As unrest and deadly force incidents continued, including the June 2020 shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, calls for police reform and defunding emerged. Key demands included less force and violence, decreased militarization and enforcement, the elimination of racism, increased relationship building and trust, and a fair, and just unbiased response when and where needed. Local and state governments took steps to reduce police presence and restricted the types of force that were used, including the prohibition of certain tactics, such as tear gas and other less lethal tools. The failure to use such tools is legitimately being questioned today.
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December 22, 2020, WASHINGTON—The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has established the first-ever Community of Practice for state, local and tribal grantees to connect, learn, share experiences, and network in an effort to continue the growth of law enforcement mental health and wellness work. Good mental and psychological health is just as essential as good physical health for law enforcement to be effective in keeping our country and our communities safe from crime and violence. The Community of Practice recently launched its work with a virtual meeting establishing short and medium term goals.
“Supporting the health and well-being of the nation’s front-line law enforcement as they ensure public safety is paramount to the Department of Justice,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The Department has dedicated resources to critical areas of concerns for officers including resilience; officer suicides; felonious and other assaults on officers; and mental health peer support networks. Establishing this new Community of Practice will provide the guidance, assistance, resources and support needed to further develop solutions to keep law enforcement safe and well, as they keep our communities safe and well.”
Keywords: Baltimore, BPD, Baltimore Police Department, EPIC, Active bystandership, training, police training
Stories about police use of excessive force continue to appear in local and national news headlines. Community-police relationships continue to be strained by these incidents, many of which have been captured on camera and circulated in media. Witnessed and recorded incidents have reportedly led to a loss of trust in the police1 and for calls to defund local police departments. In a post-2020 era, public protestors are calling for replacing police responses with alternative, non-police emergency service members, such as social workers or mental health professionals, with the intent being better outcomes for all parties involved. The emergence of Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) training is, to a great extent, an outgrowth of this strong sentiment across the country, gaining traction after the shooting of Michael Brown.2
Strengthening Community Policing and Trust
In 2015, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued its report with recommendations to strengthen community policing and trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.3The report showcased the disparity between the level of confidence in law enforcement among various communities while including a special emphasis on de-escalation—a technique used to reduce the potential for a conflict to become more volatile or violent.3 Pillar 2 of the report, which focused on Policy & Oversight, Action Item 2.2.1 stated, “Law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate.”3 While the statement is general enough to allow room for interpretation and adaptation to local community preferences and needs, it was the subject of much discussion among police leadership as it was not adequately defined.
The purpose of this project is two-fold: (1) develop novel techniques to automate analysis of BWC recordings of police-community interactions and evaluate officers’ adherence to principles of procedural justice and; (2) use a randomized controlled trial to assess the accuracy of those techniques by systematically comparing them to evaluations of BWCs recordings done manually by human raters under conditions of high and low procedural justice.
To date, the National Police Foundation and its partners have awarded over $100,000 to 151 first responders in need, the majority of which have been law enforcement. The below charts show types of first responders that have been awarded so far, as well as the types of COVID- related expenses recipients have requested.
November 25, 2020—Through the cooperation of more than 50 of the largest law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada, our research team was granted access to the most detailed dataset ever collected on fatal and non-fatal shootings by officers while on duty. Covering the period from 2015 through 2018, these data cover over 1,000 fatal and nonfatal shooting incidents, including characteristics regarding the reason for and circumstance of the encounter, the location, and the officers and the other individuals involved. While differences in data availability and policies impacted our ability to collect every detail across all agencies and incidents, the data provide important insights on these statistically rare, but massively important, events. In particular, the data shed light on an often overlooked aspect of the events that likely contributes significantly to the problem and yet remains understudied and unaddressed.
Although traditional and social media content may lead some to believe that officer-involved shootings most often begin with encounters involving a traffic or vehicle stop, our data reveal that in the large agencies we worked with and those providing sufficient data to assess the origins of these incidents, over half of these events began with a community member calling 911. Slightly less than half of the encounters began by an officer-initiated activity (e.g. initiating a traffic stop).
“Adverse Impacts of Organizational Stress on Officer Health and Wellness: Causes, Correlates, and Mitigation” funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) under the NIJ’s Research Evaluation in Safety, Health, and Wellness in the Criminal Justice System, will examine how organizational stressors are related to negative outcomes for officers and their agencies, and what are mitigating or facilitating factors at the individual and organizational levels. This research study will seek to enhance officer health and wellness while promoting organizational effectiveness.
The dangers and critical exposures associated with police work have long been presumed to be the most stressful aspects of a police officers’ job, despite them being lower in frequency than more routine stressors. However, while traumatic events associated with the work itself can lead to post-traumatic stress or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a considerable body of research has also demonstrated that officers’ perceptions of organizational stressors and/or “daily hassles” far outweigh operational stressors on the job, including trauma-related incidents.
The Task Force meetings will begin on November 1, 2020 and will end on January 31, 2021. The Task Force will meet three or four times for as much as four hours for each meeting.
The emphasis of the Task Force will be on implementation and ongoing evaluation of evidence-based practices by communities, their local jurisdictions, and the law enforcement agencies that serve them. According to Amendola, “the reduction of disparities in police use of force as well as the improved health and well-being people of color and their communities are not likely to be achieved by reactive or unsystematic efforts, but instead must be driven by scientifically-tested approaches, especially those generated from the field of psychology whose aim is to examine human behavior, its origins and its social impacts.”