As our country battles with the most recent events involving law enforcement and our communities of color, law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and local elected officials are looking for solutions to fix the mistrust and broken system of transparency among our communities of color and our police officers across the country.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies have attempted to gain trust through community policing initiatives and reshaping the way in which they police our communities including increasing diversity within departments, community outreach, and identifying systemic and cultural barriers to building that trust.
In response to the concerns and challenges within our communities across the country, President Barack Obama called for a task force to find ways to strengthen community policing and trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. This initiative is especially important in light of recent events around the country that have underscored the need for collaborative relationships between local police and the public.
On July 23, I attended a forum in Washington D.C., along with Madison Police Assistant Chief Sue Williams and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, to discuss the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Madison was selected among 10 cities across the country as making progress on community policing initiatives and was invited to attend the forum.
We heard from the Task Force Co-Chairs and committee members as well as law enforcement agencies across the country that have already started to implement some of the report’s recommendations.
The mission of the task force was to examine ways of fostering strong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they protect and to make recommendations to the President on ways policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.
To fulfill this mission, the task force convened seven listening sessions to hear testimony that included recommendations for action. They heard from government officials; law enforcement officers; academic experts; technical advisors; leaders from established nongovernmental organizations, including grassroots movements.
The recommendations surround the very important component in building the relationship between law enforcement and our communities. And that is trust.
Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is an essential component. It is key to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.
The task force recommendations are organized around six main “pillars” including Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Officer Training and Education, and Officer Safety and Wellness.
Below is a brief overview of each recommendation taken from the May 2015, final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
◆Building Trust and Legitimacy Recommendations are that law enforcement should embrace the guardian rather than a warrior mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within the agencies and with the communities they serve. Law enforcement cannot build trust if it is seen as an occupying force coming from outside to impose control on the community.
◆ Policy and Oversight The recommendations focus on the fact that if police are to carry out their responsibilities according to established policies, these policies must be reflective of community values and not lead to practices that result in disparate impacts on various segments of the community. They also need to be clearly articulated to the community and implemented transparently so police will have credibility with residents and the people can have faith that their guardians are always acting in their best interests.
◆ Technology and Social Media, The use of technology can improve policing practices and build community trust and legitimacy, but its implementation must be built on a defined policy framework with its purposes and goals clearly delineated. Implementing new technologies can give police departments an opportunity to fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency accountability, and privacy.
◆ Community Policing and Crime Reduction Over the past few decades, rates of both violent and property crime have dropped dramatically across the United States. However, some communities and segments of the population have not benefited from the decrease as much as others, and some not at all. Though law enforcement must concentrate their efforts in these neighborhoods to maintain public safety, sometimes those specific efforts arouse resentment in the neighborhoods the police are striving to protect.
Police interventions must be implemented with strong policies and training in place, rooted in an understanding of procedural justice. Indeed, without that, police interventions can easily devolve into racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other practices that disregard civil rights, causing negative reactions from people living in already challenged communities.
◆Training and Education, To build a police force capable of dealing with the complexity of the 21st century, it is imperative that agencies place value on both educational achievements and socialization skills when making hiring decisions. Hiring officers who reflect the communities they serve is crucial. To be effective, training must continue throughout an officer’s career.
◆Officer Wellness and Safety, The wellness and safety of law enforcement officers are critical not only to themselves, their colleagues, and their agencies but also to public safety. An officer whose capabilities, judgment, and behavior are adversely affected by poor physical or psychological health may not only be of little use to the community he or she serves, but also may be a danger to the community and to other officers.
It was an honor to have participated in the discussions on how cities across the country are working with their communities to implement the above strategies and recommendations. The Madison Police Department is currently working to incorporate these recommendations within their organization and working with the community to continue the efforts of building trust and transparency. The efforts of current and future plans to address each recommendation will be posted on Madison Police Department’s website.
The City of Madison has adopted a resolution to review Madison Police Department’s Policies and Procedures, culture and training and have recently appointed a diverse group of community residents to serve on the committee and will be referring to the task force recommendations to help guide their work.
We are committed to bringing the 21st Century Policing Task Force recommendations to Madison and look forward to working with our community to ensure that City of Madison is a safe and healthy place to live, work, learn and play for all of our residents.
For further information on the 21st Century Policing Task Force recommendations, you can find by clicking here.