Over the weekend, Congresswoman Karen Bass held a forum on the issue of policing in the African-American community featuring Los Angeles Civil Rights attorney Connie Rice, an appointee to President Obama’s 21st Century Community Policing Task Force. During the forum a number of community members expressed anger at the lack of progress on dealing with the police while Rice offered her formula for making strides in police/community relations. As she summed up, things are not as bad as they were but not as good as they should be.

Rice said the formula for success is to flip the incentives for police – to credit police for handling a situation and not making an arrest instead giving them credit for an arrest or what she said police department’s often call a “righteous shooting.”

For years Rice sued the LAPD filing nine suits in all. She said she came to realize that you don’t change the police by having meetings, conducting marches, or filing lawsuits. To deal with the often-adversarial relationship between the police and the African-American community Rice said she had to work from the inside, “I had to become one of them.”

With the support of LAPD Chief William Bratton, whom she praised, she began the task of helping the police understand the “trust business” not the “arrest business.”

Rice’s efforts with the Community Safety Partnership Police program, dedicating officers for long periods in a specific neighborhood, paid off in building bridges between the police and the community. Attendees at the forum praised the program, admitting they were originally skeptical.

Rice’s success in working with the LAPD lead to her appointment to the president’s commission as well as bringing invitations from Ferguson, Missouri and New York City after the recent highly reported incidents when black men died at the hands of the police.

Despite being referred to as the “Cop Whisperer” by some New York residents because of her record in Los Angeles, she said she couldn’t help them because the NYPD was not ready for change.

Rice admitted as improved as the relationship with the LAPD and the African-American community is today it will never reach nirvana. Policing is a dirty and dangerous business, she said. “It will never be Mayberry RFD.” While there will always be shootings, Rice said, the question should be focused on how the police will respond to shootings. Will the case be swept under the rug or will there be a fair examination?

A number of audience members called for an independent prosecutor not working with the police and for an elected civilian oversight panel with the ability to fire officers.

While Rice acknowledged the potential for conflict of interest with the current prosecutorial system, she argued that a civilian commission would not succeed unless the internal culture of the department is changed. She said, “It is more productive to persuade them than to confront them.”

The president’s commission will present its initial report in March.

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