Keep Your Eye On the Policing Task Force

 

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It’s important to stay on top of what the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing is doing. What they do could be of great help in the improvement of our nation’s police. Or not.

Last week they held their meeting in Cincinnati. What worries me is their short timeline — a report date to President Obama in March of the Task Force.

Looking back, I think of the exhaustive work done by the 1967 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. There’s a lot of improvement to be done here and it will take more than body cameras to restore our nation’s trust with regard to police.

But deciding what needs to be done and being able to do it are often two separate things.

Therefore, it is important for citizens and practitioners to make sure the Task Force addresses the actions and policies that have led to mistrust of our nation’s police and the steps needed to restore that broken trust — recommended actions that will actually IMPROVE our nation’s police.

The following is an excerpt from a report in “The Columbus Dispatch” on last week’s meeting of the Task Force by Lisa Cornwell.

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“A presidential task force charged with examining ways to improve police-community relations heard testimony yesterday from researchers, law-enforcement representatives and others with suggestions for strengthening policies and oversight of police use of force…

“Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told task-force members that more attention needs to be paid to preventing use of force. He said a comprehensive approach to clarifying policies and improving areas such as training in tactics and de-escalation skills is needed.

“’Too many departments have training programs that are fragmented, with separate courses on use of force, encounters with mentally ill persons and so forth,’ Wexler said. ‘We need to re-engineer how police training is conducted so that it integrates all aspects of police work in ways that mirror what actually happens’…

“The task force met earlier in Washington, D.C., and plans February listening sessions in Phoenix before meeting again in Washington.

images 1Last month, I sent my recommendations to the Task Force in response to their call for input. In it I emphasized the following:

  • We are at a dangerous crossroad in America following the tragic events in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and others.
  • We must act on a path that has the potential to restore trust and support of our nation’s police.
  • What is at stake is mistrust of our nation’s police. Immediate action must be taken because the effectiveness (and safety) of our nation’s police is directly dependent upon citizens’ trust. Trust is a necessary and essential element in policing a democracy.
  • Technology alone, including body cameras, will not alone restore that trust.
  • What will restore trust is taking the long road of hiring, training, and compensating good, educated, and well-trained men and women in the ranks and developing police leaders who are committed to modern, collaborative leadership and modeling trust-worthy behaviors.
  • This “new breed” of officers must be thoroughly trained and led in effective police tactics and strong interpersonal skills including the ability to manage conflict. This training must be conducted within an adult learning environment which emphasizes the values of our society and the principles and values of our Constitution.
  • These “new breeders” must be called from among the best of our citizens. Restoring trust of our poilce will take time. This is a long-term commitment.
  • The present militarization must cease and a new role of police as community workers, conflict managers, and peacekeepers must now emerge.

My specific recommendations:

  • LEADERSHIP. Police must be led by highly educated and emotionally developed men and women who are committed to a leadership style that is collaborative and avoids coercion and disrespect.
  • DIVERSITY. Police personnel must be as diverse as those they serve.
  • COMMUNITY-ORIENTED POLICING. The original ideas and concept of community-oriented policing must rise above all other methods of delivering police services. It can no longer be an optional way of doing business. It must be the PRIMARY method of service delivery by our nation’s police.
  • LABOR RELATIONS. Police chiefs should work closely with employee organizations and consider appointing their leader to the department management team. The way forward will be by working together.
  • BROKEN TRUST. Police must apologize for the past and work to seek forgiveness for their past behavior as a path to reconciliation and the restoration of trust.