June 27, 2020

 

Dear PERF members,

I hope you’ve marked your calendars and will be able to join us this Tuesday, June 30, from 12 noon to 2 p.m., for the second half of PERF’s 2020 Virtual Town Hall Meeting.  To register for the meeting, click here.

My staff and I have been doing virtual meetings all week to plan topics for the Town Hall, and to choose PERF members and other experts who are at the front lines of each issue, who have compelling stories to tell, or important perspectives to share.

To give you an idea, here are a few of the issues we have on the agenda as of this morning:

What it’s like to be a police chief these days:  Never has it been more challenging to be a police chief. Even the sharpest, most hard-working and conscientious chiefs have to wonder, “Is something going to happen in my department today that will put me on the front page of every newspaper in the country tomorrow, and not in a good way?” 

We’ve seen chiefs resigning over incidents that they had nothing to do with, including some where the chief had established strong policies and training to prevent the very thing that happened.  All of our longstanding advice still applies, such as “Get information out quickly, even if it’s preliminary. Don’t just sit on a situation.  An apology can help defuse a problem.” But it doesn’t seem like anything is enough these days. 

Reform measures, good and bad:  A lot of cities and states are enacting laws or policies designed to fix perceived problems. Many are clearly good, but others are knee-jerk reactions that could prove problematic.  Some are mixed bags. 

There are a few proposals for reform that we haven’t really heard much before, even in the post-Ferguson years of 2014-16, such as “defunding police” and abolishing police departments and replacing them with new agencies (which is considered a way to cancel union contracts that are seen as obstacles to reform).

Budget cuts are looming:  Even before there was talk of “defunding” police, many agencies were facing budget cuts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which threw the country into a recession. Budget cuts will have immediate and long-term implications for hiring of officers, re-engineering training, technology, and other priorities.    

A new concept:  Create squads of community service officers:  We’ll also discuss a new concept in policing: community service officers who are not armed with firearms, who respond to low-level calls that do not involve serious crimes or crimes in progress. A few police departments, including Seattle and Tucson and campus police departments, have deployed these types of officers over the years.

This is not the same as “community policing officers” who attend community meetings and build up relationships with community groups. Community service officers spend their time responding to calls.  In fact, they’re sometimes busier than regular patrol officers, because so many 911 calls do not involve serious crimes.

What makes this concept attractive is that it could provide a new image of what policing looks like, that is more “guardian” than “warrior.”  

Police culture:  How do we impact the police culture that drives decision-making?   And how do we attract people to the profession who will make a difference?  How can the policing profession achieve a more diverse work force, including more women and people who are attracted to the service aspects of the job, the people who see policing as a way to make a difference in the lives of people who really are disadvantaged?

What does this all mean going forward?  One way of looking at these issues is to keep two questions in mind:  (1) In the future, who will want to be a police officer? and (2) Who will want to be a police chief?  Wouldn’t it be less stressful and more secure to stay at the deputy or assistant chief level?

I hope you’ll be able to join us on Tuesday as we discuss these and many other topics.

Here’s a music video that I hope you will like as much as I did, featuring Sergeant Henry Particelli of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.  Thanks go to the Nashville PD for sharing it with us. Listen carefully to the lyrics.

The Weekend Clips are below.

Best,

Chuck

 

Weekend Clips

PBS NewsHour: Body cameras are seen as key to police reform. But do they increase accountability?

For nearly two decades, law enforcement agencies have explored and implemented the use of body cameras as a tool to help hold officers accountable and make departments more transparent — a way to help rebuild trust with their communities and reduce citizen complaints. Video footage can also enable departments to collect evidence during investigations or better defend their actions during a particular encounter.

And reform advocates have long called for all officers to be equipped with the technology that could help document excessive use of force and its disproportionate effect on communities of color.

But despite widespread support for body cameras — from politicians, reform advocates, and police departments — the rules around who wears them, when they are activated and what is done with the footage can still vary widely from state to state, and department to department. And research on whether the devices affect officer behavior and accountability has shown mixed results.

 

Miami Herald op-ed by PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler: Believe it or not, policing is getting better, but there’s a long way to go

The searing video of George Floyd, gasping for his last breath under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, followed by the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks as he fled Atlanta police, have led many people to question whether anything has changed in American policing. In the almost six years since Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, is anything different?

The answer is, Yes. A lot has changed — although much more needs to be done.

 

ABC 7 New York video: NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea opens up about civil unrest, police reform, caught-on-camera chokehold

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea sat down with Eyewitness News for a candid, one-on-one conversation that comes at a time when he is trying to increase trust between his department and the community amid civil unrest, police reform and the charges against one of his officers for using a banned chokehold.

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