Here’s what I think are the top recommendations of The President’s Task Force on Policing at least as far as my experience has taken me.
I have long argued throughout my 30+ year police career, and in the books I have written, that in order to improve policing in America and rebuild trust between police and those whom they serve we need to have officers who are smart, well-trained, controlled in use of force, honest, respectful, and willing to work with people in solving community problems.
To that end the Task Force has helped me make my case. I thank them for considering what I have written. Now the work begins. And the work is that of leadership. What one will our nation’s police leaders do? And how will we help them?
The Top Recommendations (my list)
Building Trust and Legitimacy
1. Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy. Toward that end, police and sheriffs’ departments should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with the citizens they serve (1.1).
2. In order to achieve internal legitimacy, law enforcement agencies should involve employees in the process of developing policies and procedures (1.4.1).
3. Use of physical control equipment and techniques against vulnerable populations—including children, elderly persons, pregnant women, people with physical and mental disabilities, limited English proficiency, and others—can undermine public trust and should be used as a last resort. Law enforcement agencies should carefully consider and review their policies towards these populations and adopt policies if none are in place (1.5.4).
4. Law enforcement agencies should strive to create a workforce that contains a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities (1.8).
Policy and Oversight
5. Law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate (2.2.1).
6. These policies should also mandate external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths (2.2.2).
7. Law enforcement agencies should create policies and procedures for policing mass demonstrations that employ a continuum of managed tactical resources that are designed to minimize the appearance of a military operation and avoid using provocative tactics and equipment that undermine civilian trust (2.7).
Technology and Social Media
8. The Federal Government should support the development of new “less than lethal” technology to help control combative suspects (3.6).
Community Policing and Crime Reduction
9. Community policing should be infused throughout the culture and organizational structure of law enforcement agencies (4.2). Community policing emphasizes working with neighborhood residents to co- produce public safety. Law enforcement agencies should work with community residents to identify problems and collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community (4.5).
10. Because offensive or harsh language can escalate a minor situation, law enforcement agencies should underscore the importance of language used and adopt policies directing officers to speak to individuals with respect (4.4.1).
Training and Education
11. The training innovation hubs should develop replicable model programs that use adult-based learning and scenario based training in a training environment modeled less like boot camp. Through these programs the hubs would influence nationwide curricula, as well as instructional methodology (5.1.1).
12. The Federal Government should encourage and support partnerships between law enforcement and academic institutions to support a culture that values ongoing education and the integration of current research into the development of training, policies, and practices (5.3.2).
13. The Federal Government, as well as state and local agencies, should encourage and incentivize higher education for law enforcement officers (5.11).
Officer Wellness and Safety
14. The Federal Government should support the continuing research into the ,efficacy of an annual mental health check for officers as well as fitness, resilience, and nutrition (6.1.3).
Here are the six recommendations I wrote to the Task Force. You can read the full statement HERE
TOP LEADERSHIP. The number one issue to we face today is the lack of top leadership development within our nation’s police. Too often, police departments are run by those who know little about human nature, psychology, or what we have recently learned about leadership. Top leaders must be people who are learned! For example, I would add my “12 Principles of Quality Leadership” to the LPO program now being offered by the IACP as the way forward. I said this in the 1980s about top leadership in How to Rate Your Local Police:
“The police chief should be a visible and accessible leader who thoughtfully strives to improve the effectiveness of police services. The leadership ability of the chief is the single most important ingredient in a good police agency… Improvements can be made only if the person at the top is willing to challenge the status quo, take risks, be innovative, and build a coalition of support for change. Improvements are not automatic with a committed police chief, but they are impossible with one.”
Years later, I again emphasized the importance of top leadership in “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (2012).
2. Recommendation: Police must be led by highly educated and developed men and women that are committed to a leadership style that is collaborative and avoids coercion and disrespect
DIVERSITY. Diversity alone will not solve the trust problem. It will take smart, formally educated, well-trained police who are also diverse in gender, race, national origin, and sexual orientation to have a truly representative police.
3. Recommendation: Police personnel must be as diverse as those they serve.
COMMUNITY-ORIENTED POLICING. Community-oriented policing necessitates active engagement, presence, and dialogue with the community. Over the years, the term “community policing” seems to have replaced the more descriptive and original term “community-oriented policing.” As a reminder, this post of mine captures what it is and what it is not. Delivering community-oriented services means community members will be listened to, treated with respect, and seen as partners in controlling crime, neighborhood disorder, and solving police-related problems.
4. Recommendation: 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 delivering police services. It must be the primary method of service delivery by our nation’s police.
LABOR RELATIONS. For over three decades the Madison Police Department and, for the last decade, the Boise Police Department have had their police union president sit on their management team. In both organizations they experienced a significant reduction in time-consuming, costly, and contentious formal grievances. This is beneficial for everyone and builds internal trust.
5. Recommendation: Police chiefs should appoint the head of their bargaining or representative police organization to their management team.
REPAIRING BROKEN TRUST. Police officers and their leaders must realize and understand that there are historic and contemporary reasons why they are viewed by significant numbers of people in our society, especially people of color, as untrustworthy. The repair of trust that has been broken will take a long time, perhaps decades, but the move toward reparative acts needs to begin now. I make this argument in a recent weblog: “The Case For Apology.”
6. Recommendation: Police must apologize for the past and work to seek forgiveness for their past behavior.
Good luck and Godspeed in your work.