Hope For the Future…



Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)

Town Hall Meeting

Orlando, FL

October 26, 2014



A recent copy of “Subject To Debate” from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, DC about a recent meeting of their members gives me great hope that our nation’s police leaders are beginning to see the major problems ahead of them with regard to training, role, the mentally ill, use of force, the handling of protest, and their relations with their communities.


“We don’t spend much time helping the police officers understand their role in a democratic society. And if we want to get this concept of police as guardians versus police as warriors, we need to educate officers in a way that is consistent with that mentality. Right now, we don’t do that. We send conflicting messages. We have training videos that show a 90-year-old woman pull out a gun and shoot a policeman. Well, let me tell you something: I am not going to approach a 90-year-old with my gun drawn. I am sorry, if she shoots me, I am just dead, because that is not the norm that we should train to. And yet we train officers to a large extent to be paranoid, that everyone is out to get us. I don’t mean that we should be silly or careless. But at the same time, we need to understand the uniqueness of our role in society. I don’t think we spend any time really doing that as a profession.” Philadelphia Commissioner Chuck Ramsey


“I believe mandatory arrest policies are a good thing for law enforcement, but they aren’t enough. You can’t just separate the two parties for a period of time and expect everything to be okay the next time they see each other. There needs to be follow-up. Our department utilizes our chaplains program to follow up with domestic violence victims and to ensure they have emergency housing and social services provided to them. They also help to reconcile the relationship between the offender and victim when appropriate. We’ve had good success with this approach.” Fresno Chief Jerry Dyer

“We have looked through our past domestic violence homicides for potential warning signs, and we developed a set of questions about the indicators we discovered. At domestic violence calls, my officers ask the victims a set of about 10 questions, including things like, Has your spouse ever threatened your life? Has your spouse ever threatened your children? Does your spouse own a gun? Has your spouse ever choked you? If the victim answers more than three questions affirmatively, the case is automatically turned over to a social worker. That social worker follows up immediately to offer social services and other assistance.” Montgomery County (MD) Chief Tom Manger


“We have a very robust family justice center in our community. It includes 62 partners who work together with law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and legal aid organizations. We all work together to address every aspect of family violence and abuse, from child abuse to elder abuse. And they’re all related, so it’s important to look at these family violence situations in their entirety instead of just focusing on one aspect of them.” Knoxville Chief David Rausch


“I felt like I was pretty well positioned to understand how to deal with something like Ferguson. I had served as the Tactical Operations Commander in the St. Louis County PD, and much earlier as a patrolman in Tact in the early 1990s. I sit on the St. Louis County Domestic and Family Violence Council. I have good contacts in the communities. I go to the churches; I talk to my community leaders; I am engaged. I was from North St. Louis County, where Ferguson is located. But when this happened—you have no idea how bad it can be, and you have no idea how it can spin out of control unless you have gone through something like this before. We made mistakes here, and I am going to warn you about one that can easily happen: This was so dynamic at the beginning that we forgot how to do the jobs we do every day. Sergeants would look at a problem that they take care of every day on the street, and instead of making a decision, they would look at the lieutenant. The lieutenant would look at a captain, who would look at a colonel, who would look at the chief. Well, I am the chief and I don’t have problems making decisions, but at the end of the day, that’s not how we do things in a police department.” St. Louis County (Mo) Chief Jon Belmar


“Before the NATO Summit in 2012, we made it clear that we were going to come out in a soft look, and we would ratchet up our responses only if necessary. Most of the officers were wearing their regular checkerboard crown caps and light blue shirts. We did have a big confrontation one day of the Summit, because we had information out of the crowd that the anarchists were about to try and break through the lines. When we got the information that they were going to start throwing rocks and bottles, we went to helmets. And then when we got the information that they were going to try and break through the line, that’s when we went to the turtle suits and the riot gear. We did extractions of violent individuals, and the cops who went in and did the extractions were our mobile field forces. They were in the turtle gear. The other thing I did before the Summit was change the use-of-force continuum so that only I could authorize the use of tear gas. I remember being at a community meeting and a woman asked me if I was going to use tear gas to control the crowd. And I said, ‘Well, only if you can explain to me how tear gas controls a crowd.’” Chicago Superintendent Garry McCarthy


“We need to reward people for what we want them to do. I have been placing a greater emphasis on the quality of police work, as opposed to quantity. Community engagement is a key component, yet none of us effectively track or measure it. If all we do is track arrest stats, we are not getting our officers to do all that we need them to do. We get what we reward and deserve what we tolerate. It’s about getting cops out of the cars and connecting with community members when they are not in crisis. That is how you build trust. We can’t wait for a crisis and then try to build trust; it has to happen before that. In Minneapolis we have the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, home to the largest Somali population in the country. This is a group of folks who just innately do not trust police, for obvious reasons. I think that if we can find a way to create procedural justice and a sense of police legitimacy in that community, we can do it across the board anywhere. So we have spent an enormous amount of time teaming up with the Cedar-Riverside community and with PERF on a program to give the community a voice, to have some consistent practices on how our officers respond and how they communicate with people, and to ensure that the community can be comfortable knowing that officers are going to be fair in their response. I think part of it is providing direction from the top down. As the chief, I must define what I want my officers to do and expect them to do, and then I must give them the okay to do it.” Minneapolis Chief Janee Harteau

“I think that the key to these issues is to spend a lot of time as a chief building emotional capital. And by that I mean being out in the community engaging, engaging, engaging. Second is the transparency piece. Information is going to flow immediately, and the problem is that with the radicalization of our communities through social media, you will lose the narrative right away. So we choose to put out information. If we make a mistake, we fix it right away. And third, always be brutally honest with everybody you speak to. One of the things that I think people appreciate about our department is that we don’t worry about political correctness; we worry about speaking the truth. Because even if some people don’t agree with you, if they know that you are constantly on point, are speaking what you believe to be the truth, and are acting with a good heart, they are going to give you a lot of room to operate. And they know that sometimes you’re going to agree, sometimes you won’t. Another thing we have to understand is that when you are dealing with communities of color, at times our officers are being judged not through the prism of the present, but the prism of the past, the prism of history, so they can’t afford to be mediocre.” Austin Chief Art Acevedo


“My father was a police officer. He retired as chief of Miami Beach Police Department. My grandfather was an officer, my great-grandfather was an NYPD officer. So there’s a tradition and the way I was raised, and a certain belief about what the position of police officer is about. My Dad used to tell stories when we were kids, and it wasn’t about a foot chase or getting into a fight. He would come home and talk about helping an old lady whose hot water heater blew up at 2 in the morning. And we’d say, ‘But you’re a cop!’ He would tell us, ‘People call 911 because they need help and they don’t know where else to turn—not because they want you there. Nobody wants police cars parked in front of their house for the whole neighborhood to see.’ So, the way we grew up, and my philosophy, and what I expect from my officers, is that when people call us because they need help and they don’t know where else to go, it is our job to find them help and resolve the crisis, or if we are not the ones to resolve it, to point them in the right direction.” Tallahassee Chief Michael DeLeo


“You get one news cycle to get your narrative out there. You have the 12:00 news, the 4:00 or 5:00 news, and the 10 o’clock news. If you don’t take advantage of those news cycles, there is no chance to catch up. Whatever the narrative that goes out is, there is no chance to catch up. With regard to use of force, sometimes it seems like our young officers want to get into an athletic event with people they want to arrest. They have a ‘don’t retreat’ mentality. They feel like they’re warriors, and they can’t back down when someone is running from them, no matter how minor the underlying crime is. But often there are reasonable alternatives. For example, if your partner already caught one of the other bad guys, that one will probably give up the other folks. Often there’s a way to arrest the suspect later in a safer way.” Dallas Chief David Brown

“When a major event or crisis happens, you can’t wait days or weeks to tell the news media and the public what you know. If your message isn’t timely, it’s not going to be viewed as authentic. If it’s not authentic, you might as well not say it. By and large in Cincinnati, if we have a critical event, we have a press conference within two hours, and we put everything out that we have. We explain that it’s preliminary, but we give it to them so that they know exactly what we know.” Cincinnati Chief Jeffrey Blackwell


“This debate that’s going on about ‘militarization’ of policing is not about equipment, it’s about appearance. It isn’t just the fact that you are marching in a line down the road carrying weaponry. We have to understand that we are not talking about tactics, but about how all this looks. If you’re an urban police department and your purpose is camouflage, you probably ought to be wearing business suits, not jungle camouflage. If our purpose is to have clothing that is comfortable and that will protect us and will allow us to hang all sorts of equipment on our belt, why not have a police-specific tactical uniform that is recognized as civilian police uniform? The more we look like soldiers, the more we will get this criticism, especially in certain communities.” Elk Grove (CA) Chief Robert Lehner

“I was the Secretary of Public Safety in Massachusetts back in 2003, when all the money started going to Homeland Security. Part of that job was administering COPS grants and the DHS grants, and I watched Homeland Security become the monster that ate criminal justice. Most of the community policing funding disappeared, and the money went to first response equipment and command vehicles and all the ‘toys.’ I remember having these discussions and telling the feds that the best thing that they could fund for us was community policing, because community policing is all about developing information at the local level. But the retired generals and admirals told us, ‘No, no, no, take this stuff instead.’ So now, 10 years later, the Senate is shocked, shocked to find out there is ‘militarization of the police,’ whatever that means. I got a call from Senator McCaskill’s people about this issue, and these Congressional staffers are so young, they don’t know any of the history of these grants. So I told them about it, and I said, ‘If Congress is going to make any more interventions into local law enforcement, will you please talk to us first?’ We end up with these kneejerk reactions to a current event, and an instant solution that matches the next news cycle. And then months or years later, we have the wringing of hands because look what happened—the unintended consequences of what we demanded the police to do. We lost a generation of innovation in community policing because the money went to the toys. And now it’s somehow our fault that we’ve got the toys.” Milwaukee Chief Ed Flynn


“One of the strengths of American policing is that we have so many diverse agencies. But there are some areas where we are not going to be able to maintain the luxury of agency-specific practices. This is one of them. This has to be reconciled, because our communities are not looking at the issue in terms of policies at 16,000 or 17,000 separate police agencies. They are looking at this as a single issue of policing in a democratic society. From a law enforcement point of view, I hope we will be able to reconcile these differences, so that wherever I travel, if I attend a political demonstration, if I go to protest, I can have certain expectations with what I’m going to be met with by the police. To give an example, one image that is jarring to me is a police dog at a demonstration. I don’t think this can be justified. You can’t explain that image away.” COPS Office Director Ron Davis


“The truth is that police officers put themselves at risk every single day in every one of our jurisdictions. That’s what cops do, and that’s what we expect of our cops. We don’t expect them to toss their lives away, but we expect them to live with a certain amount of risk. Part of managing that risk is having the training and permission so you know that when circumstances allow, if you don’t need to go in and use deadly force in order to preserve a life, you can back off and contain that situation and take your time. We find in countless circumstances that we are able to say that ‘the use of force was justified under the circumstances.’ But when we go beyond that, head a little bit upstream and look at the circumstances that put us in that situation in the first place, there’s a great deal more that we could and should be doing to de-escalate. I think we all have a responsibility here, and if we can demonstrate that we are acting morally and ethically, that is a better standard than merely acting ‘within the rule of law.’ If I can define that for my officers and for the community, it puts those events where we do take a life in a slightly different context. And I think that helps to engender trust among the people about how and why we use force and when it is necessary.” Toronto Chief Bill Blair

To read the full report, CLICK HERE.