The Platteville Prescription

images-4This is my take-away from the Midwest Conference on 21st Century Policing at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville on October 7th. It is a prescription for a way forward for our nation’s police.

1. Community-Oriented Policing.

I define Community-Oriented Policing (COP) perhaps more in the way Robert Peel would have defined it — “the people are the police and the police are the people.” As I have defined COP and practiced it in the past it is a deep, personal and intimate relationship between police officers who work collaboratively with citizens on citizen-defined problems and use the method of problem-oriented policing to achieve results. tt recognizes that the strength of this system of policing rests in an officer’s ability to highly relate to those he or she serves.  In short, one cop, one neighborhood — in relationship — together!.

+++ PLUS +++

2. Procedural Justice (unconditional respect). 

The intention of Procedural Justice is for those who have contact with police, whether, victim or offender, to feel respected. But it is more. More than calling a citizen “sir” or “ma’m.” Procedural Justice gives citizens an opportunity to tell their side of the story. They feel they are receiving procedural justice if an police officer makes decisions in a fair and neutral way, and not on bias. It is about treating all people with dignity and politeness and being able to surmount bias. Practicing Procedural Justice community-wide, by every member of the police department, is a pre-condition to building police trust and support. Without it there will be no trust or support for police. The result  will be diminishing police effectiveness and disconnection responding to crime and other social disorder.

+++ PLUS +++

3. Reducing Deadly Force Use.

Moving more strongly into true community-oriented policing, and impressing upon officers the importance of respectful day-to-day encounters with citizens, are important ingredients in this prescription.  Unless the reduction of deadly force incidents with community members (especially among the mentally ill and people of color) is significantly reduced, all we hope for will be lost in spite of adequately responding to the first two parts of this prescription. The reduction of deadly force use by police will not become a reality if only policy and training change.  I  am talkkinng aabout issattitudes;  ttitudes about the role of police in our society and the importance of not only enforcing the law fairly and effectively but also while obeying the law and a strong commitment to protect lives. The will result in the need to adjust the attitude among many of our nation’s police. They can no longer see themselves as being the “thin blue line.” Instead, they must see themselves as being the keepers of our Constitution and national values and strongly committed not to take lives except in the most extreme circumstances. These attitudes will be adjusted when police leaders model this prescription and “walk this talk.”

=== EQUALS ===

Effective, supported and trusted police.

The goal of this three-part prescription is to build safe neighborhoods in our nation’s towns and cities by working together with their police. This can only happen if police are seen as legitimate sources of authority, worthy of respect, and citizens see them as helpers and not persecutors. The current situation in which police today find themselves is one of great concern.  In the present situation large numbers of our citizens have lost trust in the men and women who police their communities. This is a tragic situation and makes not only the lives of citizens more tenuous and dangerous, but also those of their police.

This way forward must not only be practiced, it must be measured. Police leaders must immediately begin to survey their communities in order to be able to answer whether or not what they are doing in managing crime and disorder is working and whether or not they are supported and trusted by community members. Otherwise, how will leaders know whether or not that which they do is effective in raising support and trust of the community and the overall effectiveness of those whom they lead?

This may not be the only way forward, but in my experience and study, it will  get the job done.


    1. From an email to me by Ed Byrne:

      “Greetings Chief and Padre Couper,

      “I read your blg on Moving Toward Platteville’s 2nd Conference.

      “I think the future of police legitimacy and trust is critical. In our area,
      the Steven Avery casesd continue to haunt all local law enforcement in the

      “The Netflix special was one-sided and somewhat fraudulent, but one valid
      point comes through it: too often, the police look to convict SOMEONE and
      are less concerned about getting the right person, i.e. the actual perp.

      “When I was doing private detective work, and did some cases for the state
      public defender, I found a lot of prejudice in investigations. Once police
      found a viable suspect, they focused on him and never questioned their
      initial suspicion that they might have the wrong person.

      “This is how most of the wrongful conviction cases develop.

      “There’s an attitude adjustmenbt that needs to take place, and I’d see if
      this way:

      1. “We have an adversarial court system: state vs. defendant (criminal),
      complainant vs. respondent (civil).
      2. “While the prosecutor and defense attorney can justify being one-sided in
      their vuision, police should be more circumspect and less biased.
      3. “One of the best cops I know (now retired) was Browbn County Sheriff’s Lt.
      Bill Craig. His approach was always to continually look, as he investigated
      a case, for evidence that would tend to prove a suspect innocent.

      “The officer’s job is to look for evidence of both guilt and innocence. Too
      often, police settle on a suspect and then only look for evidence that
      supports their assumptions of guilt.

      “In one homicide case I worked, for the public defender, a man was charged
      with first degree intentional homicide for slitting his live-in girlfirend’s
      throat with a butcher knife. She died. But he slit her throat after she had
      slit his; he wrestled the knife from her hands.

      “The officers investigating the case were sure that the man killed the woman
      (which he admitted to doing), but they ignored the clear evidence that he
      acted in reaction to her attack on him. The officers completely ignored the
      physical evidence that he had defensive wounds on both hands and forearms,
      and called it a case of frist-degree intentional instead of reckless
      homicide (inperfect self-defense).

      “When I saw the ER photos of the defensive wounds to the man’s hands, I
      brought that to the attention of the DA, who immediately offered a plea deal
      for first-degree reckless.

      “Somehow we need to train police officers to understand that they are
      officers of justice, who actually seek evidence of innocence as much as
      evidence of guilt when investigating any incident.”


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