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Professor: We’re addressing police-involved shootings at the wrong time

With the emergence of cell phones, it seems more people are coming around to the idea that some police officers have been misusing their power.

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Professor Barry Friedman, with NYU’s School of Law, says when we think about holding police accountable, we are focused on the wrong place. We always focus on the aftermath of, for example, a police shooting.

“So we want an evaluation,” he said. “In the rest of government, all of our accountability is on the front end. We’re involved in writing the rules … and so what we’re trying to do is bring citizens’ voices to the front end.”

Friedman, who started a policing project at NYU, says police departments should be interacting with their community and asking how they want to be policed. This was backed by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which determined that while the Fraternal Order of Police is against civilian review boards, they are in favor of advisory boards, Friedman said.

“People don’t like to be second-guessed, but they are willing to have a conversation on the front end,” Friedman said.

But that doesn’t solve the question of what to do when an officer should be charged with murder. It’s been a hot topic recently, including in Washington state, where a task force debated the wording of the law that holds police accountable for use of deadly force.

“I think anyone who thinks we’ll solve the problem with policing by throwing them in jail is deluding themselves,” Friedman said. He added that it could even result in an amount of de-policing nobody is prepared for.

“The solution is to not have the incidents happen in the first place,” he said.

Many officer-involved shootings happen because of insufficient training and an unclear definition on the use of force, he says.

Listen to the entire conversation below.

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