Norm Stamper

A Dallas march turned deadly last week as five police officers were shot and killed. This came just days after two more African-American males were shot by white police officers, refocusing attention on our nation’s police departments. Former Seattle Police Chief and long-time police officer Norm Stamper joins us to discuss the tragic violence. He’ll also share his ideas for reforming law enforcement that he lays out in his new book “To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.”

Former Police Chief Norm Stamper on Reforming Law Enforcement Through Community Based Policing 11 July,2016Michael Krasny

Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department; author of "To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America's Police"

  • ck

    I try hard to be sympathetic to the police, because that vast majority of them are good people doing a dangerous, important job.

    But I just can’t abide by how departments and unions alike try to defend these cases. If we the public and the police see a situation differently, it’s more their responsibility to try to understand our perspective than to dismiss it and spout dogma about procedure. Especially when, in these cases, the police were ultimately wrong about how dangerous any of these African American ‘suspects’ were.

    In fact, I’m surprised that police officers don’t distance themselves from the officers in these cases as people who clearly didn’t read a situation properly and were almost robotically fixated on whether the ‘suspect’ was following their orders. There’s more to read in a situation than whether somebody is precisely and promptly following your orders. So often these victims were clearly outnumbered, outgunned, contained, or even subdued. Any reasonable view on the situation would’ve found that the kind of hysterical police behavior seen in these videos was uncalled for. Even if you’re in denial about racial motivations, you can’t deny that these people clearly didn’t act calmly or professionally.


    With all of our advances in science and medicine ,we must find other none lethal ways for the police to deal with citizens in the case traffic stops ,domestic violence ,or dealing with with the mentally ill.

    • Jon Latimer

      None of your examples should ever involve the use of lethal force. Using any kind of force in any of those types of encounters represents the failure of an officer to follow the correct protocols, and in no way protect and serve the public.


    Whether it is trigger happy policemen or criminals ,over the extreme abundance of guns makes life in the U S very unsafe for all citizens including the police……The finality of pulling the trigger on a gun is deadly and our society will be far civilized and safer without guns.


    The fact is near all gun violence death specially in mass shootings ,are committed by guns obtained legally ,the only real gun control is total ban on guns….the fact is gun owners are tens of fold more likely to use their guns to shoot family members ,friends ,or themselves ,than using their guns in self defense.

  • trite

    Perhaps police should not stop drivers for minor infractions like broken tail lights or forgetting to indicate lane changes–yes–revenue might be lost but there would be fewer deadly incidents. And maybe new recruits should be around thirty or so–less showing off and testosterone at play.

  • John

    I’m scared to death of cops, and I’m white. Know your rights, but exercise them with extreme caution. No matter what color you are, assume that any interaction with police could be your final performance on this world stage.

    • ffuser9

      This is exactly what the media is doing to this country. Making people fear the police. Sad that you feel that way. What do you think could be done to change your feelings?

      • John

        Fewer police murders of civilians would certainly help. The ranks of our nation’s police forces seem to be filled with too many trigger-happy mentally unstable, racist individuals. Said police forces are also growing increasingly militarized, with military weaponry and tanks. Fewer guns and more tasers would make me feel safer.

        • ffuser9

          No doubt there is a lot of work that needs to be done with our police forces on multiple levels. I just hope that people can see through the media hype and try to get involved to effect the changes that we need.

  • Marvin

    I think ethical policing, in which criminals go to jail and law-abiding citizens do not, would be a nice idea, but in the USA it seems to be a pipe dream. Example after example seems to show that law-abiding citizens have as much to fear of cops as criminals, if not more because cops are too often cowards with guns who seek to avoid the real work of dealing with real criminals,
    thus they go after “soft targets” i.e. everyday people.
    Case in point, brutal treatment of Occupy protesters.
    People are scared of cops primarily because of cops’ role as corrupt enforcers of the 1%’s will.
    Dirty cops outnumbers good cops.

  • Bob Stone

    Can your guest comment on the fact that cops are 4 times more likely to be killed by a black person than a white person. This is the flip side of blacks being 3 times more likely to be killed by cops than whites. Seems like a big vivacious cycle. Both sides need to stop.

  • Die.Leit

    Is there a proposal for how police officers should approach handcuffing offenders, such as people who lead them on high-speed chases through residential areas and are amped up on drugs, e.g., Rodney King, when the party is resisting arrest? It seems to me, aside from aggressive policing (which can be a problem), that the “big problem” is the behavior of the public, which has become decidedly uncivil in comparison to 1950.

  • Livegreen

    Michael, you are wrong, there is not a pattern of abuse across the nation. You & KQED Forum have focused almost only on anecdotal, occasional incidents by Police admittedly doing badly. You are giving NO coverage to the good things happening in Community Policing and then you act like it doesn’t even exist! In Oakland police officers are meeting community members across the City, have been doing so for decades, including in minority & black neighborhoods. OPD Officers are REQUIRED to actively participate. Where is KQED covering this?

    I agree the Officers in a couple of the recent incidents appear to be guilty of at least racism, and at the most murder. That doesn’t mean guilt by association for other Officers who are trying to do good. And that doesn’t mean Police aren’t trying to solve murders & violence in the inner city. When is KQED going to start covering this, on an ongoing basis? Or is your goal to only build fear and stoke violence, like much of corporate media?

  • Livegreen

    Police across the country are meeting with Communities across the country. Many in minority, black neighborhoods. I know it happens across Oakland. I as a white person have participated in these meetings with my black neighbors, and other residents & media of all colors. Where is the media? Where is KQED covering these good things? Or is your sole goal to sell bad news & stoke fear & violence?

    • ffuser9

      I agree. Maybe for every story about police violence there should be a story or two about the good work that the police do. If all that people here are negative stories about the police, then that’s the kind of opinion they will form about them, a negative one.

      • Livegreen

        Thanks for your positive reaction. It’s so hard to hear positive comments on forums OR in the media.

  • Jon Latimer

    A recent article in Mother Jones points out that the vast majority of these police shootings started as responses to minor offices like traffic stops, broken tail lights, or people simply trying to sell items on the street to make ends meat, all which seem to highlight police actions that disproportionately affect the poor, and as such, seem to support a narrative of a racially charged class war. How could the role of police be reshaped to change the way cities rely on it for public revenue?

  • Colleen Mullowney

    There is a saying in the addict world that doctors and cops have the best drugs because of their unfettered access. From my own interaction with police officers, it seems as their behavior has become more aggressive in the past years. My question is: are officers drug tested when they kill someone while on duty?

  • Ehkzu

    You can’t understand what’s going on with police departments today unless you understand several outside factors:
    1. The Civil War is still going on under the covers, rooted in the fact that while the northern colonies were founded by immigrants from Europe, the slave colonies were founded by white immigrants from the slave plantation of the Caribbean. The latter’s values stem from the fact that slaves don’t like being slaves, and so are inclined to slack off, then escape, and maybe revolt. So the slaveowners must demand absolute control of every situation and not tolerate the slightest insubordination. Sound familiar?

    So cop culture in the South derives from the ubiquitous slave patrols and from this mindset.

    2. Many, many thousands of towns across America don’t have enough of a tax base to support a separate criminal justice system. The easiest way to make up the revenue gap is by “micropolicing” the poor people in the town. This is what the DOJ found was going on in Ferguson. What’s needed here isn’t reforming their police departments, but consolidating the police/court/jail systems of all these small towns to a level that can be supported by the tax base without resorting to predatory policing.

    Of which the worst part is the abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Hearty thanks are due Chief Stamper and Forum for this timely show.

    Two aspects of training would make a huge difference to America’s police and the citizens and communities they are charged to protect.

    1) Training in the Highest Civic Ideals (Good Will Wisdom Principles) proposed for declaration by all citizens, by the STAR ALLIANCE FOUNDATION FOR ALL (

    2) Training and support to practice daily the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique — the most heavily researched and validated stress-reduction technique available — including at least one twenty-minute meditation period during paid hours.

    These two social investments will likely pay for themselves in three to five years — in saved legal/claim costs and other crime-related public expenses alone — not to mention improved efficiencies and qualities of life throughout the cities and towns of America. After the payback period, it would be “pure gravy” for America.

  • ffuser9

    Michael – Why don’t you report on all the good work that the police are doing in the community. Maybe that will help the public see ways that things can be changed for the better.

  • Moishe Pipik

    I was listening and you called the two people who were killed by Police last ween in Louisiana and Minnesota unarmed. Mr. Krasne: Why did you feel the need to lie?

  • Moishe Pipik

    Listen at 1:16 seconds into the show. Here:

    Why does Mr. Krasne lie and say “UNARMED BLACK MEN?”

    Lying doesn’t help anyone.

  • Moishe Pipik

    Why is KQED mis-reporting that Sterling and Castile were “unarmed?”


    This doesn’t help the cause of trying to minimize the risk of people getting shot at police stops.

    • Because they did not have guns in their hands and even more were not pointing guns at anyone. No cop should ever shoot a citizen unless the gun in hand has been positively identified and the gun is pointing at someone. Even if a suspect has a gun in hand, they should not be shot if the gun is pointing to the ground. The police in the USA just do not have the training and desire for deescalating situations and prefer to kill people because it is easier.

      • Moishe Pipik

        That may be true, but they were not “unarmed.”

  • Nube Brown

    I’d like to send a shout out to all the gun-carrying citizens in the Dallas protest who did NOT start shooting at police when the shots started. They were protesting feeling unjustly hunted and gunned down by police and yet, under stressful circumstances they kept their cool. Wow!

  • Excellent interview. Chief Stamper’s comments have the ring of truth and are completely reasonable. I especially appreciated his admonition that until the majority of cops stand up against the police brutality by the minority, and even snitch on their fellow officers, the institution will not be able to change.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor