Police data behind the pandemic response: policing through COVID-19

By Andrew Vaught (Managing Director, Data Driven Strategies Division, Baltimore Police Department) and Joyce Iwashita (Project Associate, National Police Foundation)

Despite the challenges that exposures to the coronavirus (COVID-19) present to police operations, agencies around the nation continue to respond to public safety issues in our communities. According to the National Police Foundation’s (NPF’s) Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard, thousands of law enforcement officers across the country have been exposed to COVID-19. As members continue to respond to the call to serve and protect, data collection and analysis is helping the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) make informed decisions about staffing and resource allocation that ultimately affects the safety of our members and the level of service we provide to our community. At the same time, our agency has an eye on ways that this data could help us and our federal, state, and local partners plan and prepare for the next wave of COVID-19 or the next pandemic we are faced with.

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Confronting COVID-19: Strong Leadership, Honest Assessments, Utilizing Available Resources, Communication, and Education

By Sheriff Rich Stanek
Hennepin County (MN) Sheriff (Ret.)

No level of planning could have fully prepared us for the difficult news coming from our nation’s jails and correctional facilities.  Heightened levels of contagion, and the associated stress and anxiety are impacting our medical, security, and behavioral health staff that work in these facilities as well as those in custody.

What more can we do to address the crisis, reduce the risk, and provide much-needed support? If I were still on the job today, these six steps would be on my to-do list and I hope they’re on yours as well.

 

  1. Acknowledge the problems, risks, and fear. Transparency and communication help us to work through these challenges.  More information can provide a baseline for developing a realistic view of the problems and allow us to transition toward identifying solutions.  Open up and encourage news reports and information sharing to build confidence that important information is being shared on a timely basis, even if the news is difficult to hear.
  2. Walk through your facilities and ask your command staff to do the same. Observe and make an honest assessment about what you are seeing. Be a visible leader, listener, and an observer—your presence will demonstrate your commitment and support for your employees and line staff.  You may find there are problems with a quick or obvious solution, where you may easily prioritize your resources and next steps.
  3. Consider grant funding to meet unanticipated needs. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance currently has $850 million available for state and local public safety agencies for COVID-19 related expenses. Sterilizing equipment, supplies, trainings, medical care costs, and developing teleconferencing capabilities all qualify for these funds that are available through May 29, 2020, for use over a two-year period. For more information, click here.
  4. Be clear about what personal protective equipment, supplies and other equipment are or are not available. It’s important to have access masks, gloves, soap, disinfectant, and hand sanitizer. If the items are not available now, explain why and when they will be made available.
  5. Provide education about how to minimize infection (e.g., washing hands properly, avoid touching the face and hard surfaces, and keeping social distancing guidelines). Increase your cleaning budget, bring in additional cleaning staff if possible, provide liberal access to cleaning supplies, and schedule daily or more frequent cleaning protocols.
  6. Consider new strategies for easing the stress and anxiety associated with the virus along with the physical limitations and environment everyone in the facility must accept. This could be done by playing music, relaying positive messages, facilitating and encouraging physical activity, sharing reading materials, and teaching healthy coping skills and strategies. From breathing techniques to music therapy to physical stretching and meditation, there are no-cost ways to manage stress without compromising security. Get innovative with your solutions. For example, can you make more call-times available for inmates through use of discretionary funds or donations?

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COVID-19 is ‘taxing on police chiefs’ but policing profession’s ‘strong mindset’, ‘public cooperation’, and ‘communication’ is going ‘incredibly well’

By Chief John Perez
City of Pasadena (CA) Police Department

As Chief of Police in the City of Pasadena (CA), I, along with all of my other colleagues in law enforcement, am responsible for guiding our police agency in this difficult time, as well as provide public safety services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This national emergency is unlike any other emergency or crisis law enforcement has ever prepared for. As many of us experienced the ’92 civil unrest as well as managed the many challenges of the post 9/11 environment, the lessons learned from those experiences are quickly assisting us in striking the right balance between protecting the safety of our officers, their families, and providing essential public safety services to our community. The inability to ensure we have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential supplies elevates the situation as well as the challenges of leading our workforces in these trying times.

Here is what we have experienced after nearly a month and I hope sharing this provides an understanding that we are in this together.

These are the worries all Police Chiefs and Sheriffs are confronting in our Departments:

  • Managing fears inside of our own Organizations and within the community is first on this list.
  • There is a high degree of public fear as we confront an enemy we cannot see nor hear and the future seems uncertain.
  • The public is fearful of civil unrest, rumors of military deployment, concerns for family members they cannot visit, as well as the real impact to our economy.
  • The news doesn’t make it easier with issues seen in other countries where bodies are placed in the streets for pickup. The level of fear is magnified with global events of how COVID 19 is being managed.
  • There are concerns and fears for police departments not being prepared as our officers want strong communication and leadership as we develop changes to our workforces and field procedures.
  • Our Officers want assurance they are being supported and that efforts are underway to protect them in the field and in our police stations.
  • This creates a feeling of a lack of control, low self-confidence, and concern for emotional well-being for first responders. These emotions derive from the same officer safety issues our profession has always encountered prior to COVID 19, but now includes our contact with everyone in the public and how we respond to calls for service and make arrests.
  • We also finish our longer workdays by cleansing thoroughly before or upon after arriving home with the lingering thought “Am I bringing it home to my family?”

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What Chiefs Can Do Today About Impending Officer Shortages

By Chief (Ret.) Rick Myers and Joseph A. Schafer (Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice and Associate Dean of Research in the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University)

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many leaders are coping with the impact of officers in their organization being on quarantine, hospitalized, or simply calling in sick. This is occurring against a backdrop in which many agencies are struggling to achieve full staffing. The forecast from many police futurists, however, is that this situation is only going to get worse, independent of the COVID-19 situation. Most agencies have a high proportion of personnel who are retirement-eligible or approaching eligibility. Exacerbating this are the ongoing recruitment struggles that have been well documented. Add to it now the suspension of many police academies and the cessation of recruitment and selection efforts, and the staffing forecast for 2021 and 2022 is challenging. If COVID-19 results in cycles of regional or national workforce disruption, as some medical experts are projecting for the next 18-24 months, police agencies might only be seeing the beginning of their challenges to provide core services and to care for their personnel.

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Facial Recognition Technology Deployment and Mass Surveillance in London

Facial Recognition Technology Deployment and Mass Surveillance in London

Photo by Jason Reed/The Daily Dot

By Jim Burch
President, National Police Foundation

Having the authority to do something doesn’t always mean that we should. That’s the thought that came to mind when reading the news of the London Metropolitan Police’s recent deployment of facial recognition technology in east London.

While some may say we should “mind our own business” and not worry about what the Met does in London, there are times when the decisions and actions of one agency impacts all of policing. I believe this is one of them and it’s regrettable and dangerous. Here’s why:

The ongoing debate here in the U.S. about the use of facial recognition by law enforcement has in many ways been substantially influenced by what-if’s that many in U.S. law enforcement have said they don’t want to see. Mass surveillance is one such example. To be fair, the Guardian’s reporting has included a response from the Met that the deployment is an “intelligence-driven operation” which suggests to us that there may be information that prompted the use of the tool in this area at this time, either for deterrence or enforcement or both. Despite this plausible explanation, and despite the Met’s attempts to be transparent and obvious about the use of the technology at that place and time doesn’t make it a better decision.

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“The End of Killing”: A Conversation with Axon CEO and Author, Rick Smith

By Burke Brownfeld
Criminal Justice Writer 

Rick Smith wants to put an end to sanctioned killing. This sounds like an ambitious goal, but the CEO of Axon (previously Taser) and author of the book, “The End of Killing,” has both a vision and a strategy to make this goal a reality. Ultimately, Rick wants police officers and soldiers to have more effective weapons so that they don’t have to kill others in the course of their duties.

Why is this topic so important? For starters, as Rick points out in his book, 40,000 people per year are killed with guns in the United States, and 250,000 are killed with guns worldwide. So the stakes in this subject are quite literally life and death, and it is Rick’s life passion to tackle the challenge.

“The End of Killing” is not an Axon sales pitch aimed at promoting Tasers among police departments. The book is also not a gun control book or a partisan political book. Instead, this book takes the reader down a path of intellectual exploration into the topic of killing and challenges the reader’s preconceived notions on these issues. Rick helps the reader to understand the origin story of the Taser, and explains why humans tend to resist change, even when the change is quite clearly better than the status quo.

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Innovating with Police Recruit Training: How I used the documentary Charm City to teach Baltimore Police

By Burke Brownfeld
Criminal Justice Writer 

Why Make the Film “Charm City?”

Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. In 2014 and 2015 we became familiar with these names, incidents, and hashtags. The news outlets flooded our tv screens with divisive arguments on all sides of the issues related to police and community relations. We all remember the yelling, and the pressure to choose a side. As a former police officer this when I started to feel frustrated. There was plenty of anger to go around, but what was the path forward? What were the actionable next steps to forge ahead and improve the fractured relationship between the police and the community?

I wondered what could be done to contribute to this national conversation. In 2015 I connected with Big Mouth Productions, a documentary production company. We put our heads together and challenged ourselves to create a documentary that could help bridge these divides by showing the viewer the daily lives of people in the City of Baltimore. The result was a film called Charm City, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Festival. The film provides the viewer direct access to the challenges faced by a wide range of Baltimore stakeholders ranging from police officers, to community leaders, to politicians. One of the underlying goals of the film was to allow the viewer to feel a sense of empathy for the people whose lives unfolded on the screen.

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Transparency that matters: Releasing the right information at the right time following an OIS incident

By Chief Gordon Ramsay
Wichita (KS) Police Department

Throughout my tenure as Chief of Police, in Duluth as well as Wichita, I’ve taken pride in my strong belief and commitment to working together with the community. In order for our relationship to be and remain effective, it is essential that we work closely together and that we do so on the basis of trust, respect, transparency and a shared commitment to safety.

This is a challenging time for policing – many of my colleagues around the country are facing dire challenges in recruiting officers as well as retaining officers within their departments. A 2017 national survey report by the Pew Research Center found that 8 out of 10 Americans (83%) say they understand the risks and challenges of police work. However, the report found that 86% of officers say that the public does not fully comprehend the challenges that officers face. The report noted that police officers are three times as likely as other workers to say they nearly always or often have serious concerns about their physical safety while on the job, compared to other employed Americans who are four times as likely as officers to say that they hardly ever or never seriously worry about their physical well-being at work. Read More & Share

Co-opting the Police: What can be done about “Profiling by Proxy?”

By Sergeant Jeremiah P. Johnson
Darien Police Department, CT

More than 50 years ago, James Q. Wilson noted that, “As the urban poor and the big-city police increasingly come into conflict, it is the patrolman who is on the grinding edge1.” Wilson’s imagery brings to bear an uncomfortable reality that is neither pleasant for police or the community. If police are on the grinding edge, the metaphor begs the question as to whom is pulling the lever.  Police and “the urban poor” (a euphemism for racial and ethnic minorities) are brought into contact through different avenues, not all of which are initiated by the police. It is imperative for police executives to recognize and mitigate the perils of 911-driven complaints that can entangle their officers in the biases of others. Read More & Share

Utilizing Data and Science to Reduce Serious Injury and Fatality Crashes on Rural Roadways

By Captain Ken Clary
Iowa State Patrol

This article was reprinted from Translational Criminology Magazine (Fall, 2018), with the permission of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy.

As commanders within state police and patrol organizations, we are charged with protecting the citizenry traveling on our roadways. Although some might view violations of traffic laws as lesser offenses, those infractions can often lead to death and/ or serious injury if not corrected. In 2016, a total of 37,461 people lost their lives on U.S. roadways,1 while, in comparison, 16,250 people were reported by the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report as murdered that same year. Traffic crashes result in an enormous loss of life annually and are consistently a leading cause of nonhealth related deaths in the United States. Read More & Share