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.

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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.

 
 
 

Want to Connect Better to Your Community? Just Ask Questions

officer

By James A. Cervera
Virginia Beach (Va.) Police Chief

A few years ago, some of my officers began investigating a shooting in which a guy had disappeared after he killed his wife and wounded his adult stepson.

As some of the officers began looking for the man, some kids rolled up on their bikes.

“Are you looking for that guy who shot those people?” one of the kids asked before saying as he pointed, “because he is hiding over there.”

Someone disconnected from our city might be surprised about that. But I’m not. That’s the type of relationship we have with our community.

It wasn’t always like that. Building relationships takes time, effort and some sweat. You have to be IN your community if you want to know the people that live there and make sure they know you.   Read More & Share

Policing takes a village, too

FB_IMG_1489107867360By Chief Damon Williams
Mooresville (NC) Police Department

Community policing can bring the entire town onto your team. And working together means communication, relationships.

No matter the demographics of the department, no matter the socio-economics of the community, relating as people and neighbors changes everything.

When I became chief in Mooreseville in April, I wanted to ease tensions in this large department, so I met one-on-one with every member of my staff — sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for hours. It gave me an opportunity to hear from them what they thought was working and what wasn’t. We molded our department into one of trust, partnership and team-building. I have a true open-door policy. If they come in and sit, I will never turn staff away.

How does that bridge with community? When you have an increase in morale in the department, it increases productivity in the community. In fact I have the same open-door policy with the community. If someone comes in, talk with me no matter how long it takes. Be open, talk about things that are unpleasant, and talk about how to fix it. Read More & Share

Body Cameras And Privacy — Where Do You Draw The Line?

del PozoBy Chief Brandon del Pozo
Burlington (VT) Police Department

Since an officer in my police department was brought under suspicion of perjury for statements he made when he thought his police body camera was turned off, some of our constituents have been adamant in calling for a policy that police officers cannot turn off their body cameras at all while on duty. They feel this will be an effective way to detect and deter misconduct and corruption.

It is a deeply flawed idea, and we have been clear in our opposition to it.

There should be a good discussion about when police ought to be required to activate cameras, but the idea that they should always have them on is untenable for both the police and the community.

  • Police body cameras that cannot be turned off as a matter of policy will capture the private conversations of anyone in earshot of the camera.
  • They will create surveillance footage of people in private and semi-private places going about their lives as police officers move about them.
  • They will capture confidential conversations with people who want to tell the police where the criminals are on their block.
  • They will capture the police discussing the lawful but sensitive tactics they use to investigate criminals and apprehend them.
  • They will capture privileged conversations with attorneys, and the identities of child crime victims or people in states of compromised dignity.
  • They will capture footage of cops going to the bathroom, eating lunch, and having cell phone conversations with their loved ones or getting a call from the doctor.

Read More & Share

Study Tries to Disrupt Burglary Pattern

image1By Cmdr. Chris Catren
Redlands Police Department

If a burglary has occurred near your house within the week, your home is at an elevated risk for crime.

This is a phenomenon known as Near Repeat, and policing and research experts recently collaborated on a program to prevent it.

The consequent study just won the Redlands Police Department the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award.

Dr. Travis Taniguchi was a research criminologist with the RPD when he and Dr. Liz Groff (Temple University) had the idea in 2012.

They had been talking about Near Repeats, and how, at least in the United States, there had not been good implementation of crime prevention around the area of burglarized homes.

Research indicates, that, once that burglary happens, homes in the area surrounding the crime are at higher risk of being burglarized in future, and yet there were no plans to use that information to prevent it. Read More & Share

Harm Reduction and 21st Century Policing

Tim-Hegarty-photo-2-1By Capt. Tim Hegarty
Riley County (KS) Police Department

In their recent paper titled Reinventing American Policing, Cynthia Lum and Daniel Nagan lay out a blueprint for transforming 21st century policing in a way that makes the profession more effective in providing safety and security for the public while maintaining trust in the police by the public.

Their plan is based upon two guiding principles.

First, crime prevention should take priority over arrests, and second, how citizens perceive police efforts at crime prevention should be considered independently from the results of those efforts.

The paper itself is a must read for any police executive, but a critical point made by the authors about the evolution of policing might be easily overlooked. Read More & Share

Cures Act is Step in Right Direction

tammy mccoy arballo mugBy Tammy McCoy-Arballo
Counseling Team International Clinical Psychologist

Well, it is about time.

This needed to happen.

For too long we have required our law enforcement officers to respond to incidents involving people experiencing symptoms of mental illness and not given all of our officers the needed training.

The many law enforcement officers I know are incredibly talented and skilled at a great many things. They have tremendous communication skills and are able to master the moment when they are faced with the unexpected.

However, it is simply unfair to send any of law enforcement officer to those calls without training and education about the aspects of various mental illnesses. Read More & Share

Community Evacuation: What Works and What Hurts

Sheriff-Mike-WilliamsBy Sheriff Mike Williams
Jacksonville (FL) Sheriff’s Office

When a storm like the recent Hurricane Matthew is headed our way, we need to persuade residents to evacuate, which can be a challenge.

If you’ve lived in Florida any amount of time, you become your own hurricane expert. You’re always going to have people who think, “It didn’t happen last time, so we’re not going to abide by an evacuation order.”

In terms of a catastrophic storm, like an Andrew Category 4 or 5, I think you would have more cooperation from people.

I have been through these storms — named storms where we activate — maybe two or three a year for about 10 years, and I, just like they do, remember so many times a big storm didn’t materialize.

This was one of those that was potentially borderline. The issue with these storms is that they’re all different. Weather is dynamic. Not every Category 2 is the same. This had potential for storm surge. We were going to have more water than in the past and that can cause big issues for everybody and be life threatening. Read More & Share

A Little Whimsy Helps the Warn-and-Scold

Tony Zerwas picBy Officer Tony Zerwas

“Don’t speed.”

“Wear your seatbelt.”

“Don’t drink and drive.”

Have you heard this before? Traditional messages similar to these are posted on law enforcement social media pages on a daily basis throughout the country. The messages are well intended, but have been repeated so much that they often fall on deaf ears. As law enforcement agencies, we must find a way to adapt and share these messages in a more effective manner. How do you accomplish this? Easier said than done, right?

Wrong.

It’s really simple.

Read More & Share

The Importance of Shop with a Cop

seanthuilliezBy Chief Sean Thuilliez
Beaumont (Ca.) Police Department

My family and I had just driven 9-year-old Indicta from our police station to the local Walmart for our annual Shop with a Cop.

We climbed out of my unmarked vehicle, preparing to join with the other 39 cop-and-child combos to go and find perfect holiday gifts for all of the kids, who come from low-income families. But Indicta’s mother approached us first and raised some concerns.

She explained that Indicta’s father, before leaving for a self-described 30-day camping trip that he never returned from, told Indicta to always behave while he was gone or “the men in blue” would come to take her away. The comment apparently had a powerful impact on the child, and a negative one at that.

The mother then said she was concerned that Indicta would not get a true understanding of police officers because my family was accompanying me. She also did not understand why we were in an unmarked car and not a cruiser with lights and sirens.

At first, her concerns caught me by surprise. But I listened to her, making sure I understood the issues, and then first explained that we were in an unmarked car because it’s my assigned vehicle.

And then I tackled what for me was the more important issue – why my family (my wife, daughter age 20 and son who is 11) had come along. Read More & Share

Deadly Force Encounters and Difficult Conversations

Tim Hegarty photo 2By Capt. Tim Hegarty
Riley County (KS) Police Department

With each new police deadly force encounter, regardless of the circumstances, the opposing sides are becoming more polarized, as if some critical mass is building in the space between.

One of the primary forces behind this mass is the concept of blame.

Stone, Patton and Heen explain in their book “Difficult Conversations” that blame accomplishes three things. First, it assigns the responsibility for the problem to one person or group. Second, it judges the actions of that one person or group to be wrong. Third, as the person or group who caused the problem was wrong, blame calls for that person or group to be punished.

The authors note that blame directs the focus backward, on the past, and consequently an emphasis on blame will never create a path forward to a solution.

Moving away from blame first requires that we acknowledge both sides have been engaged in its practice. Read More & Share

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