PERF disseminated a survey on November 23, in which we asked our members to share their views about priorities for the incoming Presidential Administration.  As of December 1, more than 375 responses were submitted.


Question 1: Please choose the top 3 issues in policing that you consider most important for 2021 and beyond.

As the graph indicates, the most common response, chosen by more than three-fourths of respondents, was increasing public trust in the police.

The related issue of “addressing police reform” was the #2 response, followed by officer safety and wellness.

Of those who selected “other,” common themes included recruitment and hiring, and issues where public safety and public health intersect, such as drug use and mental health issues.


Question 2: Please choose three areas where you would most like to see federal grant assistance.

The most common response, chosen by nearly 60% of respondents, was that local police need federal assistance for training programs.  Other top priorities include research on “what works” in policing, and grants for police equipment. These three were identified as higher priorities than hiring either sworn or non-sworn personnel.

Individuals who selected “other” expressed a need for funding for community policing endeavors, including exploring non-law enforcement responses to some calls, and building relationships with the community.  

Other respondents reported a need for officer safety and wellness grants, particularly for mental wellness, and for greater analysis of crime and police activity.


Question 3. If you would like to see federal funding for equipment or technology in policing, what types of equipment or technology are you most interested in?

Top responses included the following:

Body-Worn Cameras:  Some agencies, especially smaller ones, said that BWCs are out of reach financially.  Others are concerned that the continued expense for storage of BWC footage and maintenance of the cameras could lead to the cancellation of existing BWC programs. Some respondents said they continue to focus on less expensive dashboard cameras.

Less-Lethal Technologies:  Respondents expressed a great deal of interest in less-lethal technologies. Many expressed frustration with the less-lethal options currently available and hope the federal government will invest in the research and development of new tools and technologies.

Drones: Several respondents mentioned drones as an option in situations such as search and rescue, monitoring civil unrest and peaceful protests, surveilling a location during a standoff, hazardous situations, and accident investigation and reconstruction. Respondents noted that drones can improve the speed of the response and the safety of officers. They are looking for federal support for drone technology development as well as acquisition by local agencies.

Records Management Systems (RMS): Respondents stressed the importance of RMS for quickly finding historical information about a location, person, or event. RMSs also support transparency, as they make it easier for agencies to produce timely reports that can be shared with the community. Sophisticated RMSs can be expensive and beyond the reach of some agencies.

Gunshot Detection Technology: Several respondents noted that gun violence is a growing concern in their jurisdictions, and they believe they would benefit from gunshot detection technology to alert them immediately if there is a shooting. Again, funding to acquire the technology is not available in many agencies.

Other Themes:  PERF members also said they would like federal funding for the following:

  • DNA evidence review
  • Early Warning Systems
  • Officer wellness systems
  • Facial recognition technology
  • National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) access, training, and support.


Question 4: If you would like to see federal funding for training, what training topics are you most interested in?

Top responses included the following:

De-escalation: De-escalation training was the most common type of training cited, with more than half of the respondents saying they would appreciate federal funding to help pay for it. Respondents said that given the current climate of increased protests and distrust of police, police departments are looking for new, innovative ways to reduce use of force and find less lethal means of handling crisis situations. Several respondents specifically mentioned ICAT training and are looking for increased funding to implement it and other types of de-escalation training.

Bias-Free Policing/Community Engagement:  Survey respondents would like to see funding that supports training focused on bias-free policing, cultural diversity, and community engagement. Many emphasized the need for this training at all levels, from patrol to leadership, rather than focusing only on community policing divisions. Respondents see the need for improved community policing services and better training on how to build more productive interactions with diverse communities.

Mental Health CallsRespondents called for funding for specialized training in responding to mental health crisis calls.  Some said that this type of training should be mandatory among all officers. Many respondents are asking for training that includes third parties, such as mental health professionals who can partner with officers on these types of calls.

Officer Safety and Wellness: Given the many challenges that police officers are facing and the negative public perceptions of the police in some neighborhoods, respondents called for additional officer wellness training. This includes specialized training in the areas of resiliency, depression, PTSD, and suicide prevention. Some discussed the need for mental health training to begin at the academy level and continue throughout an officer’s career.

Academy Training: Many respondents expressed a general need for improved academy training. Several called for more training about the recruitment process, to better identify individuals who possess the necessary characteristics that make a good officer.  Respondents also would like to see funding for improved and updated training techniques for new officers.

Several respondents said they would like to see a national police college, where training methods and content could be better standardized and evaluated.

In-Service Training Respondents also noted that training cannot stop after an officer graduates from the academy. Many said there needed to be support for training throughout an officer’s career, including supervisory instruction and executive leadership training focused on accountability.

Specialized Training:  Respondents called for training and technical assistance about how to build, implement, and sustain district-based crime intelligence centers such as the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) or other localized real-time crime centers (RTCCs). Other specialized training needs identified by PERF members included evidence-based policing practices, crime analysis, Compstat, crime gun intelligence, and Crisis Intervention Teams.



What strategies do you consider most effective or promising in crime reduction?

What role can the federal government play in implementing those strategies?

Frequently-mentioned priorities include the following:

Community collaboration:  Many respondents emphasized that collaborating with the communities they serve is essential to crime reduction. To help with this, they said that the federal government could make grant opportunities available for agencies committed to community policing programs, initiatives that increase trust and legitimacy in police, and community dialogue.

Gun violence reduction strategies: Survey respondents reported that strategies aimed at reducing gun violence help to decrease crime in their jurisdictions.

  • Respondents said that technologies such as gunshot detection systems are effective tools for investigating gun violence.
  • They also said that the federal government can assist by increasing ATF funding and emphasis on the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) and the use of regional Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs).
  • Some respondents also called for the enactment of stricter laws to reduce access to firearms by persons with criminal records.

Federal partnerships:  Many respondents asked for more joint investigations with federal and state partners. They want to be able to assign more task force officers to federal law enforcement units. Respondents said they want the federal government to increase the use of regional fusions centers, so information can be shared more easily between participating federal, state, and local agencies. Respondents also said that federally prosecuting firearms and other repeat violent offenders is an effective tool they rely on in their jurisdictions.

Policing standards: Some respondents said that the federal government needs to play a role in standardizing law enforcement practices. Examples include use-of-force training, use-of-force reporting, hiring standards, use of technology, and evidence-based enforcement and investigative strategies.

Diversion programs:  Respondents called for more programs that emphasize deflection and diversion, community-based crime reduction, and initiatives to keep people out of the criminal justice system.

Community-based crime reduction:  Respondents called for greater use of community policing initiatives that:

  • Develop and sustain police/community relationships,
  • Build trust between the police and community,
  • Strengthen outreach to youths,
  • Facilitate prisoner reentry,
  • Embed social workers in police departments to help connect people to community resources, and
  • Use principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Non-law enforcement solutions Many respondents said that, in addition to law enforcement, the federal government needs to focus more on underlying issues that contribute to crime. Suggestions include:

  • Improve public schools and the education system.
  • Invest in housing and infrastructure in underrepresented communities.
  • Improve access to convenient and affordable daycare.
  • Address the demand side of drug addiction with drug courts and counseling opportunities.
  • Fund mental health initiatives, including more treatment facilities and equipping jails to provide treatment to prisoners with mental health issues.
  • Provide more funding for after-school programs and job training/placement for teenagers in low-income communities.
  • Address community blight and infrastructure improvements.



What strategies do you consider most effective or promising in improving relationships between police and the community?

What role can the federal government play in implementing those strategies?


Increasing face-to-face contacts between police and community members:  Overwhelmingly, respondents recommended that police at all levels have more routine, face-to-face contacts with the public. They specifically mentioned “getting out of vehicles,” “taking time to build relationships,” “learning names,” and “taking time to interact instead of racing from call to call.” (Of course, such contacts have been limited since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Educating the public about policing and the police perspective on issues: Many respondents said that police must educate the public about the realities of policing, acknowledge that officers sometimes make mistakes while doing a difficult job, teach the public how to interact with police, and expand Citizen Academy-type training (and even allowing the public to use firearm/decision-making simulators).

Transparency/Accountability/Legitimacy: Many respondents said they are implementing strategies that increase transparency about their work, including successes as well as failures. Respondents said that sharing information demonstrates accountability and increases perceptions of legitimacy of their departments.

Facilitating discussions and listening sessions on difficult issues:  Many respondents said police should hold facilitated dialogue sessions with the public and address issues that arise in their community.



Funding:  The most frequent responses about the federal role were about federal funding for police.  Funding was suggested for a wide range of strategies, including hiring more officers, which would allow officers to spend more time interacting with the public instead of rushing from one 911 call to the next.

Other suggestions for federal funding included Police Athletic Leagues, diversion programs, training, research on effective policing strategies, hiring bonuses for officer candidates from underrepresented groups, and volunteer programs.

“Leaving it to the locals”:   Many respondents said that the federal government should avoid dictating too many changes at the local level. Many said that issues that need attention are often unique to individual localities, and that  meaningful change will come about only when it is championed at the local level.


Question 7: If you had a private meeting with the President on his first day in office, what would you say to him? As a law enforcement executive, what are your greatest hopes for a Biden Presidency?

Following are summaries of respondents’ comments, with the most frequent responses at the top:

Support for law enforcement:  Overwhelmingly, respondents to the survey want President-Elect Biden to publicly support the police and highlight positive steps taken by the profession in recent years towards reform. They would like to hear an acknowledgment that most officers do a good job, and they believe that such a statement of support would provide a boost to police morale. Respondents also said that public support from the President would help correct the current negative narrative regarding police, particularly the view that police officers are biased or racist.

Reform measures:  Many respondents also discussed the current push for reforms in policing and acknowledged that reform is needed. Respondents called for evidence-based, meaningful, realistic, fair reforms to be implemented, and many called for a Presidential task force to develop reforms, with some pointing to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as an example. Several respondents said they want the President-Elect to take a moderate approach to police reforms and to listen to all sides before taking action.

Healing the divide:   Respondents also expressed hope that President-Elect Biden will take a leading role in healing the current divide in society. Respondents felt that over the past several years there has been a growing divide not only between Republicans and Democrats, but between police and the communities they serve.

Learning about what police do:  Another common theme was the desire for President-elect Biden and other policymakers to learn more about the daily work of policing. They called on the President-elect to consult with practitioners, including officers in all ranks from a diverse range of agencies.

Accountability: Respondents noted that officers who engage in misconduct are a small minority, but said that police should be held accountable when they are in the wrong. Respondents would like greater authority to take action when these officers are identified. Respondents mentioned giving police leaders the authority to fire officers, and limiting the ability of unions and arbitrators to reverse these decisions.


Question 8: What do you believe will be the greatest challenges facing a Biden Presidency regarding law enforcement?

Following are summaries of respondents’ comments, with the most frequent responses at the top:

Competing priorities:   Survey respondents noted that President-elect Biden faces a major challenge in trying to balance a range of competing interests: showing support for law enforcement, addressing community concerns about policing, implementing meaningful reform, and fighting crime.

Respondents generally stressed the need for police and communities to find common ground on needed reforms. In the words of one respondent, the President-elect needs to “bridge the gap between police and communities in a way that does not vilify the police or minimize the concerns of the community.”

Lack of trust among officers:  Many respondents said that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris come into office lacking support from many in law enforcement, particularly rank-and-file officers. Several respondents expressed concern that the Administration would adopt a “defund the police” agenda.

Lack of public trust in policing and the criminal justice system: Several respondents said that President-elect Biden comes into office a time of great division within the country, with polarizing agendas from the right and the left. This division has translated into a lack of public trust in policing and the criminal justice system. Again, respondents felt the President-elect needed to publicly take steps to restore public confidence in policing.

Resource issuesSome respondents expressed concern about a lack of resources to adequately fund the basic needs of police agencies and to implement needed reforms. They said that the economic fallout from the COVID pandemic has strained local budgets, with no federal relief in sight. Some said this problem is exacerbated by social issues such as homelessness and mental illness, which directly impact the work of police in many communities.

Other themes:  Respondents cited other issues for the new Administration, including the following:

  • Increases in violent crime and civil unrest, especially in major cities.
  • Staffing shortages in policing.
  • “Partisan bickering” and political obstruction on issues like firearms regulation and police reform.
  • Police unions standing in the way of reform.
  • The news media’s influence on shaping public debate on policing.
  • A perception that President-elect Biden doesn’t understand modern-day policing.


Question 9: Please share other comments about your priorities for 2021 and the long-term future.

Following are summaries of respondents’ comments, with the most frequent responses at the top:

Restoring public support and trustMany survey respondents said that restoring the public’s trust in the police is a priority that must be addressed before other goals can be achieved.

Restoring trust is especially important in minority communities, where support has eroded and in many cases crime has increased. Respondents recommended community engagement strategies, including listening sessions and other mechanisms for soliciting community members’ views, enhanced community policing, and doing a better job of telling the story of good police work.

Reducing crime Many respondents said that reducing crime, especially violent crime, is a priority. Many spoke of the need to address gun violence, including through a stronger response to .50 caliber rifles, other assault weapons, and “ghost guns,” and improvements in the background check process. Other approaches included holding offenders accountable, especially repeat, violent offenders; using evidence-based crime reduction strategies; and community policing strategies that enlist residents and businesses in crime prevention.

Recruitment and retention of officers:  Respondents expressed concern about recruiting enough officers to keep pace with retirements and resignations. Recruiting has become more difficult in recent years. Respondents also said they are trying to recruit officers with the skills and temperament to operate effectively in today’s complex policing environment.

Many said that negative characterizations of the police are creating a stigma against law enforcement careers. Respondents suggested strategies such as public information campaigns, signing bonuses, and other incentives, and some said the federal government should support these efforts.

Investing in training and educationRespondents said that providing their personnel with better training and educational opportunities is a priority. The two training areas mentioned most frequently were de-escalation (using scenario-based exercises) and bias-free policing. Leadership skills were also identified as a priority.

Some respondents recommended the creation of a national police college to improve and standardize recruit training, which would require federal support.

Addressing budget challenges:  Many agencies are facing budget challenges brought on by the COVID-19 recession and the increased costs associated with managing demonstrations. Some agencies are being forced to lay off personnel, delay hiring new employees, cancel or postpone training, or forego equipment purchases.

Other themes:  Several additional themes were identified as priorities for 2021, including the following:

  • Improving officer wellness programs, especially with respect to the stresses of COVID-19 and major protests.
  • Get through the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on protecting police personnel and the community.
  • Continued investment in technology, including body-worn cameras, real-time crime centers, and other systems to support criminal investigations.
  • Police reform and accountability, especially regarding police use of force and officer discipline. Several respondents said the U.S. Department of Justice can play a role here, for example, by reinstating the collaborative reform program.
  • Using data and crime analysis more extensively.
  • Developing alternative response models for calls involving mental illness, drug addiction, and homelessness.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.