On Policing

Welcome to the On Policing series.

PF On Policing logo final versionOn Policing captures the thoughts of some of the country’s most important voices on contemporary policing. It is intended to stimulate debate about the state of policing and the myriad of challenges involved in controlling crime, disorder, and terrorism in a democracy like ours. The opinions are the authors’ own and may not represent the official position of the Police Foundation. All comments are welcome – especially contrarian ones. We reserve the right to remove hateful or profane posts.

Please refer to the essay entitled “An Introduction to On Policing” for an in-depth introduction to the series by the Police Foundation’s president, Jim Bueermann. If you would like to contribute to the On Policing series, please send your 500-1000 word essay to onpolicing@policefoundation.org.




The school shootings that don’t happen

By Chief Dean Esserman (Ret.)
Police Foundation Senior Counselor

Every single school shooting is a tragedy steeped in pain and loss. 

But for every school attack, there are many more that are prevented. Typically, attacks are averted because someone warned law enforcement or school officials. That can be a potential shooter’s family member, a friend, classmate, staff at school or just someone who saw enough of something to say something. 

We know this has happened because we have been tracking averted attacks for almost two years . We also believe there are many attacks that have been prevented that we don’t know about. Yet.  Read More & Share

The missing link in policing

By Chief Cameron S. McLay (ret.)

Leading from the front, the New York Police Department has begun exploring mechanisms to incorporate sentiment analysis — data about public perceptions —  as a component of its flagship performance management system.

They are on to something important. The NYPD knows that it matters how members of the public feel about police services.

Police are dependent upon the support and cooperation of the public to be effective, and communities are likewise dependent upon the police to help create safe communities.

If you ask most police officers, they will tell you their role is simply to respond to police calls for service, fight crime, and arrest violators of the law as the intake process for the criminal justice system. Read More & Share

The top 5 policing essays of 2017

From community connections to body cameras to training technology to use of force — from looking back at lessons from a deadly attack to looking ahead to needed policy — leaders in policing furthered discussions nationwide on important industry topics.

As we head into 2018, we at the Police Foundation are taking the opportunity to revisit the top five most read and talked about essays from 2017, because they (and the others) are worth another look. Read More & Share

Tactical lessons from San Bernardino attack

By Chief Travis Walker
Cathedral City (CA) Police Department

Two years ago, on Dec. 2, I was the tactical commander for the San Bernardino Police Department during a terror attack that claimed the lives of 14 people and injured 22 others.

Saturday’s anniversary brought back a lot of memories. I am reminded of the first responders who endured the unimaginable sights, sounds and smells while suppressing personal feelings as they carried out a very unpredictable mission.

Serving as the overall tactical commander responding to this tragedy, I was also reminded of the teamwork, tenacity and courage of law enforcement officers from several agencies that ultimately stopped the two terrorists, whose names won’t be repeated here because they deserve no recognition, no glory, for their cowardly act against the innocent.

Since then, I was fortunate to become the chief of the Cathedral City Police Department in Southern California. It’s been interesting to me how many people have asked what I learned from that horrific event and what changes I brought to the department when I came on board in September 2016. Read More & Share

A Hippocratic Oath for policing

Sgt. Jeremiah P. Johnson
Darien (CT) Police Department

The recent spotlight on deadly use-of-force encounters has led John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor David Kennedy to ruminate whether the field of policing should have its own Hippocratic Oath.  

The Hippocratic Oath is commonly encapsulated as “do no harm.” Medicine’s Hippocratic Oath has changed form since the days of ancient Greece, but its spirit lives on among physicians.

Police are society’s physicians, the kind that still make house calls.

It is the physician’s job to examine the patient, diagnose the underlying condition and prescribe an effective course of treatment. A doctor that only attends to visible symptoms, provides ineffective medicine, or treats in a manner that is ultimately harmful has failed the patient. Read More & Share

When did ‘community’ get dropped from policing?

By Chief Don Shinnamon

When did we lose sight of our responsibility to engage the community in crime fighting?  I would argue it occurred when our sole focus became rapid deployment of resources in response to crime data.

Call it what you will, Compstat, Hot Spot Policing, Predictive Modeling, some communities feel, right or wrong, that the police have become an oppressive occupying force.   

This essay is meant to be provocative.   It is not a scholarly document, rather the observations of someone who has raised the flag of concern about police becoming an occupying force in communities before most current police executives graduated from the police academy. Read More & Share

Body Cameras Work – Just Not in the Way You Think

By Dan Honig
and Jayme Johnson

Much has been written in the past few days about a recent study of 2,600 police officers in Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, which concluded that body cameras have no statistically significant
impact on police officers’ use of force.

This is perhaps less surprising a finding than some commentators suggest.

A body camera might prevent the odd swear word or inappropriate comment when an officer is relaxed while conscious of the device attached to their ballistic vest. But in a heated situation where force becomes necessary, it is instinct rather than careful consideration that takes over, with more deeply ingrained behaviors coming to the fore. If the instinct to use force is deeply ingrained, it doesn’t matter whether a camera is rolling.

That said, cameras are not useless. They just serve a different purpose: rather than changing ingrained behaviors, they illuminate them for police and public scrutiny. Read More & Share

Mindful leadership

By Jennifer Tejada
Emeryville Police Department

Statistics on police health and wellness suggest police training and support programs have failed our profession. Police reform measures also seem to have overlooked a key ingredient in the matter of officer performance.

Policing is considered a stressful and emotionally and physically demanding profession. We have succeeded in training our law enforcement officers on the technical and tactical aspects of being an effective officer. We have provided them with the tools of the trade. We have put them through traumatic and high-risk scenarios to ensure they know how to be tactically safe, to ensure they survive without injury, or at least visible injury. But what about the invisible injuries? The emotional consequence of not just one traumatic incident, but that of a career filled with traumatic and stressful events.

Police reform measures are generally sought through trainings focused on external factors, or through the introduction of new legislation, policy revision, or new programs. Expecting change to occur is futile when we fail to address how the stress of this profession impacts the well-being of our law enforcement officers.

I believe we have failed in our approach to officer wellness and police reform because we have largely ignored two critical intrinsically linked aspects of our law enforcement officers; the relationship between stress and trauma, and resiliency. Read More & Share

5 things to consider before posting cops in schools

By John Rosiak
Prevention Partnerships founder

Cops in schools: It’s a contentious issue in contemporary American society.

Some people feel that we desperately need to place a sworn, local law-enforcement officer in schools, in addition to regular school security officers. Others are wary that such appointments lead to increases in arrests, with a disproportionate impact on students of color and students with disabilities.

If we have law-enforcement officers in our schools, how do we do it right? Read More & Share

New study examines higher education in policing

By Christine Gardiner
Associate professor of criminal justice, Cal State Fullerton 

Several years ago, I wrote an article based on my dissertation in which I made the comment that Orange County police officers were “particularly well-educated” — many with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

It was obvious to me that they were. I had worked with them in California. I talked to them. I knew them. This was not even a question to me. But an editor challenged me on it, saying, “How do you know this? Please prove this statement.”  

The request seemed easy enough and off I went in search of the data that I was sure would show me that Orange County officers were in fact highly educated. There was one problem. There were no such data. Nobody in the private sector had studied police officers and higher education with any depth in decades. 

I knew right then and there that I must find it out. I started initially with a survey of all local law enforcement agencies in California. About half of the agencies replied, and the results were intriguing, but I needed more.  Read More & Share

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