Thinking about our second annual conference on 21st century policing in Platteville on September 16th: The Future of Police Legitimacy and Trust.
These are my preliminary thoughts about the direction of the conference. For those of you who attended last year and those thinking of coming in September, I would like to hear your thoughts..
I think it’s what we all should be talking about, but seem reluctant to do so.
There is a conversation regarding the future of policing in our country that needs to happen. So far, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has adequately addressed the problems facing our nation’s police.
Now action is needed on these recommendations; especially with regard to the first pillar of 21st century policing — police legitimacy and trust.
What we don’t talk about is the specific goal how to go about achieving it. Let me suggest that the goal is to reduce the number of unarmed persons killed by police who are not threatening them with a firearm.
I hope this can be a goal in which both community leaders and police can agree as well as the training and methods to accomplish it.
A ground-breaking supplement to the President’s Task Force report is the “30 Guidelines on Police Use of Force” which was released this January by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). It is a logical supplement to the President’s Task Force report as it addresses the specific problem of the use of force.
Read together, these two documents present a way forward.
Since the “ground zero” days of Ferguson, more than a year has passed in which we have been inundated with striking images from dashcams and cellphone videos. Images which have ranged from questionable to shocking. I believe the result of these images shared throughout the country has negatively affected how citizens view their police; especially how citizens of color view them.
I see seven steps that our nation’s police, along with supportive community leaders, must immediately take in order to restore their legitimacy and trust. Whether you agree with these or not, I hope you will consider them, and even suggest alternatives, as to what I suggest needs to be done.
1. A national “standard of care” needs to be articulated by our nation’s police. From the PERF Guidelines:
- #1 — “The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything a [police] agency does.”
- #7 — “Respect the sanctity of life by promptly rendering first aid,” and
#16 — “Use Distance, Cover, and Time to replace outdated concepts such as the ’21-foot rule’ and ‘drawing a line in the sand.'”
2. Along with this national standard of care there needs to be a national standard for police use of force that is higher than “Graham v. Connor.”
- #2 –“[Police] agencies should continue to develop best policies, practices, and training on use-of-force issues that go beyond the minimum requirements of Graham v. Connor,” and
- #14 “Training academy content and culture must reflect agency values.” From the PERF Guidelines:
3. Police must develop alternatives to using firearms as solutions to standoffs with mentally ill persons not armed with a firearm (those with blunt or edged weapons).
This involves strategies of de-escalation and conflict management along with methods and responses not using a firearm. From the PERF Guidelines:
- #4 — “Adopt de-escalation as a formal agency policy.”
- #9 –“Prohibit use of deadly force against individuals who pose a threat only to themselves,”
- #17 — “De-escalation should be a core theme of an agency’s training program,”
- #18 — “De-escalation starts with effective communication,”
- #19 — “Mental illness: implement a comprehensive agency training program on dealing with people with mental health issues,”
- #20 — “Tactical training and mental health training need to be interwoven to improve response to critical incidents,”
- #25 — “Officers need access to and training in less-lethal options,” and
- #28 — “Personal protection shields enhance officer safety and may support de-escalation efforts during critical incidents, including situations involving persons with knives, baseball bats, or other improvised weapons that are not firearms.”
4. Our nation’s police must dedicate themselves to, and fully implement, the methods and practices of Community-Oriented and Problem-Solving Policing as their primary method of delivering police services.
This step is found in Pillar 4 of the President’s Task Force Report: Community Policing and Crime Reduction.
- 4.1: “Law enforcement agencies should develop and adopt policies and strategies that reinforce the importance of community engagement in managing public safety,”
- 4.2: “Community policing should be infused throughout the culture and organizational structure of law enforcement agencies,” and
- 4.5: “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.”
5. Police need to develop practices and procedures that are both transparent and accountable to the community; this is especially necessary in situation of them having to use deadly force. From the PERF Guidelines:
- #12 — “To build understanding and trust, [police] agencies should issue regular report to the public on use of force,” and
- #13 — “Agencies need to be transparent in providing information following use-of-force incidents.”
6. There must be a formal and on-going community discussion of the President’s Task Force recommendations and PERF’s Guidelines.
7. There especially needs to be an on-going, open and honest dialogue with the communities of color and those who represent mentally ill citizens in our communities.
This is very important because they are primarily the persons who are on the receiving end of police use of deadly force.
So these are my thoughts as we in Platteville begin to structure that day in September when we — police and community — can come together and craft a way forward.