In a recent article, United States mayors have expressed concern for race relations in their cities due to the aftermath of the Ferguson incident. The Ferguson incident that involved the shooting of Michael Brown by former police officer Darren Wilson created chaos that will be the center of future news incidents for years to come. United States mayors will need to utilize a self-organizing process that improves race relations between the local police and the community to overcome this challenge.

According to the article, US Mayors Concerned About Race Relations One Year After Ferguson Unrest, a recent magazine survey indicated that ninety percent of the surveyed mayors are concerned about race relations and police in their community. Thirty percent of the mayors surveyed expressed a deeper concern for their city. Even though the survey represented a sizeable amount of democrats, the survey represented large cross sections of cities according to size, political traditions, and geographic locations. A majority of the surveyed mayors also indicated that their police departments do not represent the racial demographics in their city while thirteen percent indicated that the racial demographics were completely different.

Many mayors are concerned because the lack of unification between their police force and the community is racially polarized which continues to contribute to race relation problems. The cities that have the most problems have a predominately White police force and a majority Black community.

Mayors will have to utilize a transitional model that improves race relationships between their police personnel and the community that they are sworn to serve. The best model that mayors can utilize to improve race relations is a modified self-organization system that was incorporates a system first developed by Margaret Wheatley.

What transitional model can mayors use to improve race relations in their community?

Many conflicts between police officer and community members result from racial dynamics. For example, the killing of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray have widened the trust gap between police personnel and the Black community.

Eric Garner died in Staten Island, New York City, after police officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold for selling loosies. The killing resulted in at least fifty nationwide demonstrations. On July 13, 2015, the City of New York paid the Eric Garner family $5.9 million as an out of court settlement.

Michael Brown was killed on August 9, 2014 by then White Ferguson Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. On November 24, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson. On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Wilson of any civil rights violations and eventually ascertained that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in self-defense.

Finally, Freddie Gray sustained fatal injuries while in the custody of Baltimore police officers. On April 12, 2015, a 25-year-old Black-American man, was arrested for possession of an illegal switchblade. During transportation in a police van Freddie Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center. Gray died on April 19, 2015 of injuries to his spinal cord. On April 21, 2015, six Baltimore police officers were temporarily suspended with pay for the Freddie Gray death pending the result of criminal charges.

Since the racial dynamics can cause cultural and power-related conflicts between the police personnel and the mayor it is best to utilize the modified self-reference self-organizing system. Poor management related to racial conflicts can lead to infighting and a destructive power struggle. If a mayor requires police officers to submit to his/her commands, police personnel become defensive and develop characteristics consistent with organizational malaise and defensive routines that are counterproductive to improving race relations. Implementing a modified self-knowledge self-organizing system can take place without defensive routines that embarrass, upset, or threaten police personnel.

Using a modified self-knowledge self-organizing system will also enhance the racial relations problem by empowering police personnel, which will consequently empower community members. The self-knowledge transitional model that mayors can use to improve race relations has three major components which include self-identity, information, and relationships.

The first step to utilizing the self-knowledge transitional model is to develop self-identity. Self-identity is accomplished by developing a shared vision between a team of police personnel and “connected” community members.

The second step is to provide the team the “appropriate” information necessary to assist the team in accomplishing its self-identity.

US mayors have a great opportunity to improve race relations in their cities by utilizing a modified self-reference self-organization system.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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