Obama to Curb Militarization of Local Police

Photo: White House Creative Commons

The fact sheet highlights innovative steps to help police do their jobs with increased safety while reducing crime in the process. Today in Camden, New Jersey, a city that has struggled with one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates, he will focus on how they have instituted a community policing initiative. That represents the culmination of five years of collaborative efforts aimed at improving the quality of life for Camden children, youth, and families.

The President will also highlight how communities are adopting the recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and will highlight new tools all cities can utilize to build and maintain the all-important trust between the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect. These tools include:

  • A Blueprint for Improved Community Policing: The final Task Force Report provides a blueprint for cities and towns to utilize as they develop policing strategies that work best for building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while enhancing public safety.
  • The White House Police Data Initiative: Leading jurisdictions have joined technologists, community organizations and police associations to commit to use data and technology in ways that build community trust and reduce unnecessary uses of force.
  • Community Policing Grants: The Department of Justice (DOJ) will begin taking applications for grants designed to advance the practice of community policing in law enforcement agencies through hiring, training and technical assistance, the development of innovative community policing strategies, applied research, guidebooks, and best practices that are national in scope.
  • A Body-Worn Camera Tool Kit: Earlier this month, the DOJ announced a new pilot grant program that will help local law enforcement agencies develop, implement, and evaluate body-worn camera programs, and today, DOJ is releasing an online clearinghouse of resources designed to help law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve plan and implement body-worn camera (BWC) programs.
  • Partnerships with National Law Enforcement Focused Organizations to Implement Recommendations: With support from the Department of Justice, nine law enforcement-focused organizations will develop national-level, industry-wide projects for several of the pillars outlined in the Task Force Report.
  • Equipment Working Group Final Report: A federal interagency working group — led by the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security — has now completed an extensive review of federal programs that support the acquisition of equipment by state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. On the basis of that review, the working group developed a series of concrete steps to enhance accountability, increase transparency, and better serve the needs of law enforcement and local communities.

Last December, President Barack Obama created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing with a mission to identify best practices and make recommendations on how such practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. The Task Force was chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and George Mason University Professor Laurie Robinson and included, among others, law enforcement representatives, community leaders, academics, and youth leaders. Over several months, the Task Force held public hearings across the country; took testimony from over 100 witnesses; reviewed hundreds of written submissions and thoughtfully came to consensus on 59 concrete recommendations. The Task Force presented their interim report, including recommendations regarding policies, training, transparency, accountability, technology and officer safety and wellness, to the President in March, and today the final report is available.

Here are some highlights of the work police departments currently involved are taking, along with other Police Data Initiative (PDI) participants.

Open Data to Build Transparency and Increase Community Trust

Photo: Richmond Police Creative Commons
  • Twenty-one jurisdictions committed to release a combined total of 101 data sets that have not been released to the public. The types of data include uses of force, police pedestrian and vehicle stops, citations, officer involved shootings and more, helping the communities gain visibility into key information on police/citizen encounters.
  • Code for America and CI Technologies will work together to build an open source software tool to make it easier for more than 500 U.S. law enforcement agencies using IA Pro police integrity software to extract and open up data.
  • To make police open data easy to find and use, the Police Foundation and ESRI will build a non-exclusive police open data portal to serve as a central clearinghouse option for police open data, making it easily accessible to community groups and researchers to analyze and see trends.
  • To help this newly released data come alive for communities through mapping, visualizations and other tools, city leaders, non-profit organizations, and private sector partners will host open data hackathons in cities around the country.
  • The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to use open data to provide a full picture of key policing activities, including stops, searches and use-of-force trends, information and demographics on neighborhoods patrolled, and more. This partnership will build on a website and tools already developed by the Southern Coalition for Justice which provide visualization and search tools to make this data easily accessible and understandable.
  • Presidential Innovation Fellows, through the U.S. CTO and U.S. Chief Data Scientist will release an Open Data Playbook that police departments can use as a reference for open data best practices and case studies.
  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Foundation, and Code for America have committed to help grow communities of practice for law enforcement agencies and technologists around open data and transparency around police/community interactions.

Early Warning Systems and Data Research

Photo: Ft. Pierce Police Creative Commons

While many police departments have systems in place, often called “early warning systems”, to identify officers who may be having challenges in their interactions with the public and link them with training, there has been little research to determine which indicators are most closely linked to bad outcomes. To tackle this issue, twelve police departments have committed to share data on police/citizen encounters with data scientists for in-depth data analysis, strengthening the ability of police to intervene early and effectively: Austin, TX; Camden, NJ; Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN; LA City; LA County; Louisville, KY; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA and Richmond, CA.

The University of Chicago will provide a team of five data science fellows from the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good program to work with 3–4 police departments over a 14 week engagement, starting in late May to begin to prototype data analysis tools that will help police departments identify the behaviors most indicative of later problems.

Today in Camden, NJ, the city will welcome a Police Data Initiative Tech Team. This volunteer team of technology experts and data scientists will spend two days with Camden PD. They will focus on key technology systems with a goal of helping the Camden police enhance analysis and gain greater insights on officer activity. The goal is for the Camden PD to begin developing the solutions that surface potential problems before they happen while pointing to best practices that other departments can follow.

Jurisdictions taking part in the White House Police Data Initiative (PDI) so far include:Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Camden, NJ; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC; Cincinnati, OH; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; Hampton, VA; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; LA County, CA; Louisville, KY; Montgomery County, MD; New Orleans, LA; Newport News, VA; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, CA; Rutland, VT; and Seattle, WA.

The Task Force recommended that DOJ, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) provide incentives for state and local law enforcement to adopt the recommendations. Today, the COPS office will launch solicitations for grants and technical assistance that are closely aligned with the recommendations. Funding is available for local law enforcement agencies committed to implementing the recommendations and to adopting policies that build community trust, including through hiring, training, initiating pilot projects, and developing new guidance and best practices.

With support from the COPS Office, law enforcement focused organizations including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Police Foundation, will develop national-level, industry-wide projects for several of the pillars outlined in the Task Force Report.

Since 2011, the Ford Foundation, with other foundations, has supported Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) in Seattle, an innovative arrest diversion program co-designed by police, prosecutors, public defenders, civil rights leaders and public health experts. This evidence-based program lets law enforcement officers directly divert people, whom they could arrest for low-level crimes, such as drug or prostitution offenses, to case managers, who assist with housing, treatment and other supportive services, instead of using jail and prosecution. An evaluation by the University of Washington, funded by the Arnold Foundation and released in March 2015, found that participants in the program had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest as compared to a control group. Equally important, it helps improve the relationship between the police and the people they encounter on the streets.

In addition to the work completed by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a separate federal interagency working group — led by the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security — has now completed an extensive review of federal programs that support the transfer of equipment to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. On the basis of that review, the working group developed a series of concrete steps to enhance accountability, increase transparency, and better serve the needs of law enforcement and local communities. The President has directed departments and agencies to put the working group’s recommendations into practice and continue to partner with law enforcement and local communities during the implementation process.

  • The working group developed a unified list of prohibited equipment that may not be acquired under any of the various programs. This list includes tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber firearms.
  • The working group developed a unified list of equipment that law enforcement may acquire only in accordance with new and more rigorous controls. This controlled list includes armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear, and specialized firearms and ammunition.
  • Uniform Acquisition Standards: Across all programs, the transfer of equipment on the controlled list will require the consent of the appropriate local civilian governing body (e.g., City Council, County Council, Mayor) as well as a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the equipment and the appropriate law enforcement purpose that it will serve.
  • Training and Protocols: To receive such equipment, law enforcement agencies must commit to have in place “general policing” training standards, including training on community policing, constitutional policing, and community impact. Agencies must also agree to protocols on the appropriate use, supervision, and operation of such equipment.
  • Required Data Collection: Law enforcement agencies must collect and retain certain information whenever such equipment is involved in a “significant incident.” Upon request or during a compliance review, the law enforcement agency must provide this information to the federal agency that supported the equipment’s acquisition. This information will also be made publicly available in accordance with the law enforcement agency’s applicable policies and protocols.

Aside from having to give a “clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment,” local law enforcement will not be eligible unless they have adopted what General Policing Standards. Including community policing programs, with more foot cops on the beat interacting with the public as well as regular consultation with community groups — as opposed to zero-tolerance policies in use by the vast majority of local law-enforcement

Source: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/TaskForce_FinalReport.pdf

Originally published at newpoliticsnewideas.blogspot.com on August 23, 2015.