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Why Are US Police Not Responsible?

Posted on 8th April 2022

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This article on the BBC reports of the recent decision by prosecutors in Minneapolis to file no charges against any of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Amir Locke, who was killed during the execution of another of these no-knock warrants (similar to the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky).

We should all be very worried by this decision. What it means is that police officers are neither responsible nor answerable for their actions, or for any lack of action.

Responsibility and answerability are at the very core of people management. In order to safely and effectively delegate tasks to subordinates, it is essential that the appropriate levels of responsibility and answerability are delegated, along with the actual task, and that matching levels of authority are likewise delegated.

Often, in jobs other than law enforcement, the problem with such delegation is that insufficient authority to do the task is delegated. In the case of police officers, particularly in the USA, it seems that their authority far exceeds the level of responsibility and answerability that comes with that delegation of tasks; the carrying of guns by by those police officers is the most obvious evidence of the scale of the authority that they are given, but there are many other ways in which they have huge authority.

The bottom line is that, in the case of police officers, either the level of responsibility and answerability must be increased to match the level of authority, or the level of authority be decreased to match the level of responsibility and answerability (e.g. by taking away their guns).

At the root of this problem is a failure of management by the people in charge of law enforcement: senior officers and government. If the officers involved in cases like Amir Locke's and Breonna Taylor's are not considered to be responsible for the consequences of their actions, then those in charge must be held accountable, otherwise there the police force is nothing more than a bunch of armed vigilantes.

The current situation cannot be allowed to stand.