Publications Archives | National Police Foundation

5 Things You Need to Know About Ghost Guns

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The term ‘ghost guns’—derived from the fact that these firearms are un-serialized, difficult to trace, and often remain invisible to the tracking and regulation covering traditionally manufactured firearms—refers to a wide range of homemade or improvised firearms. Assembled from parts, including those developed via 3D-printing technology, or from kits that include unfinished pieces (typically the receiver of the gun), ghost guns require the purchaser to be proficient in only basic machining to make the gun functional. Current federal firearms regulations do not require manufacturers of these parts or unfinished pieces or those assembling them to include serial numbers because the unassembled parts are not considered firearms. Thus, ghost gun parts and kits can be purchased online without being subject to most firearm regulations. Ghost guns present unique challenges to law enforcement agencies and make traditional investigative techniques less effective.

Concerns about the public safety risks posed by ghost guns is increasing. The ease of transforming ghost gun parts and kits into functional firearms and without having to go through background checks has made these firearms more accessible and likely more prevalent. Moreover, because these kits are not currently regulated under federal law, purchasers are not required to submit to a background check for the parts or the finished firearm.

As discussions about ghost guns, their regulation, and concerns for public safety migrate to the public sphere, here are five facts to help navigate the conversation.

Neighborhood-Driven Policing Revisited

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Abstract

In 2005, Levin & Myers wrote an article describing a model of policing referred to as Neighborhood-Driven Policing (NDP). NDP, which builds on the principles of community policing, introduced a non-traditional and aspirational vision of policing. As futurists, Levin & Myers offered the NDP model in the hope it would stimulate thought leaders to reflect and recommend changes in how the police could better serve their communities. Now, more than a decade later, the NDP model is being revisited by policing reform advocates as several key elements of NDP encapsulate various changes that have garnered widespread consideration in recent years. In particular, the events of the spring and summer of 2020 have provided us with the opportunity to rethink the NPD model. While much has changed in the fifteen years since the original piece was published, many other issues remain stubbornly entrenched. This paper involved conducting an analysis of research and seeks to describe an updated vision of how NDP might better-meet the needs and expectations of both police and residents in contemporary communities. The authors offer this revisitation of NDP as a starting point for more imaginative conversations about how we should rethink basic assumptions about police staffing, police deployment, the skills of policing, and the nature of police-communication roles and relationships. Furthermore, this paper encourages ways to think about the position and role that police and residents occupy in their relationship with each other as they seek to enhance shared goals, namely community safety and resident well-being. It is our hope that this document will advance deeper conversations, rather than viewing the document as a proven prescription for the future of policing.

This paper was developed as part of a collaboration between the National Police Foundation (NPF) and the Futures Working Group (FWG). The FWG (https://futuresworkinggroup.com/) is a research and training organization affiliated with the Society of Police Futurists International. The NPF/FWG partnership seeks to advance discussions about how the future of technology, society, crime, and justice might influence the policing profession.

The Proliferation of Ghost Guns: Regulation Gaps and Challenges for Law Enforcement

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Abstract

Ghost guns (also known as privately made or unserialized firearms) have become a significant concern to law enforcement and public safety. The term “ghost gun” encompasses a variety of firearms produced from components that are not currently regulated by federal firearm laws. Most commonly, ghost guns are produced from components purchased from businesses and individuals that most often include nearly finished aluminum, polymer frames, or receivers. Advances in ghost gun parts manufacturing facilitates homemade production of firearms by non-technical users. Public safety and gun violence prevention advocates cite the growing representation of ghost guns in crime as well as the ease of production, lack of background checks, and poor traceability as reasons that ghost guns components and kits should be regulated like all other firearms. In this study, we addressed current knowledge gaps by exploring law enforcement agencies’ (LEA’s) experience with ghost guns to provide a national overview of current perceptions, practices, and recommendations for improving public policy. Interviews with command, patrol, forensics, and specialized units from 24 LEAs revealed that there was a patchwork of experience with, and strategies to address the public safety risk created by ghost guns. Policy recommendations based on this research include halting the proliferation of ghost guns through regulating the production and sale of ghost gun components and kits by updating the outdated definition of firearm. Recommendations for improvements on the process of tracking and reporting ghost gun data, training, within-agency information sharing, and research are also discussed.

Staying Healthy in the Fray: The Impact of Crowd Management on Officers in the Context of Civil Unrest

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Abstract

The last few years have presented unprecedented challenges, both to our communities and to public safety officers and first responders—especially law enforcement. Current events, including COVID 19, political rhetoric and chaos, societal conflict and division, and attacks on the policing institution, individual officers, and officers’ families, have created a challenging environment where stress and trauma increased exponentially. High stress police operations such as crowd management during periods of civil unrest is mentally and physically demanding. Crowd management often challenges officers to push their bodies beyond normal limits, leading to poor performance, fatigue, insomnia, and injury. In the summer of 2020, many officers repeatedly worked shifts that, at times, exceeded 12 hours, for 10 to 12 days straight, leaving little time for appropriate nutrition, rest, exercise, recovery, or sleep. Large numbers of arrests, long periods on bicycles, standing or moving in formations, or responding to threats are physically and mentally demanding. In light of the current environment, NPF has developed this brief guide for law enforcement agencies on ways to recognize and protect the physical and mental wellbeing of officers during responses to intense and protracted protests and demonstrations. Both physical and mental stressors are taking a toll on the women and men who have dedicated their lives to protecting our communities. This guidebook offers educational information and practical considerations for sworn officers of all ranks, particularly frontline officers and mid-level supervisors, as well as their families, to better protect officers’ mental and physical wellbeing during times of heightened stress. Furthermore, this guidebook can be used as a resource by police leaders in promoting healthy organizational cultures that recognize  and  prioritize officer  safety  and wellness  as an  integral  part of  policing  protests—which ultimately can help foster better outcomes for all involved. The content in this guidebook has been curated and derived from a review of research from professional medical organizations and has been peer reviewed by licensed mental health clinicians and law enforcement practitioners.

2020 Annual Report

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The National Police Foundation (NPF) is pleased to release its 2020 Annual Report. The report highlights NPF’s work throughout 2020 in four key areas: Building trust and legitimacy between police and communities; leveraging scientific research to advance policing; developing innovative solutions to meet the needs of police and communities; and improving officer safety and wellness through data-driven training and technical assistance.

The work we were able to accomplish during 2020 to advance policing through innovation and science was made possible because of the generous support from our donors, corporate sponsors, and law enforcement and community partners across the country. If you would like to support our mission, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

How Small Law Enforcement Agencies Respond to Calls Involving Persons in Crisis: Results from a National Survey

Abstract:

Police frequently respond to calls occasioned by people with behavioral health needs (those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders). These calls are often time-consuming and potentially dangerous for officers and the persons experiencing crisis. Large and medium-sized law enforcement agencies have increasingly adopted specialized police response models that entail collaboration between law enforcement, mental health agencies, and medical facilities. However, little is known about the adoption of specialized responses by small agencies with fewer resources, less occasion to see persons in crisis, and fewer nearby mental health facilities. This report presents findings from a survey of how small law enforcement agencies respond to incidents involving persons in crisis as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues. It is based on responses of a random sample of 380 municipal police and sheriff offices with between 10 and 75 sworn officers between February and October, 2020. The survey finds that all but twelve responding agencies had adopted some form of specialized response model for dealing with calls involving persons in crisis. More than six in ten agencies has provided some form of crisis response training to all patrol officers, and three in ten provided training to some patrol officers. Three in ten agencies had at least one officer in the agency who had been CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) certified and half of the agencies reported being part of a regional CIT partnership. The regional partnerships gave small agencies access to highly skilled law enforcement and mental health staff, but response times could be long, regional skilled staff unavailable at all times of the day, and mental health facilities a lengthy drive away. The death of George Floyd, which occurred during the administration of the survey, encouraged four in ten survey respondents to reassess their current approach to dealing with persons in crisis.