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Monthly Publication April 2022

Montgomery County finalizes deal to bring police back into schools

By Nicole Asbury

Yesterday at 7:07 p.m. EDT


Police investigate after a student was reported injured in January at Magruder High School in Montgomery County. (Freddy Kunkle/TWP)Montgomery County’s school district and police department privately signed an agreement that would bring law enforcement back into schools effective last week, but they informed the public and county council of the finalized contract Tuesday.

The school system pulled school resource officers out of school buildings last year, later creating a community engagement officer program in which officers patrolled areas around schools but were not stationed inside.

But some families have pushed for a stronger police presence after a string of safety issues — including a shooting at Magruder High School in Rockville that left one student critically injured. Opponents argue the school system should focus on bringing in more social workers, counselors and other resources focused on student wellness, instead of turning to law enforcement.


TWO FALLEN TROOPERS TO BE ADDED TO IOWA PEACE OFFICER MEMORIAL

Alex Dinkla

Sergeant, Iowa State Patrol

515-443-6644

dinkla@dps.state.ia.us

April 26, 2022

DES MOINES, Iowa --- Next Friday, Governor Kim Reynolds, Lt. Governor Adam Gregg, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens and the state of Iowa will honor two Iowa State Patrol Troopers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each of these officers dedicated their lives to serving Iowans to protect and keep our communities safe.

Please join us on Friday, May 6, 2022, to honor these fallen peace officers, as well as the many other Iowa officers who have given their lives in the line of duty over the last 153 years.

IOWA PEACE OFFICE MEMORIAL CEREMONY

Friday, May 6, 2022

10:00 AM

Iowa Peace Officer Memorial

Grounds East of Oran Pape State Office Building

215 East 7th Street

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

(Rain Location: State Capitol rotunda)

FACEBOOK LIVE: Iowa State Patrol

March Publication :2022

Trenton police putting de-escalation training into action

Published: Mar. 08, 2022, 6:52 p.m.

By Vashti Harris | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It began with a call to police. A distraught family member with a knife was threatening to harm himself and others. Trenton police responding to the call that January day utilized new training that helped them de-escalate the situation and take the person into custody.

“To be completely honest with you, the gentleman with the knife created such a life hazard to our officers that under the current attorney general guidelines for use of force, the officers would have been justified in using deadly force, but it didn’t escalate and eventually the person put down the knife and then ask the officers to take it someplace for help,” Training Supervisor Lt. John Harbourt told NJ Advance Media. “One officer spoke exclusively to the man while other officers behind him incorporated their training by feeding the officer questions and statements to help deescalate the situation.”

The department began training officers in de-escalation techniques in September, after a mandate that applied to all departments in New Jersey by then New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

“The current climate out there as society on edge when dealing with police officers,” Trenton Police Director Steven Wilson said. “This training hopefully will smooth that edge out and show the public that the police department is part of the community rather than an us versus them mentality.”

Wilson said the training teaches officers to first assess and evaluate each situation they encounter. Previously, they would separate everyone and then do an assessment.

“That kind of action from the officers can actually escalate (situations),” Wilson said. “We’re training now to do the opposite of that and bring everybody down, calm everything.”

The training helps officers see the difference between situations where they have to respond in the moment and those where they can do an assessment first.

The training, created by the Police Executive Research Forum, have been held at Mercer County Community College. While it is funded by the state, Harbourt said it does generate some salary costs for the department.

Wilson said officers can use the training as soon as they complete the courses.

“So just in a matter of like two or three weeks after this training started, we had a couple major incidents that may have turned out a little differently,” Harbourt said.

The training is also beneficial for younger officers, who have not have the life experience to prepare for some of the situations they encounter, Harbourt said, adding the training helps them understand how to de-escalate these situations.

“If you think about when you have a 23-year-old police officer that lives at home, when they’re walking into a domestic (call), they don’t have a lot of life skills to bring to that situation,” Harbourt said. “We’re giving them a set of tools to help them deescalate a situation in hopes that force won’t have to be used in really any way.”

Wilson said he would have implemented the training for every member of the department even if it wasn’t mandatory.

“This is how we change the culture of policing in the city and certainly in the nation,” Wilson said. “I just hope that the people out there recognize that we’re making positive strides in that direction.”

The training includes Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics, used to help officers de-escalate tense situations. Harbourt said ICAT instructs officers on critical thinking, crisis intervention, communications and tactics.

A second training program, Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement, fosters a culture within law enforcement that supports peer intervention by promoting accountability. The goal is to prevent mistakes, address misconduct and promote fellowship among officers.

Monthly Publication : February 2022

Why cops should consider getting a graduate degree

Graduate degree programs can help law enforcement professionals develop the critical-thinking skills required to navigate the complex realities of modern public safety

Feb 18, 2022


Download this week's episode on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, Spotify or via RSS feed.

The benefits of higher education for law enforcement officers can include improving a better understanding of laws and policies, to becoming a better communicator, both verbally and on the written page, to becoming more socially aware from interaction with professors and peer students.

The University of Virginia has long been linked to law enforcement practices through the association with the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia and with respected law enforcement leaders on faculty, such as Lexipol's Gordon Graham. In this episode of Policing Matters, host Jim Dudley speaks with Bryon Gustafson, assistant professor and director of the Master of Public Safety program at the University of Virginia, about the benefits of a master's degree for police officers.


Rethinking The Police Academy: Nashville’s police department wants to diversify, but its training program has failed many women and people of color

SAMANTHA MAX FEBRUARY 9, 2022

Samantha MaxWPLN News

For the past decade, white men have graduated from the Nashville police academy at higher rates than women and people of color.Karen Hunt Ahmed is just the type of person many police departments say they want to recruit these days: an avid runner with a black belt in karate and multiple advanced degrees. But when she applied to Nashville’s police department, she was 51 years old, with no prior law enforcement experience. As a white woman, she was also in the minority in a department that is almost entirely male.“I thought, you know, I’d actually be an asset to this environment, because I’m pretty tough,” she says. “But also I have kind of the background that might make a difference. I might not make some of the assumptions that get police officers in trouble.”Still, the black belt and book smarts only her got her so far. Hunt Ahmed never made it through her first week at the academy. On her second day, she became one of about 1,000 recruits who didn’t complete their training at Nashville’s police academy in recent years. An analysis by WPLN News and the investigative reporting center APM Reports finds that women and people of color dropped out at the highest rates. Research shows those officers tend to use force less often than their white, male co-workers, and that they can help to build trust with residents who aren’t used to seeing officers who look like them. Then why are so many of those recruits failing their training courses? Or flat-out giving up before they even make it to patrol? “They said they wanted diversity,” Hunt Ahmed says. “But maybe they don’t want it as much as they think they did. Or maybe they don’t know that adding diversity to your force means that you have to maybe look at your force in a different way.”

‘I can be one these new kind of police officers’

A few years ago, Hunt Ahmed considered herself a “suburban housewife” as she pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Nothing about her life hinted at a career in law enforcement. Except this one thing. A little idea that would pop into her head while she was cooking dinner for her family after a long day of classes. “It sounds kooky, but I would watch ‘Law & Order’ and think, that, like, first of all, it’s really cool to be a detective,” she says. “And second of all, that’s exactly what I’m doing in my Ph.D. work, which is learning to ask questions, follow clues, make connections.” Hunt Ahmed thought her background in social psychology would make her a good candidate for a profession struggling to build trust. She had studied the biases that law enforcement has been trying to root out of its ranks. Plus, she was in good shape. For a while, it felt like an unrealistic dream. But then Hunt Ahmed got divorced and lost her job. So, the Nashville native decided to apply to her hometown police department. Hunts months of interviews, physical exams and even a psychological evaluation, MNPD accepted Hunt Ahmed into the academy in 2018.

“I can be one these new kind of police officers that everybody’s talking about,” she thought.

Hunt Ahmed didn’t expect training to be easy. But she didn’t realize just how high the odds were stacked against her.

Data suggest women and people of color seem to have a harder time at the academy.

WPLN News and APM Reports reviewed 10 years of MNPD data and found that between 2011 and 2020, white men graduated at the highest rate, at 83%. Men of color finished their training about 70% of the time. Women of all races graduated only about 60% of the time. The completion rates were lowest for women of color.

To try to understand the disparities, reporters parsed through hundreds of exit reports for cadets who didn’t complete their training. It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason for these high dropout rates.

Some got injured, failed their law classes or cited “personal reasons.” But in one report after the next, recruits mentioned the stress.

“Trainee Valentine stated that he did not think he was prepared mentally to complete the training program,” one report read.

“Trainee Rodriguez Lima stated he was not mentally prepared for the academy,” academy staff said in another.

“Trainee Thomas said she had a lot of anxiety the first day and when it did not go away, she knew this wasn’t for her,” instructors wrote.

That stress stems from the academy’s boot camp atmosphere. There is running and push-ups and bear crawls. Instructors yelling commands. Any minor infraction can lead to public humiliation. And this all starts in the first week. In the opening scene of a promotional video the police department released a few years back, a drill sergeant paces back and forth. In front of him, a few dozen police recruits stand shoulder to shoulder, heads shaved and dressed in suits. “We pride ourself here at the academy on integrity and professionalism, and we demand it from you,” the instructor barks. The instructor warns the cadets that the months ahead will be tough. “The only easy day was yesterday,” he tells them.” You know the rules. We went through it. You better start abiding by ’em or you will pay.” ‘You’re not even a civilian anymore ’“When you’re trying to create all that discipline, you can create too much conformity,” says Norman Conti, a sociologist at Duquesne University. He has been studying police culture since the 1990s.The researcher once wanted to be an officer. But then Los Angeles police beat Rodney King on camera when Conti was in college. Instead of joining law enforcement, he set out to understand how police became this separate group that felt so far apart from the community. Conti says that divide is intentionally bred at the academy. “While everyone else is running away from gunfire or running away from trouble, you’re running towards gunfire. You’re running towards trouble,” he says. “That’s not what a normal person does. You’ve made this choice.” Conti says this harsh treatment of recruits is how many departments teach cadets what they think it takes to be a police officer. It’s a process he calls “degradation,” and it’s commonly used in the military, fraternities, even gangs. First, you beat people down, tell them they’re worthless. “You’re a recruit,” Conti explains. “You’re not a police officer. You’re not even a civilian anymore. ”Then, gradually, he says, you build them up, as a unit. “As the police academy begins and starts to move, they start to adapt and adopt more and more the paramilitary structure, the paramilitary standards,” Conti says. “And as recruits show that they can live up to those standards, that they can follow those standards, then they’re treated better. ”Hunt Ahmed says that, as a social psychologist, she figured the cadets would be pushed to their limits, both to train for the job and to bond as a group. I do know that some people think that is how you build cohesiveness in a kind of paramilitary organization, ” she says. “And I don’t love that. But I knew that it wouldn’t break me, either. ”Did they want to me to break down? ’Hunt Ahmed didn’t mind being yelled at. But just hours into her training, she started to feel like she was being singled out. She says the instructors called her “lazy” and “fat,” that they told her to go home and watch “The Price Is Right” or “Dr. Phil.” No one seemed to be saying that to the cadets in their 20s.They want to make things difficult,” Hunt Ahmed says. “Did they want me to cry? Did they want me to break down? I don’t know. But I didn’t. ”Hunt Ahmed thought she could handle the stress. She didn’t feel like she was struggling with the physical drills any more than the others. But she says the instructors got mad when she asked questions. In an exit report, they accused her of rolling her eyes and interrupting training staff. They said she pushed an instructor. That she was disrespectful. “And the next thing I know, I’m in the captain’s office,” Hunt Ahmed says. She remembers an instructor telling her: “I’ve been disobedient and not doing what they asked and I have a bad attitude and that I need to resign. ”Hunt Ahmed denied the allegations. She said a film crew had been recording her all day, and she asked to review the footage. But she says the staff wouldn’t let her. Instead, they said she could quit or be terminated. And I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to resign,'” she recalls. “And then they said, ‘OK, we’re firing you.'” So, she was gone, and it wasn’t even the end of the first week. Hunt Ahmed was confused. The department had spent so much time and money to recruit her. She had left behind her teenage daughter, moved hundreds of miles and upended her life to join the force. She wanted to learn. To do better. To be part of a new, more diverse generation of officers. But the academy wasn’t willing to give her another chance. The police — what do they want?” she’s still asking herself, more than three years later. “I’m the person they say they want. But then they get rid of me immediately. ”Hunt Ahmed has sued the city for federal age discrimination. Police referred WPLN News to the city’s legal department, which said it couldn’t comment on the details of the case while it is pending in court. “That said, Metro disputes Ms. Ahmed’s version of the events and is confident in its defenses,” a city attorney wrote in an email. But Hunt Ahmed hopes her lawsuit will push the department to rethink its approach to recruitment. After her experience at the academy, she wonders just how committed MNPD is to diversity.



Monthly Publication : December 2022

Lawsuit argues Ohio's police officers aren't meeting state training requirements

Mariah Crenshaw with the advocacy group Chasing Justice discusses their lawsuit filed in Ohio Supreme Court. [Matthew Richmond / Ideastream Public Media]

AUTHOR

Matthew Richmond

PUBLISHED

December 1, 2021

Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement

Mariah Crenshaw has spent years building a case that officers around Ohio are violating state law simply by continuing to serve as officers.

It started in 2014. Crenshaw runs the advocacy group Chasing Justice, and she wanted to know how the Cleveland Division of Police collects training documentation for officers who are hired from other cities.

In 2017, she started following one East Cleveland officer, Larry McDonald, who went from that small suburban police department to Cleveland then, after a short time, back to East Cleveland.

She sought McDonald’s training records and found he wasn’t up to date with the state’s required annual training when he was hired in Cleveland.

“It just kind of exploded from there,” Crenshaw said.

In 2018, she filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas arguing East Cleveland should remove officers from duty who did not fulfill the state’s required training.

That case remains open. Her investigation has since spread to departments statewide.

In early 2021, as a sergeant in the East Cleveland Police Department, McDonald shot and killed 19-year-old Vincent Belmonte. Crenshaw insists McDonald was illegally serving on the force at the time of the shooting.

East Cleveland Chief of Police Scott Gardner requested confirmation of McDonald's compliance with state training requirements from the Ohio Attorney General's office on Jan. 5, 2021, the day Belmonte was killed and received confirmation on Jan. 14.

Under state law, police officers in Ohio are required to complete up to 24 hours of training a year. The legislature budgets money for the annual training, and the Ohio Peace Officers Training Commission (OPOTC), which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, determines what kind of training is required each year.

According to Crenshaw’s court filing, in 2016 for example, officers were required to complete eleven hours of training: two hours on use of force, two hours on de-escalation with a focus on mental illness, four hours on community police relations, one hour on human trafficking and two hours on general law enforcement.

“We found, out of 300 departments we audited, only five were in compliance with the state’s requirements,” Crenshaw said. “The records speak for themselves. They’re not taking the training.”

On Nov. 22, Crenshaw filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court and named Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, state Auditor Keith Faber, OPOTC Executive Director Dwight Holcomb and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.

The lawsuit calls on the state of Ohio to conduct regular audits to ensure that police departments are requiring training and that officers who don’t complete it are removed from duty. It also calls for the removal and prosecution of officers who remained in service after falling out of compliance between 2015 and 2022.

Another issue, according to Crenshaw, is that police departments currently only have to self-report their training each year.

“We have poured through thousands and thousands and thousands of records throughout the state of Ohio and found a disturbing pattern,” Crenshaw said. “No one is watching law enforcement.”

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor O’Malley and Attorney General Yost declined to comment for this story.

Scott Gardner, who took over East Cleveland's police department after Crenshaw’s 2018 lawsuit against the city, said officers in his department are completing the required training. But, he said, it sometimes will happen shortly after the state deadline, and it takes some time for records to be updated.

“I don’t actually know what she feels the remedy is to get back in compliance because, according to her, you’re still out of compliance regardless of what you do to get back in compliance,” Gardner said.

Since Gardner took over two years ago, the department has conducted its own monthly audits of officer training, he said, and they checked with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission to be sure they’re in compliance with annual requirements.

He said officers who fall behind on training can still perform other duties in the department.

“Once you fall out of compliance, you do not have arrest powers,” Gardner said. “There’s still jail duties. There’s still reports that can be taken from the officer. There’s still administrative tasks the officer can perform.”

Crenshaw disputes Gardner’s description of East Cleveland policy.

“They ain’t taking nobody off the street,” Crenshaw said.

Part of the problem, which Crenshaw and Gardner agree on, is the lack of oversight from the state.

“I would welcome it. It would alleviate a lot of issues,” Gardner said. “Right now, I should be able to log in to the OPOTC site and see the status of all my officers.”

Jeffrey Scott, the former head of the OPOTC, which also oversees the state police officer training academy, raised alarm bells about the state’s lax monitoring of officer training during his five months in charge of the commission.

In a meeting with Crenshaw, he said she showed them convincing evidence that some departments were receiving taxpayer funds from the state for officer training, but they weren’t completing the proper courses.

“We were just overwhelmed by her findings,” Scott said. “The state really needs to come in and do a comprehensive forensic audit of these records.”

Police departments are required to submit a signed attestation document saying training was conducted as well as spreadsheets showing how many hours and what kind of classes officers completed.

In Crenshaw’s filing in Ohio Supreme Court, spreadsheets submitted to the state by East Cleveland between 2015 and 2017 showed classes like “Responding to Sexual Assault Module 3” and “Awareness of Cultural Diversity” were completed online in seven minutes. Others appeared to take as little as three minutes.

State law requires local departments to submit a certificate documenting the completion of a required training course. According to Scott, OPOTC ended the requirement because there was no place to store them.

“We have an opportunity to fix this and do it right, but it’s unfortunate we have to go in front of the Supreme Court now to fix this,” Scott said.

At the same time, there are many departments that go beyond what the state requires, Scott said. And many acknowledge that the mandated training makes officers safer and better at their jobs.

In 2021, the state did not require training due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the legislature has budgeted $15 million for training next year. Scott said there is less oversight of how that money is spent than any other grants the state sends out to local governments.

“Nobody is watching the hen house and yet we’re sending out millions of taxpayer dollars with no auditing and no verification, other than an Excel spreadsheet and an attestation sheet,” Scott said. “We hold citizens accountable. Why don’t we have that same expectation of the leaders both at the state and our local level to do what’s right?”



Monthly publication November 2021

Article 1 of 2

Issues Facing Law Enforcement Today: Is Being a Police Officer Worth It?

By University Staff

Police departments are faced with challenges of the 21st century that require fast-thinking critical analysis, strong and ethical leadership, and digital savviness. As the digital age blossoms, public-service careers like nursing and teaching, as well as the field of law enforcement, are filled with job vacancies as they struggle to recruit qualified professionals to serve and protect society. This creates ample opportunity for the educated and motivated to pursue careers in police work.

But is becoming a police officer worth it? Dr. Genea Stephens says “yes.”

"We need to show people how the law enforcement culture really is focused on all the things they are, which is being a force in the community, having a positive impact on people, engaging in our community members' lives to better them," says Dr. Stephens, chair of the Bachelor of Arts in Law Enforcement Administration degree program at the University of Arizona Global Campus.

Dr. Stephens, who previously served as a police officer for 20 years, left the job to pursue her doctoral degree. Today, she's concerned about recruiting millennials to bring police work into a new era as their boomer forebears age out and retire. We spoke with Dr. Stephens about recruiting tactics that are helping to redefine police work through the lens of public service and community.

From Dr. Stephens's perspective, a strong education in criminal justice and law enforcement creates the opportunity to join a police community devoted to shared values and honor, as well as to support the safety and flourishment of one's community at large.

Of course, the sensational 24/7 news cycle keeps combustible issues such as immigration, active shooters, and domestic terrorism in the front of people's minds at all times. While these issues are taken seriously by police, the vast majority of officers rarely engage with anything controversial - most never even fire guns in the line of duty. When officers obtain an education, coupled with the right mindset, their interactions almost always go well.

Most officers are ethical and honest servants of our communities, fostering goodwill and helping citizens get the social services they need in the course of their everyday lives. "There is a great need for the officer to see themselves in a broader perspective, as that link, connecting people to services and bridging that divide," says Dr. Stephens.

Given the complexity of the issues and the roles police officers play, it is important to understand the many benefits of becoming a police officer. Here we highlight five reasons why you should consider becoming a policer officer in 2019.

1. Public service offers a chance to protect the community in which you live

While recent media coverage has highlighted numerous incidents of crime and misbehavior perpetrated by police officers, the focus of the job is the same as it's ever been - to protect and to serve. In fact, the vast majority of police activity is dedicated to making people feel safer and bringing them closer together. Police officers are ambassadors of the public interest and "gatekeepers of the criminal justice system," says Dr. Stephens, and they have the responsibility to behave in ways that reflect the strongest values of the society they represent. Ethical police can create a wave of positivity that spreads through the community, and it starts with educated leaders.

Law enforcement may include more dramatic and adrenaline-fueled moments than the modal career. But most of this work requires softer skills, such as communication, community outreach, and attention to detail. Police officers can build these skills by directly engaging with the public as much as possible, which is why Dr. Stephens advocates for “officers to go out to the schools and have lunch in the cafeteria."

New recruitment strategies encourage the values that progressive police departments want to instill in police and in society, such as inclusion, transparency, and sincerity. Approaches such as the Austin PD’s “show us your tattoo” initiative invite potential recruits to come as they are and learn about police culture in a shared spirit of openness. Effective recruitment communicates the shifting realities of police work and the exciting new opportunities for those who thrive in these changing times.

2. Law enforcement is all about support and leadership

Police officers face uniquely intense and challenging situations, but they don't have to do it alone. They're supported by a team of fellow officers who understand and share their perspective. Each precinct is a strong and cohesive community with its own culture and social bonds that support its members throughout their careers. Funny recruiting videos from departments in Fort Worth and Danbury showcase the personalities, inside jokes, and sense of levity that help officers have fun and stick together through the distinct challenges of their work.

3. Police officers have many specialties to choose from

There's much more to police work than traffic stops, drug busts, and crosswalks. There's an array of specialties within the force. These may include:

  • Federal marshal

  • Highway patrol officer

  • Immigration officer

  • Border patrol

  • Criminal investigator

  • Homeland Security and terrorism prevention agent

Whether you want to investigate crime scenes or prefer to monitor our nation’s borders, there is a career option that aligns with your interests.

4. Law enforcement agencies need more diversity

Large social conversations around issues of diversity are highly relevant to police work. When departments welcome diversity as part of their recruiting strategies and cultivation of talent, they more accurately reflect the communities they serve and can help reduce tensions between citizens and police.

Change means rethinking old assumptions about who people are, what they're capable of, and what they have to contribute. About 12% of all American officers are women, and Dr. Stephens notes studies showing that "women have lower uses of force than male officers." Inviting more women into the fold of professional law enforcement - along with disadvantaged minorities, including people with disabilities - can help change the culture itself, along with public perception.

5. It's not too late to change the narrative

As Dr. Stephens suggests, it's not enough to recognize a problem when you see one - you must be able to ask, "why is that a problem?"

Attaining this knowledge can increase your ability to make more deeply informed decisions and to understand how your work impacts the justice system, the citizens you serve, and society at large. It can enhance your competitive advantage when choosing a job or angling for a promotion.

In its essence, police work is about communication. It's about asking the right questions and knowing how to listen. According to Dr. Stephens, highly qualified officers are more articulate and have stronger communication skills.

“When you're out dealing with the public, those oral communication skills are key," she notes.

If you've considered a career in law enforcement or criminal justice, this is an excellent time to explore what's available. And if you're already in the field, you can take advantage of a greater array of opportunities when you earn a degree - it could lead to promotions, leadership positions, and greater influence on what the culture of police work is to become.

When you earn a degree in criminal justice from UAGC, you give yourself an opportunity to help change the culture and the reality of police work. You strengthen your capacity for rational, critical thinking, and hone your skills as a lifelong learner, a necessary mindset for any great law enforcement officer.


Article Two:

Policing in the Post-Floyd Era

COMMENTARY

(Police1)

A person pays their respects at a mural of George Floyd after the verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Denver, Colorado, April 20, 2021

Photo by Kevin Mohatt/Reuters

by Bob Harrison

April 30, 2021

The verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial is in. While some celebrate that the justice system actually worked, and believe that their voices demanding justice were heard, others aren't so sure and see it as a confirmation that all cops are bad. Others are saddened at the loss of life and aren't sure the media or the police have told them the full story.

No matter what has happened, police professionals want to consider that the protests and crimes committed in the past year are not something to “get through.” They are a bellwether of the future unless and until the police act in different ways and work with the people they serve to create public trust.

Policing alone is a profession whose customers almost never want their service. In truth, some people also don't “want” the police—they want to be safe, and the police are the best way we've figured out thus far to make that happen. Just because our current models of policing are the “way it's always been” doesn't mean the status quo will continue once the maelstrom of the present subsides.

Calls to reform, reimagine, or disband the police can be seen as existential threats, but they present opportunities for progressive change that can work to the advantage of law enforcement. The police themselves largely agree that mental health, homelessness, and many aspects of family issues are better handled by professionals trained in those disciplines.

Even as those shifts in responsibility happen, the police should guard against irrelevance in the public's eyes, and recognize they have an opportunity to exercise leadership to help create a future in which they themselves may not be the beneficiaries.

To that end, there are lessons that can be learned from the case itself, and also from the larger public sentiments about policing nationally.

Lessons from the Floyd Case

There are three things regarding the outcomes of the Chauvin trial and its verdict that should be kept in mind for those who will be doing the actual work to create best-practice policing for the future:

Chauvin's actions, although beyond the scope of his training, can't be dismissed as an act of a “rogue cop.”

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  1. That Chauvin's actions, although beyond the scope of his training, can't be dismissed as an act of a “rogue cop.” An easy conclusion could be that training protocols are already in place and that the use of excessive force was dealt with by the department and justice system. A closer examination of the case reveals a number of issues agencies should confront to respond to expectations in their communities that similar events would not occur in their cities.

  2. That an indictment of all of law enforcement as a result of this incident is an oversimplification of a set of complex social issues, one of which is law enforcement. Addressing poverty, joblessness, and access to health care underlie the dysfunction of many urban communities and contribute to the disorder seen on a daily basis that leads to the presence of the police.

  3. That the protests, riots, looting, and acts of lawlessness may not confirm hopelessness for the future but have created the energy and dissatisfaction with the present condition that is necessary for any change of significance. It is, in short, a generational opportunity to improve public safety.

The police make contact with about 60 million persons age 16 and older each year, and only a fraction of those contacts result in violence or injury to an officer or person they contact. That does not mean that the lack of frequency of this type of incident should be taken as a sign that specific action by police leaders should not be taken. In fact, if they fail to act, legislators and others may be ready to act to end what many see as systemic violence.

From a police perspective, the actions (and inaction) in the Chauvin case could prompt deliberation on three things:

  1. The use of force, especially arrest and control and weaponless defense skills. The inability of officers to control combative subjects has been seen in a number of videos where higher levels of force were employed as arrest and control efforts fail. In addition to de-escalation training, skills to effectively escalate from voice to hands-on control with a minimum of risk for all involved should be taught to automaticity.

  2. The duty to intervene with another officer to protect life, both the subject under the officer's control, and the officer themselves. Other officers present appeared to have had ample time to prevent Chauvin from killing George Floyd, but none did. Their inaction, along with Chauvin's sustained position with his knee on Floyd's back and neck, helped create the tragedy we all witnessed.

  3. Cops are already trained to intervene when they become aware of the unlawful acts of another officer, but it should be culturally reinforced to the point that it is a skill that is ready for use whenever necessary. The reality of peer intervention is one whose difficulty could be underestimated. Peer conformance works against doing the right thing in evolving and dangerous circumstances, although that difficulty should not dissuade agencies from working to address it.

The Police and Their Community—What Now?

No matter how well a police agency performs to suppress crime and maintain order, unless it has the confidence of the people it serves, it is meaningless. Public confidence is built one contact at a time, and by every member of police staff.

Public confidence is built one contact at a time, and by every member of police staff.

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A recent Quinnipiac poll of public sentiments about the police shows that 55 percent of people approve of the way the police are doing their job, while 34 percent disagree (down from a 60 percent approval rate in 2016). Black Americans, however, disapprove of the way the police are doing their job, with a 63 percent negative response; conversely, white Americans' approval rate is at 65 percent. Hispanic Americans are almost evenly split, with a 46 percent approval. Interestingly, when asked about the police in their communities, nearly three-quarters approve of the way their own police force is doing its job. Three lessons can be learned from those numbers:

  1. Confidence in the police has dropped, and a 34 percent disapproval rate is unacceptably high. The absence of substantial commentary by police leaders about why and how funds are spent on public safety, and the reality of daily challenges to investigate crime and bring offenders to justice, allows others to frame the narrative in other ways, many of which advocate defunding or diverting resources to achieve what they see as desired services.

  2. There is a sharp divide in confidence in the police along racial and ethnic lines. This strongly indicates the need to develop approaches to collaboration and cooperation that could be markedly different with different constituencies in more diverse communities, and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to police work will be insufficient to meet the needs of those we serve.

  3. Approval of their local police has dropped from 81 percent in 2016 to 73 percent today. This is significant but also indicates that support at the local level may be much stronger for the police than it is for law enforcement in general. This may mean local support is a foundation from which to sustain or regain support; however, the 8 percent decline in five years also indicates work remains to be done even for those who traditionally approve of their police.

The data reflect distinct differences among the various communities in America's towns and cities, and also that confidence in the police, in general, has slipped noticeably in the past five years.

It is critical to remember that many people don't really want the police—they do, however, want to be safe. The police have been the best way thus far to fulfill the promise of safety, but the recurring instances of police misconduct and use of excessive force, especially against Black males, has eroded public confidence to a point where “business as usual” is no longer enough.

A useful starting point could be both to examine police practice, and also violent crime and homicide data to explore why the police are called for help, and what motivates offenders, so we can address the system, not its symptoms.

Conclusion

In times of great uncertainty, those who can create a compelling vision of the future, and a narrative to describe it to others, may have a decisive advantage to create the futures they see. If law enforcement leaders sit back and allow others to frame that narrative, policing will change—but not in ways they may want. Unless police professionals come to terms with the opportunity to alter the equations of the present in ways they know would serve public safety best, well-intentioned but often ill-informed others may do it for them.

It is comforting to some in the short term to just “circle the wagons” and hope for the best. Doing that, however, could be a path to failure in the basic responsibilities of police—to keep people safe, to identify and arrest those responsible for crime, and to maintain or restore order so people can live their lives without fear.


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