The National Police Foundation (NPF) announces the formation of the Council on Policing Reforms and Race (“Council”), a majority African American led nonpartisan initiative that will use research and evidence to consider and offer recommendations to resolve some of the most significant and pressing issues with regard to policing reforms and race. In launching this effort, NPF is acknowledging the role that racism, bias, culture (societal and organizational), and patterns and practices have played and continue to play and will encourage the Council to offer commentary, recommendations, and solutions for addressing these issues, which have substantially led to the deterioration of trust and respect between law enforcement and Black communities. While various national panels and blue-ribbon commissions have been put forth previously to address similar areas of concern, this effort is distinguished by its aims of bringing together a broad cross-section of perspectives, infusing what we know and don’t know from science in relation to these issues, elevating the voices of Black American working inside and outside of the policing profession, and with the support of an organization such as NPF that aims to see these recommendations through to implementation.
The Council will be led and predominantly comprised of African American leaders from community-oriented organizations, research scholars, business leaders, elected officials, policing leaders and others, who will collectively make policy and practice recommendations and further advise on solutions to advance policing and policing outcomes and to address disparate outcomes, particularly in relation to Black communities. Key to these deliberations will be their grounding in data and science as the basis for informed dialogue and conclusions.
The Council is led by Co-Chairs The Honorable Val Demings (FL-10), Representative from Florida’s 10th District and serving on the House Judiciary Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Law Enforcement Caucus, and Yale Law School Professor James Forman, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and a prominent national figure in the discourse of justice reform.
The current members of the Council include the following persons:
The Council is expected to meet virtually six times over the next 12 months.
Furthermore, the Foundation has appointed Dr. Andrea Headley as the Visiting Scholar on Policing, Race, and Crime, a new position that will consider and address the issues of police reform as it relates to race. Dr. Headley is currently serving as Assistant Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. She is a scholar of public management, criminal justice policy, and racial equity. In her role as NPF’s Visiting Scholar, Dr. Headley will be supporting the Council and providing expertise in conducting policing and crime research and analysis in cases where race is a major factor.
What Are the Key Issues/Questions That the Council Might Address?
The Council will leverage the unique viewpoints of its members and experts that may offer testimonial insights about the issues of policing reforms and race. The Council may address the following matters:
The Role of the Police in Communities
What should the role of the police look like in the post-Floyd era?
What organizational features must be established and implemented to improve organizational level accountability?
How can culture and accountability in police organizations be improved and made intolerant of abuses, racism, and other inappropriate behaviors?
Recruiting and Training for Change
How can we reform police recruitment, hiring and training practices to transform policing from a vocation to a true profession with professional standards and entitlements?
Police Services (Outcomes and Impacts)
What institutional, organizational and individual metrics, measures or outputs of policing can lead to racial disparities and how should they be changed or eliminated?
Disproportionality in Contact, Response & Victimization
How can the police be more effective in addressing violence and victimization that disproportionately impacts minority communities?
How can we reform police performance management and measurement practices, such that emphasis is placed on preventing and responding to crime without unnecessary enforcement that may lead to punitive measures and negative economic impacts?
Reform Approaches & the Role of Elected Leaders
What aspects and/or functions of the criminal justice system delegitimize policing?
How will “defunding” the police impact communities of color and others?
The Council will offer recommendations for elected and appointed officials, the policing profession and the organizations that represent it, community organizations, and others. It will also identify and recommend areas for NPF research and take available scientific evidence into consideration as it works to advance the profession and ensure safer communities. NPF is currently using similar scientific research methods and technology to lead efforts at police reform, working directly with agencies and communities nationwide and abroad through collaborative approaches that engage law enforcement agencies, practitioners, scholars, and community stakeholders at international, national, state, and local levels. NPF aims to continue serving as a model for the systematic examination of real-world challenges faced by law enforcement agencies.
As a result of the discussions, the Council plans to develop and release final recommendations on policing reform by Spring 2021.
“Our pursuit of justice and professional policing begins with the acceptance of race as an issue. The Council will amplify and elevate the voices of Black leaders who will consider these issues and work tirelessly to propose advancements that highlight the critical need for science-informed and honest dialogue as it relates to race and reform in American policing. I believe this to be an unprecedented opportunity to confront some of the most significant issues in our society today. However, our responses must be thoughtful, informed, and must take a constructive approach to reimagining the policing and the justice that is desired. It is the view of the Foundation that abolishing, mass defunding, disregarding or disabling the police will not prove to be workable, responsible, or sustainable and in fact, jeopardize more than they protect or gain.”
– Jim Burch, President, National Police Foundation
“It has been said that the validity of constitutional principles in the lives of individuals is often determined by the actions of a single law enforcement officer. The National Police Foundation was created 50 years ago to help address the issues of race in America. That struggle continues with equal intensity today. The National Police Foundation is honored to support the Council’s efforts to chart a path forward.”
– Chief (Ret.) Bernard “Barney” Melekian, National Police Foundation Board Chairman
“I loved my career in law enforcement, and few days go by that I don’t think about the brave men and women who put on the uniform, and the citizens they protect and serve. As we work to bring necessary change to police departments, we must also address injustices that have unfortunately impacted every aspect of American society. We must hold America to her promise in all systems. I look forward to working with Professor Forman and this diverse group of professionals—from educators, researchers, civil and human rights leaders, to athletes, public safety practitioners, and others—to restore trust and ensure every community is treated with dignity and respect. I am committed to doing everything within my power to heal and restore our nation and reestablish the special relationship every community deserves to enjoy with their police departments.”
– Congresswoman Val Demings, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida’s 10th District
“This Council comes together at an unprecedented moment in American history. For 400 years, Black Americans have been over-policed, over-punished, and under-protected. Today we have the chance to imagine and create a different future—one in which Black communities depend less on police for safety, and where law enforcement consistently values and protects Black life.”
– James Forman, Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Other Policing Reform-Focused Initiatives
Contrasting Various Models of Civilian Oversight of the Police: An Exploratory Study of Their Effect on the Police Complaint Process and Police Department Policies
Civilian oversight boards (COBs) have been identified as a method of creating additional accountability for law enforcement agencies. Despite the promise of COBs, relatively little is known about their effectiveness in producing reforms among agencies. Existing research has often focused complaint-based outcomes measures, such as the number of cases sustained. It is our belief, however, that these complaint-based outcome measures provide an unfortunately limited view of how COBs affect agencies. Effective oversight boards may create significant impacts by helping to shape police department policies on use of force, internal affairs investigations, high speed chases, and other key policy issues.
To further explore this issue, the National Police Foundation will conduct a series of case studies of different models of COBs over a 15-month project period. This work will also include a sample of agencies that do not have COBs as a comparison. A preliminary review of the COBs of several cities suggests that there are differences in the scope, composition, and authority of these bodies. We will identify at least three agencies with relatively recently established COBs. Through interviews with key officials, examination of COB records, and examination of local ordinances regarding the role of the COB in agency oversight, we will examine changes in agency policies, civilian complaint volume, substantiation rates, and discipline rates for a 24-month period prior to and after the creation of the COB. This information from agencies with COBs will be compared to another set of agencies that do not have COBs. In both sets of cities, we would interview oversight board members (and staff, if applicable) and police executives to elicit their views on having a COB (or not having a COB).
Understanding the Role that Police Union Contracts & Police Officers’ Bill of Rights May Play in Reform & Accountability
Recent media attention has focused on the role of police union contracts and state-level police officers’ bill of rights (PBOR) in limiting accountability for police misconduct. Existing research has examined these contracts and PBORs and coded out broad themes related to police accountability. We will build and extend this existing research in several ways. First, contracts and PBORs will be coded in greater detail. The expanded coding process will add important contract information, such as the promotional process, that helps to shape the long-term characteristics of the department. Second, contract and PBOR data will be merged with agency-level descriptive data from other administrative datasets. This will facilitate a more complete view of the agency’s characteristics and the contracts that govern officer employment. Finally, we will conduct case studies of 3-5 case agencies to understand the evolution of the contracts and PBORs in selected agencies. Understanding the evolving nature of police contracts and PBORs will help to contextualize findings from the study. At the conclusion of the project, an open source dataset will be made available with coded contract and agency administrative data.
The National Police Foundation cannot fulfill its mission alone. We are asking our industry partners, philanthropists, and those that believe that together we can make an impact, to support the Foundation’s work of transforming American policing. Our work applies data, research, and practical experience to develop strategies that ensure law enforcement agencies are prepared for the demands of the future—both known and unknown. Our top priority is making an impact and creating lasting change. More than ever, as we move forward with our vision, we realize that the time for action is now. How can you partner with us? By becoming a financial contributor to our tireless work and become a sounding board for lasting change. You can give of your treasure, your time and your talents. We look forward to discussing additional ways to work together to provide critical means to advance policing across the country.
Interested entities that would like to learn more about ways to contribute to this initiative are encouraged to send an email to Tamara Martin, Director of Development and Marketing, TMartin@policefoundation.org.
The National Police Foundation dedicates this initiative to the leadership and memory of Hubert Williams. Williams served as the president of the National Police Foundation (formerly Police Foundation) from 1985-2012, becoming the longest serving president in the organization’s 50-year history.