Miami Police Chief: If President Biden wants substantial change, he should convene national commission on policing | Opinion

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Like millions of Americans, I, too, was relieved and encouraged by the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. But I also know this: One moment does not a movement make. If we fail to seize this opportunity to reshape policing and rebuild the public’s trust, the conviction in George Floyd’s killing will become a squandered footnote in history.

That’s why President Biden should to convene a national commission on policing – and soon.

While campaigning after Floyd’s death last year, Biden pledged to establish a commission within his first 100 days in office. But earlier this month he shelved the idea, opting instead to focus on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House, but faces opposition in the Senate. The administration said some reform groups, as well as police unions, had expressed little enthusiasm for a commission, perhaps believing that such a panel would produce yet another report destined to gather dust.

I respectfully disagree.

Floyd’s death and its aftermath have focused the nation’s attention on the shortcomings of American policing more sharply than ever before. Emotions are raw. Expectations are high. And the stakes are huge. Given such dynamics, we need the White House to take the lead in this national conversation on issues that have been painfully divisive for so long.

Biden is well-positioned to drive a collaborative effort toward reform. As Barack Obama’s vice president, he cemented his credibility among civil-rights leaders, and the support of Black leaders and voters helped propel him to victory in 2020. He also has longstanding ties to law enforcement, forged during decades of public-safety leadership in the Senate. Such dual influences make him an ideal healer-in-chief, capable of leading a national effort to bridge divides on one of the most profound challenges of our time.

President Trump, faced with the largest demonstrations in history following the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, established a policing commission last year, but it was not as comprehensive and inclusive as groups such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association had endorsed. The lack of diverse perspectives prompted a lawsuit, and a federal judge concluded that the Trump commission violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act by failing to have a “fairly balanced” advisory board and by holding closed meetings without advance public notice. The ruling required the prominent inclusion of a disclaimer in the Trump commission report.

But not all commissions are created equal. And while most are fraught with politics, Biden has an opportunity to convene a bipartisan, balanced and comprehensive review of policing and the criminal justice system that we desperately need.

Some may view such panels as places where conflicting values necessitate compromises that produce measly, watered-down ideas. But I serve on the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing, and I’ve seen what’s possible. Our group includes two police chiefs, a sheriff, a pioneer in the Black Lives Matter movement, two community members who lost loved ones to police violence, a researcher and others.

It can’t get much more diverse than that, yet we are coming to consensus on a host of aggressive recommendations. These include banning not just chokeholds, but all neck restraints; requiring officers not just to intervene when witnessing a peer using excessive force but to report all manner of misconduct; restricting both no-knock and quick-knock warrants; emphasizing de-escalation over implicit bias training; and creating a national, searchable database of decertified officers.

The task force’s findings and recommendations will help reduce unnecessary use of force and biased policing while increasing accountability for officers and agencies. But a presidential commission could go much further, defining strategies to combat the rise in violent crime, including gun crime, and charting a path for the future of law enforcement in America.

In his recent address to Congress, Biden rightly recognized that the vast majority of officers serve our communities with honor. He also spoke about the urgency of passing the Violence Against Women Act, and of police reform, evoking Floyd’s death as he noted that, “We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans.”

I assure you that many leaders in law enforcement want to see reform passed. But even if negotiations on the Hill produce a compromise that leads to approval of the law that bears George Floyd’s name, the critical need for a comprehensive look at law enforcement and our criminal justice system will remain.

With the anniversary of Floyd’s death looming, let’s give this profound challenge the full attention it deserves.

Art Acevedo is Miami’s chief of police, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and a member of the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing.