that fall into one of four categories, or opportunity areas: Training and Standards, Oversight and Accountability, Community Engagement and Innovation, and Officer Wellness.
In large part, our plan is the product of candid and thoughtful discussions with individuals both within the law enforcement community and outside of it, as well as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
As the state’s largest law enforcement group, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association has a long history of working with our elected leaders in a bipartisan way, and we have demonstrated the rare ability to collaborate with our critics in order to explore areas of common ground.
We do so knowing that there will be issues on which we will disagree, but we don’t allow that fact to deter us from the potential good that can come just from having the conversation.
In the months ahead, as the task force recently announced by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos meets to explore and recommend police reform measures, this kind of outreach and open-mindedness will be crucial to the success of that effort.
According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — believe that policing needs major changes.
That is a very strong indicator that we must begin to make progress in responding to the concerns that surround policing. If we don’t, we should not be surprised when those concerns grow louder and more severe with the next controversial incident.
At the same time, we also have to be thoughtful, deliberate and protect against any measures that could risk public safety or the safety of the dedicated men and women who police our streets.
Perhaps most importantly, each of us needs to be willing and able to extend a hand, lend an ear and put our best foot forward to ensure that we are working to be a part of the solution to the problems and challenges that we collectively face.
“A Blueprint for Change” is important not just because it represents the most detailed initiative of its kind by any police group in the country, but because it embodies the kind of public discourse that we need to have in this state and in this country if we are ever to make any progress and affect change that benefits the public and law enforcement alike.
Jim Palmer is executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!