March 8, 2023
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Intertwining Ethics and Confidence to Regain and Sustain Trust
By Paul Pastor, Ph.D., David S. Corderman, Ph.D., and John Jarvis, Ph.D.
Law enforcement has become increasingly complex, and, in some cases, controversial practices have attracted scrutiny. Social media, coupled with a mood of distrust in public institutions, has contributed to today’s challenging environment. These issues, along with a difficult political climate and an increasingly polarizing press, have, unfortunately, led to considerable separation between agencies and civilians.
While the police hold some responsibility for this discontent, so does the public. Developing and sustaining a relationship of trust is a principal component of community safety and public order, but so is upholding a partnership of coresponsibility between agencies and the communities they serve. Law enforcement leadership plays a crucial role in establishing and enhancing that trust and shared responsibility.
This article explores how police agencies can take a leading role using ethical, principle-led policing to engender and sustain trust and confidence in the services they deliver.1
How can trust and confidence in police services be attained? A crucial start is to reemphasize that public safety is not just law enforcement’s responsibility. Effective public safety services are a shared obligation requiring considerable effort by both police and the community.
Unfortunately, amid controversial events and general mistrust, the concept of coresponsibility too often gives way to distancing and blame accompanied by resentment and further unwillingness to engage with the police. Sometimes, the dynamics of this are clear. Law enforcement views community members who raise issues or voice objections as simply anti-police. In stark contrast, civilians see officers who object to overgeneralized criticism as unwilling or unable to acknowledge their flaws or move beyond the status quo.
Scrutiny and criticism following some law enforcement actions should be expected as the public has a right and, indeed, a responsibility to question police practices. While this does not make agencies’ work easier, it is a fundamental aspect of life in a free society and needs to be recognized as such, not simply resented.
Police officers operating within democracies have powers and responsibilities that differ from those of ordinary citizens. This requires periodic examination and challenge to assure that boundaries are strictly adhered to, especially when they necessarily change over time with evolving political, social, economic, and ethical concerns. Additionally, this dynamic demands the police to take the lead in working with the community.
While misinterpretations of police actions and unfair accusations do occur, accepting significant levels of accountability and inquiry is a vital component of the job. Only by establishing strong, ethical foundations to direct the conduct of law enforcement agencies and their personnel can such outcomes be realized. And, only through regularly reconnecting and realigning with these ethical borders does a police agency’s long-term path become both correct and self-correcting.
Dr. Pastor, a retired sheriff from the Pierce County, Washington, Sheriff’s Department, is president of the board of directors for the FBI’s National Executive Institute Associates.
Dr. Corderman, a retired FBI supervisory special agent, is an internationally recognized leadership training and counterterrorism professional.
Dr. Jarvis is the academic dean for the FBI’s Training Division in Quantico, Virginia.
What is the common denominator in facilitating each of these actions? The agency’s culture.
Agency culture is important to ethical leadership because it is often one of the surest guides or predictors of behavior in organizations. It is said that “culture overwhelms strategy.”2 While culture can stifle adherence to the law or derail plans, directives, and efforts to reform an agency, it can also help organizations prevent personnel from choosing the easy, unethical path over the more challenging, principled way forward.
This holds especially true in times of organizational uncertainty, which many police departments currently experience.3 Accompanying such uncertainty are calls for a “customer-centered” approach to policing while rapid economic, technological, social, and cultural changes occur both domestically and abroad.4
As a result, law enforcement’s mission has become increasingly complex and, sometimes, less clear. Contributing to organizational uncertainty are recent increases in violent crime, including a resurgence of gang violence, and rises in both property and other minor offenses, fueling even more debate about crime-fighting strategies. Additionally, some policy makers urge greater leniency and tolerance toward violators and question whether certain offenses should be handled as criminal violations at all. Combine these developments with an increase in public incivility and controversy about the role, quality, and general cost of government services, and the clarity of policing’s purpose often suffers.5
At both the executive and line levels, a particular concern in many law enforcement agencies is the community’s questioning of not just officers’ actions but also their perceived intentions. As alluded to earlier, mistrust of the police should be and is of particular concern. Recent Gallup polls, as well as other public opinion studies, reflect this anxiety.
The cause of deterioration in the traditionally elevated levels of trust in police can be debated. Some point to scrutiny and criticism associated with recent use-of-force incidents in numerous communities, particularly those that resulted in the death of minority citizens. These include, for instance, the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; Freddy Gray case in Baltimore in 2015; Breonna Taylor case in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020; and George Floyd case in Minneapolis, later in 2020.
These sources of disapproval of law enforcement practices and anger toward the police appear to drive the decline in public trust — reported to be just 45% among the American population.6 However, this differs among some racial and ethnic groups. Trust levels have been reported to be as low as 20% or less among African Americans in similar polls. Recently, there have been slight improvements, but trust remains low compared to past ratings.7
While polling data shows decreasing levels of trust in almost every American institution over the last few years, dismissing this issue as “the new normal for everyone” should be of little solace to law enforcement agencies. They depend heavily on mutual trust and cooperation from the public to accomplish their mission and serve their community, just as the public depends on the integrity of its police to enforce the law fairly.
However, that trust is very fragile, and its dissolution can be exacerbated in many ways, including uncertainty by the public because of crime increases as policy makers try poorly considered approaches to police reform. These may include a lack of criminal prosecutions or unwarranted police behavior, such as inaction — also known as “de-policing.”
Attitudes of intentional disengagement, similar to de-policing, may also occur among officers in these circumstances as a result of confusion, lack of training and preparation, or simply resentment. This derives from official management directives, legislation, or court rulings that set new or revised guidelines for police practices or establish law enforcement policies that vary from former common practices.
Both problems may be found in many jurisdictions around the nation. De-policing as a result of inaction or intentional disengagement contributes to increased crime rates.8
“Effective public safety services are a shared obligation requiring considerable effort by both police and the community.”
Policing is by no means unique as it struggles to accommodate environmental and organizational change. In business, industry, or other organizations, police agencies notwithstanding, existing cultures tend to maintain long-standing practices and preferences. This is true even despite changes in official policies and practices and in de facto deviations in the organization’s social environment. In these terms, agency culture is regarded as regressive, but that need not be the case.
A strong, ethically based agency culture can also serve to resist pressure toward unethical or illegal conduct by segments of a department or local government officials. The key aspect that merits underscoring is that agency culture tends to be an informal and abiding factor in the common practices of police departments. The more ethical these practices become, the more likely a virtuous agency culture can be realized, which, in turn, leads to more credibility and trust — the necessary path forward for law enforcement.
Approaches to Reform
Guiding culture and attitudes; developing positive, ethical norms; and seeing that they become customary, accepted practices allows for the delivery of credible, effective services. This garners community respect, ownership, engagement, and trust.
How does one start this process? Reconfiguring internal agency cultures through police executives who recognize the need and the means to do so is essential.
In recent years, there have been numerous calls to reform police methods. Many times, upgrading police practices has, legally and ethically, been seen as the right thing to do. However, among some agencies and communities, such efforts have had unintended consequences that have been met with public anger and frustration and sparked intense debates. In these cases, reform efforts have created a “fault line” between anti-police and pro-public safety sentiments. Such debates have resulted in more anger and recrimination without providing viable solutions.
This does not suggest that police reform is never needed. Nonetheless, recent approaches to reforming law enforcement agencies are limited as most efforts are an outgrowth of piecemeal responses to the latest headlines or rising political issues. Acting in haste to “do something,” decision makers have too frequently settled for rapid action, rather than a well-considered, more comprehensive change that maximizes effectiveness.
Police reform should combine knowledge of the organizational terrain with ways to build on honorable aspects of existing positive cultural norms within the profession. Reaffirming the core ethical baselines of police conduct will yield dividends of mutual trust and more effective services.
Agency executives must stop passively reacting to police reform ideas from outside of law enforcement and start approaching issues from a more active, proactive, internally directed perspective. Macro approaches to overall analysis of community police services, rather than ad hoc and anecdotal responses to police reform, will more likely produce results.
A case in point can be found in the United Kingdom. Police Scotland recognized these limitations as early as 2013 and transformed its services in recent years to be responsive to community needs via a data-driven and citizen-centric approach.9
“Agency culture is important to ethical leadership because it is often one of the surest guides or predictors of behavior in organizations.”
However, to produce the promise of ethical organizational cultures as agents of change, agencies face three obstacles to real transformation.
The power of existing agency cultures to resist change
The apparent current atmospheric context of public skepticism and distrust
The emergence of piecemeal reactive approaches to reform that can cause unwanted second-level effects
These obstacles can frustrate the goals of change — effectiveness, accountability, and fairness.
Effective police reform must result in greater fairness in decision-making as well as clearer means by which communities can help create conditions where this occurs. The process can best be started, and these outcomes best assured, by law enforcement leaders who examine agency culture and seek ways to alter cultural assumptions and practices and their rationale where necessary. This should be combined with consideration of what should be expected from the community to complement internal agency efforts.
The difficulty of political methods to address police reform is that they seek change through compliance to regulations and oversight outside the culture and norms of policing rather than fully examining opportunities for law enforcement to police itself. This oversight approach is condescending to police professionals and ignores the promise that self-initiated change can have for sustaining desired behaviors as normative practices.
Any approach to improving public safety also requires changes in what community members should expect from themselves. The public has responsibilities to fund and facilitate legitimate police and criminal justice goals. For example, community outreach and accountability can be found in the threads of most calls for police reform, but policing is not possible without citizen involvement in daily law enforcement efforts.
This idea is a key component of Sir Robert Peel’s “Principles of Policing,” the foundational document of the London Metropolitan Police. Peel’s principles assert that “the police are the public and that the public are the police.”10 The importance of law enforcement extending dignity and respect to the public is clear. However, scant attention is typically given to citizens’ responsibilities in this symbiotic relationship.
In 21st century America, Peel’s nine principles might constructively be extended to include some public obligations of responsibility to support the quality and effectiveness of policing as well as the safety and dignity of those involved in delivering police services. Of course, civilians should expect an elevated level of dignity and respect from police. But, there should be a reciprocal expectation of the public. Basic principles of civility should be expected of citizens even as stronger standards of civility must be expected of officers. If the social expectations and obligations of the public are simply ignored, a key component of police-citizen encounters is neglected. Mutual civility is a basic element of coresponsibility.
Values, Ethics, and Police Practice
Law enforcement is organized in America — and many places around the world — as the most decentralized, community-linked government institution. In many ways, it serves as the public’s most easily accessed, frequently encountered government agency, always open and available. Police are expected to respond to myriad calls for service, issues, concerns, and incidents in their jurisdictions.
“Police reform should combine knowledge of the organizational terrain with ways to build on honorable aspects of existing positive cultural norms within the profession.”
Assessing and reinvigorating agency culture to respond to these issues is challenging, but many law enforcement executives already have the needed materials and tools. While no perfect organization or workforce exists, police departments attract people with a commitment to public service. Further, nearly all agencies have statements of vision, mission, and guiding principles meant to provide direction and standards for personnel to follow.
Agencies can follow three steps to upgrade their culture and enable the best qualities of law enforcement personnel.
First, executives should consider the degree to which the content and outcome of police actions square with the agency’s vision, mission, and guiding principles. No department can or will register perfect conformity. While all will fall short of the ideal, a clear-eyed assessment of what an agency stands for and how it delivers its services is both necessary and revealing.
The process will pose questions like “Are we, in our attitudes and conduct, who we claim to be?” This will identify areas in need of attention and change. It will also likely reveal instances of personnel honoring department goals and commitments and “getting things right.” From here, the agency can provide an assessment of what needs to be changed or built upon and reinforced and consider how both might be accomplished.
Second, top leaders should work with staff to acknowledge noted shortcomings as well as strengths and successes. For most agencies, strengths and weaknesses do not exist in a random vacuum. Almost all organizational cultures have existing ethical anchors. The effort of realigning and upgrading can be built beside and around existing strengths.
Beyond these anchors, the work of upgrading and strengthening might involve changes to vision and mission statements. Defining and elaborating on key words may be necessary. Providing examples and actual events in which personnel did the right thing under trying circumstances or made the wrong choices can be useful, providing the latter does not result in gratuitous shaming. This will shine light on the idea that the agency not only has rules, procedures, and policies to guide conduct but also needs to have ongoing commitment from each member to uphold high ethical standards in challenging and risky situations.
The third step involves considering how the mission, vision, and guiding principles will be absorbed into the organization, its social and emotional identity, and its respiration and metabolism. This will require attention and follow-up over the long term. It will also need reinforcement and repetition. The ethical standards need to be adopted, absorbed, and applied in all aspects of the agency’s operations; administration; and interactions with the governing jurisdiction, community members, and external partners.
The proposition offered here is that a clear, straightforward, and simple set of expectations can serve as a behavioral guideline, which blends with the organization’s image.
Building a consensus, elevating the importance of ethical conduct, and then establishing clear expectations for infractions is not complicated. But, it requires strenuous reminders and reinforcement. Fortunately, when it becomes part of the culture, it becomes a strong, self-perpetuating behavioral boundary.
“While no perfect organization or workforce exists, police departments attract people with a commitment to public service.”
Leaders’ responsibilities include preparing the organization for the future — building and developing leaders at all levels and guiding the best personnel into leadership positions. The understanding and commitment of the next generation of leaders is essential to upgrading and maintaining the momentum of an ethically focused culture. This creates the ability to anticipate the need for course corrections in the agency. It establishes a means by which future efforts at law enforcement reform can more frequently emerge from within the profession.
Undergoing a challenging course and doubling down on focus and effort will be necessary to lift the profession; enhance public trust; attract more and better recruits; gain stronger support from elected officials for changes in law, policy, and funding; and pursue the overall mission of policing more effectively.
Building and upgrading an ethical law enforcement agency derives from an idea that is at once profoundly simple as a concept but tremendously complex to realize in practice. The idea is to bring police conduct and culture in line with expressed beliefs and ethical principles.
This method provides agencies with a stronger role in improving the profession and authoring reforms as well as building stronger relationships with the communities served. It gives law enforcement a voice in achieving real police reform. Further, the approach affords a means to reduce the gap between what law enforcement agencies say they stand for and where they stand. In many ways, it is the essence of integrity in policing.
Most important endeavors are difficult. Former President John F. Kennedy, in an address at Rice University on September 12, 1962, spoke to this as he described the emerging American space program. He said, “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard. ...”11 President Kennedy also insisted that the United States was at a critical crossroads in the space program and that the country’s future depended on whether it took action before the close of the 1960s. Perhaps it is not too melodramatic to suggest that the country is once again at a crossroads relative to the future of policing.
Police executives and their staffs choose to lead America’s law enforcement agencies in a time of incivility, mistrust, deep controversy, and increasing violence. They do so not because it is easy or hard but because strong, ethical law enforcement is necessary to the functioning of the United States and the safety of Americans, now and in the future.
“Building and upgrading an ethical law enforcement agency derives from an idea that is at once profoundly simple as a concept but tremendously complex to realize in practice.”
Any errors or omissions are incidental to the drafting of this document, and apologies are offered in advance should any be determined to exist. Additionally, websites or internet resources are not endorsed by the authors or any of the institutions they represent. Further, specific agencies, companies, products, or services are for illustration only and should not be considered an endorsement by the authors, the FBI, or the U.S. Department of Justice.
Pillars of Truth in Law Enforcement’s Past
By Taylor Patterson
Discussion on policies and laws that aim to manage police officer behavior as a means of improving department-wide issues is ongoing. When looking toward the future of law enforcement, it is important to recognize the important insights and pillars of truth embedded in its past.
The principles and values that form a foundation for policing must not only direct officers to act ethically and lawfully but also encourage the building and strengthening of public trust and increase legitimacy. They must foster “rightful policing.”1
Acknowledging the necessity for cultural change that forms an atmosphere for minimizing misconduct is not a new concept and has been part of every significant commission centered around policing.2 Sociologists have expressed the importance of department culture shaping officer behavior since the 1960s.3
Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing, or the Peelian Principles, were devised in 1829 to better guide England’s first modern police force, the Metropolitan Police. These standards were issued to every new officer and laid the foundation for policing.4
Major Patterson serves with the Miccosukee Police Department in Miami and is a graduate of FBI National Academy Session 281.
Although Peel is most often credited for the Peelian Principles, it is unknown who penned them; they were likely written by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the first London police commissioners.5 However, Peel espoused the essence of many of these principles in his speeches and other communications.
“If we think of Colquhoun as the architect who designed our modern police, and of Peel as the builder who constructed its framework, we must remember that there were others who had a hand in the good work, and that a long time elapsed between the drawing of the plans and the erection of the edifice.”6
Peel’s principles are timeless and as relevant as they were in 1829. The ideals contained within these standards can guide any officer today. Though they are not officially a code of ethics, they dictate necessary ethical behavior of law enforcement.
Prevent Crime and Disorder
The first Peelian Principle underscores proactive crime prevention strategies over a reactive crime suppression mindset. It says officers should “prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.”7 Although this principle was shaped within the context of history at the time it was written, it remains relevant.
Public Approval and Respect
Peel’s second principle states “the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.”8 With the media focusing on every questionable law enforcement action, it can be argued that adherence to this principle is more vital today than ever before. Interactions between law enforcement and the community have a huge influence on how the public views policing.9
Establishing and implementing community-oriented policing is instrumental in gaining public assistance and approval. The third Peelian Principle states that “to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.”10 This does not solely mean gaining the community’s willing compliance of the law; it also underscores the necessity of fostering public cooperation and maintaining legitimacy. When this is coupled with a coordinated effort to resolve problems, prevent crime and disorder, and solve crime, the outcomes will allow a department to act lawfully and fulfill its mission.
As quoted by J. Edgar Hoover, “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation. The efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.”11 This is reflected in the fourth Peelian Principle: “[T]he extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.”12
However, distinctions must be made — officers must realize that, as with their duty belt, they have different tools for the job, and they need to transition quickly and effectively when needed. By acknowledging the inherent dangers of police work, that every situation and encounter is different, and remaining firmly focused on the founding principles of policing, officers can achieve public cooperation.
“When looking toward the future of law enforcement, it is important to recognize the important insights and pillars of truth embedded in its past.”
Impartial Service to the Law
Law enforcement has a moral and ethical duty to provide impartial service in the performance of its duties regardless of a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic factors, or politics. Any deviation from this obligation results in an unfavorable impact with legitimacy and public opinion and violates the founding ethical principles of policing. This is the idea behind the fifth Peelian Principle, which says police “seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law. … ”13
Use of Force
Officers cannot be complacent regarding the potential and material violence inherent in law enforcement and must commit physical force as a last resort when warranted. The sixth Peelian Principle states that officers should use physical force “to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order” only when “the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”14 Police officers are guardians, warriors, servants, and so much more.
Police and the Public
The seventh Peelian Principle states that police must “maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”15 This underscores that the police are fundamentally not at odds with the public but rather a part of the public itself, and there is a shared responsibility for the community and the police to further community well-being.
“Peel’s principles are timeless and as relevant as they were in 1829.”
Adherence to Police Functions
In the eighth principle, Peel advises officers to “recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.”16 In other words, police are not expected to be part of the judicial system but rather the front line of the criminal justice system. Officers must remember everyone is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, a concept embedded in the Fifth, Sixth, and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Absence of Crime and Disorder
It is important not to lose sight of one of the founding tenets in policing, exemplified in the ninth Peelian Principle: “To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”17 Law enforcement fails the officer, department, and public when its measure of efficiency becomes solely driven by numbers. Policing’s primary goal is preventing crime and disorder, not effecting arrests. As J. Edgar Hoover stated, “Justice is merely incidental to law and order.”18
How officers prevent crime and disorder is critical to their legitimacy. A department’s leadership that has a solid foundation of ethical standards guides officers, helps form an ideal culture, and influences police behavior within that agency.
The principles of today’s officers will shape and determine what their ethical conduct will be as future leaders. Law enforcement leadership must form an equitable culture of accountability founded in an ethical code. This promotes the idea that implanting and maintaining a culture consistent with core policing principles encourages ethical conduct and decision-making. This will foster legitimacy, trust, and engagement within communities; minimize corruption; and complete law enforcement’s mission more effectively.
January 10, 2023
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Bridging the Gap in Law Enforcement Strategy
By Joseph F. Garbato, M.S.S.
“A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.”
— Proverbs 24:51
In November 2021, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin published an article by the author titled “History Can Inform Contemporary Law Enforcement Strategy,” in which he assessed that today’s strategy is insufficient to meet modern challenges.2
Recently, the author conducted a study of U.S. law enforcement organizational strategy that highlighted potential vulnerabilities. This follow-up article will reveal the purpose, methodology, and results of the study; explain the importance of its findings; and offer recommendations for the law enforcement community.
Based on his experience in law enforcement, the author has questions about the community’s ability to create, articulate, and implement effective strategy at the organizational level. Law enforcement must develop a theory of success separate from corporate vernacular, metrics, and influence — better suited for a mission to protect and serve rather than generate profit.
Supervisory Special Agent Garbato, FBI chair and graduate of the Marine Corps University, is a retired U.S. Army reserve captain.
Analysis focused on the organizational strategies of 279 randomly selected agencies, including a mixture of those at the local, county, state, tribal, and federal level. The study’s driving force lies in the current domestic context of the United States, where law enforcement feels under siege and communities feel betrayed, with hope that research and education can reveal solutions.
This research was based only on open-source data. To this point, if a law enforcement strategy, in part or in whole, is not shared with the public, this leads to questions about transparency and, therefore, trust. Any strategy, however well-crafted, is vulnerable if it lacks sufficient transparency.
The Marine Corps War College Strategy Primer3 establishes the strategic components evaluated. It offers an effective strategic model and a clear, concise, and complete explanation. While its applicability is broad, to include law enforcement, this model is genius in its simplicity. Strategic components offered by the book can be grouped into three categories.
Organizational context includes an agency’s community climate; guiding policy4; and mission, vision, and values. This category establishes the organization’s operational and philosophical environment and its overarching strategy.
Theory of success5 encompasses an agency’s comprehensive plan, consisting of established ends (goals), ways (intermediate objectives) to achieve these ends, and means (necessary resources). For a strategy to be successful, it must include a unifying idea6 that harnesses human capital, more creatively described as a central idea that motivates individuals to pull in the same direction.
Strategic evaluation answers a critical question up front: Why will this strategy work? It includes a detailed risk evaluation; results of an applied strategic validation tool; and an assessment of overall transparency.
Within the categories, each component is evaluated and awarded 1 to 4 points, based upon assessment of significance. There are three critical individual components: “guiding policy,” “unifying idea,” and “overall transparency,” each worthy of 4 points. The highest score per category is 10, with a grand total of 30 points overall, as shown in Figure 1.
Download Garbato Figure 1.pdf — 523 KB
A closer examination of Figure 1 reveals that the maximum number of points an agency can earn is 26 without bonus points awarded for transparency.
Figure 2 outlines how an agency’s overall rating is determined. Ratings are grouped into two separate categories: “effective” and “ineffective” — the result of the assessment detailed in Figure 1. Bonus points are awarded for agency transparency, beginning with 1 point for strategies determined to be “marginally effective,” 2 for “moderately effective,” and so on. An agency that earns the maximum of 26 points receives 4 bonus points, achieving the grand total of 30.
Download Garbato Figure 2.pdf — 266 KB
Based on the rubric, organizational strategies were categorized as either “effective” (rated “moderately effective,” “effective,” or “highly effective”) or “ineffective” (rated as “nonexistent,” “ineffective,” or “marginally effective”). As a community, only 7.2% of the evaluated strategies were rated as “effective,” with 92.8% “ineffective.” A mere 1% met the threshold for “highly effective”; in stark contrast, an alarming 61% were “nonexistent.”
A closer look inside the numbers reveals 16% of the organizational strategies for large agencies — headed by major city chiefs, sheriffs, and federal equivalents — were rated as “effective.” Only 4.3% of midsized departments achieved this mark. Unsurprisingly, 1.9% of small agencies — those with fewer than 50 sworn officers — had an organizational strategy deemed “effective.”
This analysis suggests there is significant room for improvement across the community in strategy development and/or transparency.
Importance of Findings
Why does this all matter? The national context continues to evolve. In the current climate, law enforcement is increasingly criticized because of use of force concerns attributed to bias and racism.7 A resulting political conflict, which has become violent throughout the United States, gives relevance to the assertions of Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th century Prussian military strategist. Clausewitz established war as a continuation of politics by other means, thus, making it an instrument subservient to policy and “absolute war” as war without political purpose.8
“The study’s driving force lies in the current domestic context of the United States, where law enforcement feels under siege and communities feel betrayed, with hope that research and education can reveal solutions.”
In this sense, it is comforting knowing the current context will not divulge into the latter. However, war does reveal itself in many forms, to include a “state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism” or a “struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.”9 The law enforcement community, which falls under the executive branch of government (e.g., federal, state, county, local) meets these struggles every day. Through this lens, it has an obligation to the communities it serves to adapt sensibly.
Although this obligation should be sufficient reason itself, more significantly, adapting sensibly is a matter of national security. Traditionally, the instruments of power (IOPs) wielded to protect U.S. national security were confined to historical tools, to include diplomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME) methods.10 The war on terror led to an expansion of this model, which currently includes financial, intelligence, and law enforcement tools (DIME-FIL).11
Consisting of approximately 18,000 federal, state, county, tribal, and local agencies that employ about 660,000 sworn officers,12 the U.S. law enforcement community is a massive IOP with tremendous capability and influence. Yet, data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicates this IOP uses great restraint. The most recent BJS report indicated that only 2% of persons 16 or older who had at least one contact with police experienced force or threats of force.13
“[A]dapting sensibly is a matter of national security.”
Yet, one egregious incident involving despicable, criminal actions by a handful of officers can tarnish the profession and negatively impact the United States’ influence across the globe in a matter of minutes.14 Each subsequent incident of this type further erodes the nation’s faith, trust, and confidence, domestically and abroad.15 One can even argue it undermines the American experiment and the future of democracy.16
Law enforcement agencies have three courses of action to consider related to strategy, education, and transparency.
First, agencies should develop thoughtful organizational strategies, complete with an organizational context; a theory of success, including a unifying idea; and a thorough strategic evaluation. An adaptive, mindful strategy is imperative for all agencies, large and small. Such a strategy sets an overarching goal, binds subordinate strategies, broadly reduces organizational risk, and maximizes the likelihood of reaching established ends because leadership can anticipate the need for adaptation before it is too late.
Although there are many ways to proceed, law enforcement executives should maintain three specific roles: 1) identify and empower a design team of individuals with the requisite skill sets to develop strategy; 2) provide overall guidance to the team, to include the desired end state; and 3) judge proposed strategies.
Chief executives should ensure the design team is armed with the organization’s guiding policy and a unifying idea. Because diversity is critical, the team should possess a mixture of backgrounds; experience; knowledge; personalities, based on an assessment tool; and perspectives. Further, it needs a process-oriented leader.17 If executed correctly, the process should take time for development to identify potential ways to meet desired ends, address assumptions and drivers, evaluate risk, and account for means. Executives should allow this freedom.
Design teams should provide executives with options (alternative plans), but no plan should be presented before going through a stringent validation process. This process evaluates the strategy’s suitability (test of ends and ways), desirability (test of ends and means), acceptability (test of ways), feasibility (test of means), and sustainability (test of time and means).18
Second, agencies should educate the workforce. This will require strategies to be crafted so all employees can fully understand the desired ends, ways, and available means in context, as well as the unifying idea. Acceptable and unacceptable risks should be clearly delineated. The simpler the strategy the better. A concerted effort must be made to ensure every employee understands and commits to the plan.
Third, agencies should embrace transparency. They should share approved strategies with the public so people may better understand the organizational and strategic context from a law enforcement perspective. Communities have the right to know what the organization intends to accomplish, why, and how. The public also deserves to know the expectations for agency employees, to include a use of force policy.
Simply publishing strategies, policies, and expectations is insufficient. To enhance community impact — that is, to build, restore, or maintain faith, trust, and confidence — these documents should be made readily available in a user-friendly manner. They should be in the form of strategic narratives and exist in a variety of formats to build the trust and acceptance needed to acquire the necessary resources for implementation.
This assessment is offered for the benefit of the U.S. law enforcement community with the purest of intentions and should not be interpreted as either an attack on or indictment of its purpose or practices. The path toward restoring faith, trust, and confidence in this most noble of professions is through acknowledgement, collaboration, education, persistence, relationships, and understanding.
December 2022 News Letter
Cops Say Low Morale And Department Scrutiny Are Driving Them Away From The Job
June 24, 20212:53 PM ET
A demonstrator holds her hands up while she kneels in front of the Police at the Anaheim City Hall on June 1, 2020 in Anaheim, California. Reform pressures have many cops leaving the job.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
The historic calls for police accountability, reform and attempts at racial reckoning have left police departments nationwide struggling to keep the officers they have and attract new ones to the force.
The crisis comes as many cities continue to grapple with the fallout from the pandemic and sharp increases in shootings and murders.
In many places, police morale has plunged and retirements and resignations have soared. A June survey of nearly 200 departments by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit think tank, shows a startling 45% increase in the retirement rate and a nearly 20% increase in resignations in 2020-21 compared to the previous year.
"We are in uncharted territory right now," PERF's Executive Director Chuck Wexler says. "Policing is being challenged in ways I haven't seen, ever."
The exodus is affecting departments large, small and in between. The research group's survey shows that in the largest departments with 500 hundred or more officers, the retirement rate increased by nearly 30%. Overall, new police hiring has dropped 5%.
And the timing of these staffing problems couldn't be worse: multiple cities are seeing startling increases in shootings and murders just as more areas start to return to a sense of normalcy following 15 months of pandemic-induced disruptions. Large cities have seen a 24% spike in killings so far this year, following a more than 30% rise in homicides last year. Overall crime figures, however, went down during the pandemic.
"So at that very moment you're hoping you can put police out there to try to deal with crime, you're seeing the workforce shrinking with an unprecedented number of retirements and resignations," Wexler says.
Washington has pledged to help fight gun crimes
President Biden addressed the sharp rise in homicides and shootings Wednesday. He touted his administration's plan to tackle gun crime by cracking down on gun sellers who fail to run required background checks. The president is also redirecting some $350 billion in federal stimulus money toward police departments in cities where crime is up. The spike in violent crime follows nearly two decades in which violent crime trended downward. "This takes us back to levels, homicide rates, that we would have seen in the late '90s," says law professor Ronald Wright at Wake Forest University.
Exit interviews in the PERF survey and other data show that a key factor in the police resignations and retirements is the national conversation and protests that center on changing what the police do, how they're funded, and how to better hold officers accountable for abuse of force and racial bias.
Some cities are pushing for police to no longer be the first responders for persons in a mental health homeless or substance use crisis. Studies show that nearly a quarter of fatal police encounters followed calls about "disruptive behavior" directly tied to a person's mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder.
"Let's be honest, the conversation nationally has really been very, very much questioning police authority, what they do, how they do it," PERF's Wexler says. "So if you wake up every day and that's what you hear, it takes its toll."
For some officers that toll means a career change.
"You know, cops need to be resilient and they are. But for some, if they have an opportunity to do something different, that's what's happening," he says.
Retaining and recruiting police is proving to be difficult
The recruitment challenge is likely to only get worse as the economy further rebounds in the months ahead. Recruitment was already a serious challenge before the pandemic and racial justice protests, as we've reported.
Making matters worse, it can take on average six months to a year or longer to recruit, hire and train an officer.
As Miami-Dade Police Chief Art Acevedo recently put it in an interview with NPR, addressing the crime surge amid the recruitment challenges is about more than expanding patrols in high-crime areas.
"It's also making sure that you have the proper supervision, the proper oversight and the proper mindset in terms of how we approach the way we treat the community," Acevedo said. "I think when we do that, people appreciate you. If you harass them, then they become, I think, upset, and you start heading your relationship in the wrong direction."
Activists and analysts alike say police leaders can and should do more to actively engage in the fraught and complex national conversation about race and law enforcement underway.
"How do we find a middle ground between where the police need to be and where the reform issues are?" Wexler asks, noting that the areas with the highest spikes in shootings are among the most economically disadvantaged or in communities with people of color. "So the people who most need the police right now, that's what we should be concerned about. Maybe there's an opportunity to to see a way to find a middle ground."
Cash incentives are being offered to potential recruits
The recruiting and retention crisis is affecting departments across the nation. While not a representative sample of the nation's more than 18,000 police departments, the PERF survey includes responses from departments small and large and nonetheless offers insight into a festering problem for American policing.
In Minneapolis this April former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of multiple murder counts in the death of George Floyd. Since his murder the police department there has lost nearly 300 officers from attrition, disability leave and retirements, Minnesota Public Radio reports. So far this year the number of gunshot victims in Minneapolis is up 90% from last year.
In Seattle, police leaders are warning of a staffing crisis after more than 180 officers quit last year and almost 70 others have left so far this year, the AP reports. Exit interviews show the majority who left tired of City Council policies, including threats of layoffs and cuts as well as an anti-police climate.
In Philadelphia from January through April of this year at least 79 Philadelphia officers took the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program, meaning they intend to retire within four years, according to the mayor's office. In the same time period last year, just 13 officers made that move.
NPR member station WGBH reports that in Watertown, Mass., Police Chief Michael Lawn posted on social media to try to attract new applicants last year, just six people attended the event and only two dozen took the civil service test. It was among the suburban Boston town's lowest turnout in department history.
"This job has changed," Chief Lawn told WGBH News. "Nobody wants this job anymore."
Chandler, Ariz., is now offering cash incentives up to $5,000 to try to attract and hire new officers and dispatchers, as NPR member station KJZZ reports. In 2020, the chief in Tempe abruptly resigned. The station says departments across Arizona report recruitment challenges.
In comments to PERF for their report police leaders make clear the challenges are the worst they've seen. PERF granted the officials anonymity so they could speak freely.
"We have seen an approximate 40% reduction in applicant packets this last fiscal year. In addition, we are seeing fewer 'above average' candidates," one official wrote, adding. "The current rhetoric and negativity surrounding law enforcement is having a negative impact on the number and quality of applicants we recruit."
Another senior police official told PERF that many of those are applying are not meeting the minimum requirements. They are "failing either the background investigation or polygraph. Minority hiring, a significant goal, has been considerably more difficult," the official wrote, adding. "Police accountability has been a source of conversation and concern among those who are hired, and those who left."
Survey on Police Workforce Trends
In recent months, the news media have reported many stories about a staffing crisis in policing. For example:
In Seattle, a record 180 officers left the police department in 2020, and 66 more officers have left so far this year. "I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department," Police Chief Adrian Diaz said recently.
In Minneapolis, Chief Medaria Arradondo told a City Council panel that reduced staffing is making his department “one-dimensional,” with officers mostly responding to 911 calls and not having time to do proactive policing.
The PERF Survey
To gauge whether the staffing crisis is a widespread phenomenon or is limited to a small number of departments, PERF fielded a survey of police agencies whose chief executives are PERF members. The survey was conducted from May 10 to May 21, 2021.
The survey started by asking the agencies about the following:
Their current staffing levels, and
Their numbers of authorized sworn positions (as opposed to how many of those positions are actually filled).
Next, the survey asked for detailed numbers about the numbers of officers
who were hired,
who resigned, or
who retired during the 12-month period of April 1, 2020 -- March 31, 2021.
And to learn whether those numbers represented any change from the previous year, we asked for the same numbers for the period April 1, 2019 -- March 31, 2020.
PERF received 194 responses to the survey. While not a representative sample of police agencies nationwide, the responses reflected a mix of departments of all sizes, as detailed below.
On average, agencies are currently filling only 93% of the authorized number of positions available.
Among the responding agencies as a whole, fewer new officers were hired, and resignations and retirements increased in the 2020-2021 period, compared to the previous year.
HIRING: The reduction in hiring was relatively modest, with a 5% overall decrease in the hiring rate among responding departments. Smaller agencies actually saw an increase in hiring, while larger departments experienced dramatic reductions.
RESIGNATIONS: Increases in resignations were more significant. Agencies reported an overall 18% increase in the resignation rate in 2020-21, compared to 2019-20.
RETIREMENTS: Increases in retirements were even larger. Among all responding police departments, there was a 45% increase in the retirement rate. (In small departments, a small number of retirements may result in a high percentage increase in the retirement rate. But even in the largest agencies, with 500 or more officers, the retirement rate increased by 27%.)
Current Staffing Levels
PERF asked for the number of authorized sworn positions in each agency and the actual number of sworn positions filled. On average, agencies filled 93% of their authorized positions as of April 1, 2021.
The percent of authorized positions filled was quite consistent across agency size, with agencies of fewer than 50 sworn personnel reporting the lowest percentage of filled sworn positions.
Percent of Authorized Force Filled
Changes in Staffing Levels
Agencies reported the number of filled positions in their agencies on April 1, 2021 and April 1, 2020.
On average, the number of sworn, full-time positions filled decreased by 1.56% across all agencies that responded to the survey.
Among agencies with 500+ sworn officers, the decrease was most severe, with a 3.13% overall reduction.
By contrast, agencies with 50 to 249 officers only saw a 1.06% reduction in their ranks.
Changes in Hiring, Resignation, and Retirement Rates
As depicted in the chart below:
For the April 2019-March 2020 period, responding agencies on average hired 8.67 officers per 100 current officers.
During the same period a year later, agencies hired only 8.21 new officers per 100 current officers.
That is a 5% decrease in the hiring rate.
For the 2019-20 period, responding agencies reported 4.15 resignations per 100 officers.
During the same period a year later, 4.91 officers resigned per 100 officers.
That is an 18% increase in the resignation rate.
For the 2019-20 period, agencies reported 2.85 retirements per 100 officers.
During the same period a year later, 4.14 officers retired per 100 officers.
That is a 45% increase in the retirement rate.
Changes in Hiring, Resignation, and Retirement Rates, by Size of Department
PERF looked at changes in hiring, resignations, and retirements by the size of the responding agencies.
Hiring: Agencies with 250 or more sworn personnel saw the biggest decreases in the rate of officers hired between the two time periods.
There was a 29% reduction in the hiring rate for agencies with 250-499 officers.
There was a 36% reduction in the hiring rate for agencies with 500 or more officers.
Agencies with fewer than 250 officers actually experienced an increase in the hiring rate over the previous year
Resignations: The smallest increase in resignation rates was found in small agencies with fewer than 50 officers. However, those agencies seem to generally experience higher resignation rates than larger agencies in normal times, with 5.15 resignations per 100 officers in 2019-20. While the resignation rates in larger agencies tend to be lower, the increases in the resignation rate over the past year were highest in medium-sized and large agencies.
Retirements: Agencies with fewer than 250 sworn personnel saw the biggest increases in officer retirement rates:
A 49% increase in the retirement rate for agencies with fewer than 50 officers, and
A 59% increase in the retirement rate among agencies with 50-249 officers.
However, larger agencies also saw significant increases in retirements. Among the largest agencies, with 500+ officers, 4.35 officers out of every 100 officers retired in 2020-21.
Percent Change Between Time Periods by Agency Size
Hiring Rate Change
Resignation Rate Change
Retirement Rate Change
3% (10.09 to 10.42)
11% (5.15 to 5.70)
49% (2.48 to 3.69)
8% (7.51 to 8.08)
28% (3.69 to 4.73)
59% (2.87 to 4.55)
-29% (8.10 to 5.77)
22% (2.81 to 3.42)
19% (3.23 to 3.85)
-36% (8.65 to 5.52)
21% (3.93 to 4.76)
27% (3.43 to 4.35)
Comments by Survey Respondents
Many respondents provided brief remarks characterizing their situations regarding hiring, resignations and retirements, morale within their departments, and related issues. Following is a sampling of these comments. (Quotations are not attributed because PERF promised anonymity to survey respondents.)
Recruiting and Hiring
“My department is getting younger as my experienced personnel retire/resign and are replaced with new officers. We are struggling to keep up with salaries for neighboring larger departments who are recruiting my experienced officers.”
“We have seen an approximate 40% reduction in applicant packets this last fiscal year. In addition, we are seeing fewer ‘above average’ candidates. The current rhetoric and negativity surrounding law enforcement is having a negative impact on the number and quality of applicants we recruit.”
“Social media is a complex issue that we must all address and look into when hiring our applicants. It has created another layer of investigative background work for my detectives. Social media checks have excluded many candidates from our process, because their thoughts and ideals do not align with the guiding principles of our department.”
“We have seen an increase in applicants who have changed careers to enter into law enforcement.”
“Applications have decreased dramatically, making hiring extremely difficult. And our officers have fatigue from working long shifts and covering backfill slots to supplement staffing.”
“We’ve had a more than 50% reduction in the number of applicants for the recruit academy, from an average of 450 per year, to only 205 in 2020. And we’ve seen a 100% reduction in qualified lateral recruits, with zero hired in 2020, compared to an average of 3 to 4 annually since 2008.”
“We have found that traditional incentives do not resonate with the applicants applying to be an officer.”
“I’ve been attracting retired officers who want to stay in law enforcement, but don’t want to work in a city any more, due to politics. As much as I appreciate their service, these applicants don’t really add value to my organization. I need people who want to make this agency their career and stay for the long haul, not a person who only wants to work a year or two, on day shift with weekends off.”
“Hiring has been a challenge. Many who applied could not meet minimum eligibility requirements, failing either the background investigation or polygraph. Minority hiring, a significant goal, has been considerably more difficult. Police accountability has been a source of conversation and concern among those who are hired, and those who left.”
“We are seeing a significant downturn in ‘new to policing’ recruits, and increasing interest from laterals. An increased number of applicants remove themselves midway through the hiring process.”
Resignations and Retirements
“The number of resignations is higher than years ago. People are retiring as soon as they have the minimum required time, either by age or years of service.”
“Senior officers who are able to retire are retiring. They enjoy the work and the people, but are not willing to go through another change in law enforcement with little structural input from all parties. And there’s a belief that violent crime will continue to rise.”
“We have more officers on medical injury leave than ever, and all are trying to medically retire.”
“We have seen the most dramatic increase in retirements / resignations in my six years as chief. Officers who became eligible to retire have done it at the first opportunity. We had a lieutenant resign with 16 years who was not eligible for retirement.”
“In 2020 and 2021, most of our officers who left did not leave for another department. They left the profession.”
“It has been difficult to hire back to our full complement for the past five years. With over 25% of our department retiring since 2016, the candidate pool has gotten smaller and smaller. With another large wave of retirements due in the next three years, it could be an insurmountable task for an agency our size.”
“Our resignations have been at the very ‘new’ level of officers, with under 7 years of service.”
“Officers are no longer waiting to be ‘maxed out’ at their pension to leave. They are leaving years early, collecting a considerably lower pension.”
“I expected more of an exit of personnel due to the national climate, but that did not really materialize.”
“Both sworn and professional staff are frequently retiring as soon as eligible, with fewer personnel staying on to optimize retirement or simply continue to serve the community. Fewer employees are willing to take promotional exams and advance to leadership positions, requiring us to hire ‘from the outside’ for lieutenants and above.”
“Sworn officers are seeking jobs outside of urban policing. Officers have made it clear that they do not want to work the streets as a patrol officer or in the schools.”
“We have seen an increase in separations in all categories. A variety of different issues are presented during exit interviews, but consistently stated is the national climate on policing.”
“Officers are depressed over the negative national narrative about the police. They also have pandemic fatigue.”
“My son just finished his time in the Marines and is now working for a police department. I still feel strongly enough about what we do every day to encourage my youngest son to do the same. I am impressed about how seriously the officers now take the job.”
“There is considerable concern by my officers over the future of policing. Their significant others are pressuring them to leave the profession. All of my resignations were leaving the profession completely, [not transferring to another department]. Also, there is not a hiring pool to replace these officers. The candidates are non-existent or very sub-par.”
“COVID and the summer protests had an effect on each of us. Lately, though, I’m seeing a return to a pre-COVID / pre-protest atmosphere around the building. More laughing, more community engagement, more proactive police work. Our community gives us a 97% approval rating. The officers recognize this.”
“We have a positive and energetic work force, very strong morale, with lots of worry about their future, but their proactive police work has helped drop our violent crime rate by 26% last year. They have appreciated the command staff support as we have managed through [controversial incidents].”
“Our community has continued to support us, and we have benefited by hiring laterals who were in jeopardy of being laid off from their agency, which did not have the same amount of community support.”
“We are fortunate to work in a community that still supports its police department. However, the negative climate surrounding law enforcement has definitely affected morale. Officers are researching other careers in preparation to retire once they complete their 20 years of service and are eligible for retirement. This is different from a few years ago, when officers were planning to stay 30 to 40 years with the department.”
“There has been massive attrition, so nearly every person in the department has had to change the way they conduct police work. The greatest casualty of this has been proactive work on the patrol level. On the bright side, crime analysis to best deploy limited resources has gone from a frill to a necessity.”
October 2022 New Letter
Why Education is Important in Criminal Justice
Value of Education
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Posted on November 30, 2020
The following is an updated version of an article originally published on ColumbiaSouthern.edu and written by retired police Sgt. Thomas Dworak.
Criminal justice professionals are creative individuals. Focused and innovative solutions, founded in research, can guide us through the challenges we face.
As law enforcement officers, we can find these solutions by expanding our knowledge and challenging ourselves through education in criminal justice. Knowing what has been tried before is an important part of finding solutions, and formal education in criminal justice can provide that background.
Sir Robert Peel's nine principles of policing are as applicable today as they were in the 1800s, but they can be improved. We have come a long way in how we train our law enforcement and corrections officers, though we can always do better.
When we’re taught a technique or skill, we may be left wondering how to use it on the street in an active environment. As law enforcement professionals, we need documented, research-based training to lead us to positive change. A criminal justice degree will give you a solid base and drive you to ask, "That sounds right, but where is the research?"
Each generation of law enforcement and corrections officers leaves its mark on the criminal justice profession and the communities they serve. Be a change agent and help lead the next cultural shift in your criminal justice career.
Advance Your Career
Obtaining a criminal justice degree will provide personal and professional development, along with a feeling of pride and accomplishment. A criminal justice degree will impart the “why” to go with the “how” you already perform.
At Columbia Southern University, our faculty and graduates are innovators and industry leaders, influencing policy and moving the field of criminal justice forward. Our students learn about the judicial process, police and community relations, writing in criminal justice, technology trends, and more.
For more information about our online associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/CJ.
Rich LeCates, Director, Product Management, Public Safety Analytics, CentralSquare Technologies
In the never-ending search for ways to combat crime more effectively, one thing is clear: the ideal solution is to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place. Since the 1990s, many law enforcement agencies around the world have been using some form of intelligence-led policing for crime prevention.
After nearly three decades, however, there is still much controversy and, surprisingly, not much empirical evidence to either support or discredit this data-driven approach to crime prevention. Nevertheless, agencies that have implemented intelligence-led policing have reported compelling results.
So, where does intelligent policing stand today? Is it truly a viable, practical approach to crime prevention? And can it be implemented successfully while avoiding issues like profiling?
Defining Intelligence-Led Policing
When it comes to data-driven law enforcement, two approaches come to mind: intelligence-led policing and predictive policing. While these approaches are not mutually exclusive, there is a difference. Predictive policing uses computers to analyze the big data regarding crimes in a geographical area in an attempt to anticipate where and when a crime will occur in the near future.1 While it does not go so far as to identify who will commit the crime, it does pinpoint hot spots to help law enforcement anticipate the approximate time of day and area of town where police might anticipate another crime. Armed with this information, police can be placed more strategically to either thwart a crime in progress, or even better, prevent a crime from taking place.
Intelligence-led policing, on the other hand, attempts to identify potential victims and potential repeat offenders, then works in partnership with the community to provide offenders with an opportunity to change their behavior before being arrested for a more severe crime.2 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, intelligence-led policing is “a collaborative law enforcement approach combining problem-solving policing, information sharing, and police accountability, with enhanced intelligence operations.”3 It is designed to guide policing activities toward high-frequency offenders, locations, or crimes to impact resource allocation decisions. An important component of intelligence-led policing is that it encourages—and, arguably, depends on—collaboration among various agencies and the community, including not only local police, but other local law enforcement, the FBI, homeland security agencies, and even probation and parole officers.
In short, predictive policing is concerned with where and when crime may happen, while intelligence-led policing, which often includes predictive policing, focuses on preventing victimization.
Data Is King: How Intelligence-Led Policing Works
Although today’s data-driven approaches incorporate sophisticated technology and analysis, predictive policing has been in use for decades, albeit in a more rudimentary form. Police have long used information about crimes in a particular area to identify patterns and anticipate where the next crime is likely to occur. With the advancements in technology, agencies now use computers and data models designed to track patterns, along with additional factors, such as time of day, weather, geography, and “aftershock” areas—those in which a crime has been successful and are ripe for repeats of the same crime (e.g., gang retaliation)—to build complex models that identify the potential for future crimes.4 Law enforcement can then focus their resources on these hot spots.
Likewise, intelligence-led policing leverages data. The data on which it focuses, however, are already in the law enforcement agency’s system, and the analysis centers around an individual, not a geographic area. Intelligence-led policing gathers domestic incidents, arrests, criminal records, traffic stops, and gang activity, and allows law enforcement to run analytics against those data. These analytics help law enforcement identify offenders who are more likely to be repeat offenders of a particular crime or group of crimes. Law enforcement can then track those individuals, observing when they move from one class of offense to another. If an offender repeats an offense, police are alerted of that individual’s history, giving them an opportunity to intervene in an effort to prevent more criminal activity.
Theory Meets Reality: Does It Really Work?
Intelligent-led policing sounds very promising in theory, but does it work in the real world? As evidenced by the agencies across the United States who have been using it for the past decade, the answer is yes. What do statistics say?
• In 2012, the RAND Corporation performed an independent study of the use of predictive technology by the Shreveport, Louisiana, Police Department and concluded that “the program did not generate a statistically significant reduction in property crime.” However, the study acknowledged that it looked at only a few districts over a limited time period, which weakened the statistical significance of the study.5
• A 2014 paper published by the American Statistical Association in 2015 studied the use of predictive policing algorithms versus the use of dedicated crime analysts in three divisions of the Los Angeles, California, Police Department and two divisions of the Kent, United Kingdom, Police Department. They determined that models predicted 1.4 to 2.2 times as many crimes as the dedicated analyst and led to an average 7.4 percent reduction in crime as a function of patrol time.6
• In another example, the police force in High Point, North Carolina, applied intelligence-led policing to domestic violence offenders and found these offenders were often connected with other criminal activity, such as drugs, assault, and robbery.7 Domestic violence offenders have a tendency to believe their chances of being caught are very low because only one out of every five incidents are reported. However, knowing that perpetrators of one type of crime are likely to commit other types of crime makes it easier for law enforcement to track and identify these individuals if they are picked up for other crimes. When this happens, the police take the opportunity to warn them of the consequences of continued violence and, hopefully, deter them from further abuse.
High Point has been successful in applying this same technique to gang intervention.8 When one gang is attacked, police know there will often be retaliation, so they talk to the members of both gangs and give them a deterrence message, telling them what to expect from law enforcement if retaliation does occur.
While these examples show the potential successes of intelligence-led policing, it’s important to remember that a key to measurement in all results is found in agency participation. As discussed in the Shreveport example, the limited data use by only a handful of districts reduced the significance of the study’s findings.
Chicago Police Department: Reducing Gun Violence with a “Strategic Subjects List”
The Chicago, Illinois, Police Department (CPD) has used intelligence-led, predictive technology to reduce gun violence based on prior arrests, gang membership, and other factors using a Strategic Subjects List (SSL) of people estimated to be at highest risk of being involved in gun violence—either as a perpetrator or a victim.9 Police warn the individuals on the SSL that they are being monitored. Analysis revealed that more than 70 percent of those who were shot and more than 80 percent of those arrested for shootings were on the SSL. The researchers also found that more than 40 percent of homicide victims had been arrested together with a group of individuals who, combined, made up only 4 percent of the population in the community of 82,000.
Another RAND study concluded that individuals on the SSL were no more or less likely to be a victim of gun violence, although they are more likely to be arrested for gun violence.10 However, the Chicago Police Department publicly disputed that study, citing the following problems:
• It did not evaluate the prediction model itself (as the study indicated), but, instead, focused on the impact of the intervention strategy.
• The study evaluated a much earlier version of the CPD’s Custom Notification intervention strategy and prediction model, which had both evolved significantly.
• The research implied that the model used race, gender, ethnicity, or geography, rather than crime data only.11
Social and Civil Rights Concerns
One of the biggest concerns about intelligence-led policing is that it perpetuates over-policing in minority neighborhoods, rather than eliminating bias.
Opponents of intelligence-led policing have raised the following objections:
• The entire premise is flawed because the computer-based analysis looks only at data entered by humans, and those data are taken from an already biased police force that targets minorities and minority neighborhoods.
• Intelligence-led policing could lead to hostile confrontations between police and residents. For example, if a car theft occurs in one neighborhood, police might consider everyone walking down a street in that neighborhood a suspect and possibly unnecessarily harass them.
• Predicting more crime in a specific neighborhood will encourage more officers to be assigned to that area, which will naturally lead to more arrests. In this scenario, a feedback loop would form, which perpetuates the notion that the neighborhood in question is more susceptible to crime than another neighborhood.
• Tracking specific individuals who are considered potential perpetrators or victims of crime, even when they have done nothing wrong, borders on an invasion of a person’s right to privacy.12
Proponents of intelligence-led policing counter these arguments by citing some compelling details behind areas where the approach has been tested and found to be successful. Computer-based analysis, they claim, eliminates any bias that might be inherent in human-based decisions to target perpetrators and neighborhoods where crimes are predicted to appear.
Tampa, Florida: Community Collaboration
It might come as a surprise to those concerned about social and civil rights that intelligence-led policing has been shown to bring law enforcement and the community closer together when applied appropriately. Take, for example, the Tampa Police Department’s Focus on Four crime reduction program, which was responsible for a 46 percent decrease in crime over six years.13
The Focus on Four concept included strategies to reduce the four most frequently occurring crimes in the city by developing intelligence-based responses that embodied elements such as partnering with the community. Officers became more engaged with the community, which increased public support and reports of crime-related information based on officer-citizen interactions. For example, summer programs were developed in each district to address juvenile-related crime problems that occurred when school was not in session. Within that same six-year period, the program led to a 51 percent reduction in summer crimes.
The Tampa Police Department acknowledged that implementing an intelligence-led policing program could not have been possible without community support and involvement. To encourage this involvement, the department implemented “email trees,” enhanced neighborhood watch programs, and a reverse 911 program to send out information about hot spots to the community.
Not surprisingly, areas with increased police presence have shown a dramatic decline in the incidence of crime. What is surprising is that crime in surrounding targeted areas also decreased. It appears that, instead of pushing criminals into surrounding areas, criminals who are comfortable in one area will avoid committing crimes in unfamiliar territory.
Proponents also claim the greater goal of intelligence-led policing is to prevent a crime from ever happening rather than to catch a perpetrator during or after the crime has been committed. Once a crime occurs, property damage is likely to occur or a person is likely to become a victim. Rather than law enforcement considering everyone a suspect, police in targeted areas will become more proactive in the community by asking residents if they have seen anything suspicious, thereby leading to better community-police relations, as well.
Using Data Is Only Part of the Solution
As important as data analysis is to the goal of preventing crime, it is only one part of the solution. In every instance where intelligence-led policing was implemented, it was one component of an overall strategy that included executive sponsorship, staff reeducation, design and implementation of programs that utilize the data, and more. In every case, the law enforcement agency that implemented the approach also endeavored to ensure people, programs, and equipment were in alignment. Most importantly, however, the human factor is the primary driver of success. Ultimately, people analyze and interpret data; people decide how to use it; and people from agencies work together with people from the community to put these data-driven programs into action and ensure their success.
According to the FBI, the number of crimes reported in 2017 has decreased overall compared with 2016.14 While this is a positive development, the search for ways to advance that trend continues. From improving how we provide health care to unlocking the secrets of the universe, data have made it possible for us to make advances in crime prevention that were never thought possible only a decade ago. While empirical evidence of the effectiveness of intelligence-led policing is still lacking, law enforcement agencies around the world have built a very strong case for this data-driven approach. Pitfalls such as profiling or invasion of privacy are certainly important to avoid, but respecting people’s rights must always be a consideration in any approach to crime prevention. With continued refinement of how data are analyzed, coupled with programming that utilizes data intelligently and encourages agency and community collaboration, intelligence-led policing will continue to strengthen its role as a deterrent to crime.🛡
How Police in One City Are Using Tech to Fight Gangs
Predictive technologies promise to let police fight crime before it happens. But do they work?
March 02, 2018 • J. Brian Charles
A High Point, N.C., police officer in 2016.(David Kidd)
The High Point, N.C., Police Department is nationally known as a leader in innovative policing, particularly on issues of domestic violence. Over the past decade, High Point's dedicated strategy of "focused deterrence" has led to a three-fold drop in domestic abuser homicides. Predictive policing, or as High Point would say, “intelligence-led policing,” has been part of the strategy to reduce domestic crimes.
Now, the department has been expanding that approach, applying it to efforts to reduce crimes committed by street gangs. But as policing has gone high tech, questions continue to arise about the boundaries between good policing and violations of people's constitutional right to privacy.
In 2017, High Point experienced an uptick in gang violence. One street gang would attack, often with firearms, prompting the rival gang to retaliate.
But by utilizing a new database system, the police department was able to identify connections between victims, their gang allies and potential targets of violence. Then, officers were able to intervene in gang disputes before the violence escalated.
“We know it’s likely that the group on the receiving end is [then] going to be on the giving end," says High Point Police Chief Kenneth Shultz. "So our strategy is to go out there and deliver a message: ‘We know you guys are going to retaliate. If you do, here is what is going to happen.’”
Once a group or individual has been identified as likely to commit a future crime, High Point police make contact with them, either in a formal meeting or an informal discussion, apprising them of the consequences of future actions. The idea is to convince them that the risk is not worth taking.
“We need to drive up their risk assessment so they are deterred,” Shultz says.
High Point officials believe the strategy has worked.
Officers in the field have told Schultz the data has allowed them to intervene in conflicts before retaliatory violence occurs. But there is no data as of yet measuring the impact of intelligence-led policing on gang violence in High Point.
The idea of predictive policing is not new. Veteran law enforcement officers have always been able to predict some crimes to a certain extent.
What's changed in recent years is the technology that enables police departments to take those observations from the field -- those patrol officers' hunches -- and turn them into data and, eventually, into actionable strategy.
In an era where police departments have been deploying fewer officers, this kind of smart policing has become critical, says Simon Angove, the CEO of Superion, the technology company that produces the ONESolution database software used by High Point police.
“One of the challenges police forces around the country face are staff shortages. With a much smaller police force, we need to be smart about how we deploy those resources,” he says.
Superion doesn’t tout ONESolution as a predictive policing software, instead calling it "intelligence-led policing." Predictive policing focuses on the where and when of crime. It weighs historic crime patterns, weather and personal information on suspects and attempts to predict general times and locations that crime will occur.
Intelligence-led policing, meanwhile, focuses on people -- who is likely to be the victim and who is likely to be the suspect.
Similar predictive technologies have been implemented by police departments in places across the country, from New Orleans to Chicago to Los Angeles. But as the technology gains popularity, civil liberties groups and researchers have raised concerns about whether the technology breaches a person's right to privacy, and whether predictive policing is even effective.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s PredPol technology was twice as effective as predicting where crime was going to occur than the department’s crime analyst, but still only reduced crime by 7 percent, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. (No additional research has been done to support those findings.)
A Rand Corporation study of location-based predictive policing found the software employed in Shreveport, La, had no significant impact on property crime.
There are also widespread privacy concerns.
“The technical capabilities of big data have reached a level of sophistication and pervasiveness that demands consideration of how best to balance the opportunities afforded by big data against the social and ethical questions these technologies raise,” the White House wrote in a 2014 report.
For example, a Chicago man was placed on "heat list," a tool used by Chicago police to identify the 400 people likely to commit crime in violent sections of the city, despite the 22-year-old never having committed a violent crime. Civil liberties group contend the technology in Chicago has become a tool to monitor whomever police want to surveil, and that many of those tagged by the technology are only guilty of living in a high crime neighborhood.
In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a harsh critique of predictive policing technologies, condemning the technology for relying on previous police contacts and reports to predict outcomes, which the ACLU said reinforced biases historically present in policing.
“Decades of criminology research have shown that crime reports and other statistics gathered by the police primarily document law enforcement’s response to the reports they receive and situations they encounter, rather than providing a consistent or complete record of all the crimes that occur. Vendors who sell and departments who embrace these new tools are failing to account for these realities, or to evaluate whether the data is so flawed that it cannot be relied upon at all. As a result, current systems reinforce bias and sanitize injustice,” the organization said in a statement in August 2016.
The ACLU went on to say that the use of the technology infringes on the rights of citizens by prompting police to make unlawful stops based not on reasonable suspicion, but on “computer-drive hunches.”
“Predictive policing must not be allowed to erode rights of due process and equal protection. Systems that manufacture unexplained “threat” assessments have no valid place in constitutional policing,” the ACLU said.
What Is Public Service?
The technical definition of public service is a service provided by the government to the people in a specific jurisdiction. Services may be provided by the government itself, or they pay a private organization to provide them. For instance, a fire or police department is a government-run agency, but trash pickup provided by an independent contractor is a public service financed by the jurisdiction.
Why Public Service Matters
The importance of public services – and public servants – cannot be overstated. In a Pew Research survey, more than 80% of respondents said they felt the government should play a major role in responding to terrorism and natural disasters, ensuring food and medicine are safe, and managing the immigration system. Maintaining the country’s infrastructure, protecting the environment, strengthening the economy, and ensuring access to education were also considered important government priorities.
The same survey revealed that satisfaction with these efforts among Americans is relatively high. More than 70% of respondents said they thought the government was doing a “very good” or "somewhat good" job responding to natural disasters, setting standards for workplaces, keeping the country safe from terrorism, and managing food and medicine safety. Although satisfaction with certain efforts, such as the reduction of poverty, received a less favorable opinion, the ultimate takeaway is that public service matters.
June News 2022
In recent years, police departments across the country have been facing intense public scrutiny. The spotlight continues to shine on the actions of law enforcement officers, and departments are reacting to demands for immediate changes at multiple levels.
Criminal justice professionals are in the difficult position of doing important work serving their communities while also considering public opinion. In this article, we explore four current issues in law enforcement and the impact they’re having on police departments across the country.
1. Police Recruitment and Retention
One of the biggest challenges facing law enforcement is retention and recruitment within police departments. In a 2021 survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, law enforcement agencies reported an 18% increase in resignations and a 45% increase in retirements compared to the previous year. Respondents reported that numerous factors contributed to officers leaving, including, but not limited to:
Officers seeking jobs outside of law enforcement.
Negativity surrounding law enforcement in general.
Pressure from family to change careers.
Many of these issues started before the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests of 2020. Consider these results from a 2019 report published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in which agencies from federal, state, local and tribal levels were surveyed:
78% of agencies reported having difficulty recruiting eligible candidates.
65% of agencies reported having too few candidates applying for positions.
75% of agencies reported that recruiting was more difficult than in the past.
50% of agencies reported having to change their policies to increase the number of qualified candidates.
25% of agencies reported having to reduce or eliminate services, units or positions due to staffing difficulties.
Police departments are left with many questions. What are their officers’ needs? What issues are reported at exit interviews? Do departments need to offer better compensation packages? Should they focus on recruiting candidates with more education? Are they offering enough incentives to stay with the force? Police recruitment and retention is a complicated issue, and it’s one that leaders in criminal justice will be working on for years to come.
2. Police Accountability
Another significant concern in recent years is accountability for police departments. A common question that is raised is “Who should police the police?” New laws have been passed in numerous states across the country, addressing topics such as body cameras, use of force, no-knock warrants, disciplinary systems, civilian oversight and more.
Every law enforcement agency seeks to build trust between their officers and the community. In addition to policies enforced by state governments and other external agencies, leaders within police departments also have a large role to play. In an article published by Police1, law enforcement leaders shared how they strive to develop cultures of accountability within their agencies, including:
Aligning agency values with community values.
Leading by example.
Training first-line supervisors to hold their colleagues accountable.
3. Embracing Technological Advancements in Law Enforcement
When considering where law enforcement is headed in the next five years and beyond, embracing technology is another key challenge. Innovations can happen quickly, and some of the new technologies include:
Biometrics: Handheld scanners and facial recognition tools that can improve the accuracy of identifying individuals.
Gunshot Detectors: Sensors and mapping technologies that can detect gunshots within specific high-crime areas.
Police Drones: Drones that can take photos of crime scenes and survey search areas.
Vehicle Pursuit Darts: Foam darts that can be released by police vehicles and attach to a vehicle, allowing officers to track their movements with GPS.
For police chiefs, budgeting for these technological advances would be a significant concern, and some personnel may resist adopting new devices or software and feel stress about learning how to use the tech quickly.
4. Data-Driven Crime Prevention
The concept of using data in law enforcement is not a new one, but ongoing advancements in computing power can help this strategy become more viable for police departments. Predictive policing can use data to anticipate where and when crimes will occur, allowing agencies to strategically place their officers and potentially prevent crimes from happening. Intelligence-led policing takes the idea a step further, using data in attempts to identify potential victims and repeat offenders.
Departments do have some case studies available to review when considering predictive or intelligence-led strategies. In 2014, a study found that predictive software utilized by multiple police departments in the United States and United Kingdom reduced crime by 7.4%. Additionally, the High Point Police Department in North Carolina found that interventions with gangs were deterrents to future acts.
Using data in this way is not without its concerns. Opponents of these tactics raise points such as:
The data used to make these decisions can be flawed due to the information originating from subjective input.
Assigning more officers to patrol neighborhoods with high crime rates in the past can naturally lead to more arrests in that area, perpetuating the notion that such neighborhoods have more crime than others.
Tracking individuals who are considered potential perpetrators – or potential victims – can border on an invasion of privacy.
As the power of big data and its potential applications in law enforcement grow every year, criminal justice decision-makers will continue to face the challenge of balancing citizen concerns with deploying new crime prevention strategies.
The challenges facing law enforcement leaders can change quickly. Whether it’s developing ways to retain officers or implementing crime prevention strategies without intruding upon the public’s trust, each day can come with new and complicated issues to address.
If you’re looking to move up in the ranks and stay connected with current trends in criminal justice, investing in education can be a wise decision. Police officers with college degrees are more likely to hold leadership positions, relate to their communities and identify best practices in the field.
Here at Columbia Southern University, we offer online criminal justice degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, as well as multiple continuing education options. To learn more about our online education options in criminal justice, visit our website.
May 2022 NEW THIS MONTH IS THAT THE ASSOCIATION HAS CHANGED THE LOGO :
Monthly Publication April 2022
Montgomery County finalizes deal to bring police back into schools
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
Sergeant, Iowa State Patrol
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
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]
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:
Highway patrol officer
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.
Policing in the Post-Floyd Era
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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