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.


Solving Crime and Enhancing Community-Policing Using Advanced GPS Tracking Technology

lt-martinez-hi-res-picBy Travis Martinez
Special Operations Bureau Lieutenant with the Redlands Police Department

As the crime rate continues to increase throughout California with communities feeling the effects of prison realignment and Prop. 47, law enforcement agencies across the state are challenged with finding new strategies to address community concerns.

Several police agencies – including the Redlands Police Department (RPD) – appear to have found an effective strategy to leverage GPS technology to address crime trends that are popping up in the community. Since 2011, RPD has made 220 arrests for all sorts of robberies and thefts using motion-activated GPS devices that have the capability of being deployed in the field for up to 21 months.

It may seem as if success is measured by the number of arrests, but the reality is most deployments do not result in apprehensions. When it comes to enhancing community policing and promoting police legitimacy, all deployments are critical, even those that ultimately do not result in an arrest.  Read more

Learning Critical Lessons from 9/11, Then and Today

Frank Straub, Director of Public Safety, waits for his segment of a hearing with members of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, Indianapolis, Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Robert Scheer/The StarBy Frank Straub
Director of Strategic Studies
Police Foundation

On Saturday (September 10th), I received an email from Jim Bueermann, my boss at the Police Foundation. The email’s subject line was succinct:

“Is that you in this photo from 9/11?”

I opened the email and clicked on the link Jim had provided; I watched the video, and there I was, kneeling next to a NYC fire fighter whom my partner and I had pulled out of the first tower of the World Trade Center after it collapsed. Amazingly, he had survived even though he had been in the lobby.

I had never seen the photo, and it brought back memories of 9/11, which Jim asked me to share. Read more

Big Time Trouble Won’t Only Happen in Big Cities

jhadley picBy Jeff Hadley
Chief of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety

If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that crime and terror on a major scale can happen anywhere, not just in big cities like New York or Washington D.C.

There were probably a lot of Americans who had never heard of Kalamazoo, Michigan, before an Uber driver went on a killing spree in my community on Feb. 20, 2016, but I am guessing a lot of Americans also had never heard of San Bernardino, Calif., before terrorists attacked it last December.

Just two weeks before the Uber driver killed six people, I was talking to a reporter and discussing the notion that an active shooter event could easily happen here. As police chiefs, we have to be ready for major incidents, no matter the size of the community that we are responsible for protecting. With major incidents comes major attention from the national media, and these days, sometimes even the international media. Read more

Community-Led Policing

Tim Hegarty photo 2By Tim Hegarty
Captain of the Support Services Division
Riley County Police Department

Current models of civilian oversight explicitly separate the roles of the community and the police in the decision-making process. In fact, most civilian oversight exists to address the consequences of decisions already made by the police. The Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing reinforces this separation by recommending “some form of civilian oversight in order to strengthen trust with the community,” and yet it acknowledges there is no evidence to support this recommendation. The President’s Task Force rightly calls for more research into the efficacy of civilian oversight, but there is another model that may be better suited to address the police legitimacy concerns fueling the demand for civilian oversight. Read more

Chief Flynn Discusses Race and Law Enforcement During Presidential Town Hall

FLYNNEdwardAMilwaukee Police Chief and Police Foundation Executive Fellow Edward Flynn took part in the nationally televised town hall forum with President Obama on Thursday, July 14, 2016. The forum tackled race relations and law enforcement, two issues that have been at the forefront of the nation in recent weeks. Chief Flynn addressed both the issues of minorities’ mistrust of law enforcement and the easy availability of high-powered weapons. Read more

If We Open Our Ears and Our Minds, We Can Reconnect with Our Communities

Higgins-Photo-originalBy Ronnell Higgins
Chief of the Yale University Police Department

In the business of policing, we often talk about lessons learned.

Let me tell you something, from my perspective as chief of the university police, we sure have had ample opportunities to learn some lessons here at Yale University over the past year.

Last January, my department came under fire after one of my officers drew his weapon while stopping a young black male who matched the description of an intruder seen at another nearby college where there had been a series of burglaries. It turned out the young man was not the intruder—he was a Yale student. It also turned out the student was the son of a New York Times columnist who took us to task at a time when policing in America, especially in communities of color, was under intense scrutiny. Read more

Taking Emergency Medicine in the Field to a SMART Level

Dr. Neeki and three medics pose for photos at the Colton inpound area. By Dr. Michael Neeki
Associate Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center 

I left Iran more than three decades ago to escape fanatical religious extremism. As one can imagine, I was greatly disheartened upon seeing such zealotry in my home of the United States that fateful day of December 2nd, when the San Bernardino terrorist attack occurred.

I am greatly honored to have been part of the Inland Valley SWAT team, supporting the brave members of the San Bernardino city police and fire department during that tragic event. However, this experience was profoundly sad and devastating due to the loss of life to 14 innocent people, all of whom simply went to work that morning. The work of the first responders to the terrorist attack prevented further loss of life that day. Read more

Orlando Tragedy Spurs Memories for San Bernardino Police Chief

Burguan_JarrodBy Chief Jarrod Burguan
San Bernardino Police Department

With a very heavy heart, I watched the tragic news unfold out of Orlando this past weekend.

It was painful for me to hear of the unconscionable loss of life. It made me proud to see law enforcement responding forcefully and effectively to prevent more people from being slaughtered.

But it was also an odd situation for me, being on the other side of things. It was just seven months ago that I found myself front and center after my city of San Bernardino fell victim to a terrorist attack from a husband and wife who shot and killed 14 innocent people. Read more

Identifying and Developing Latent Diversity in Policing

Johnson ID photoBy Jeremiah Johnson, Ph.D.
Patrol Sergeant
Darien, CT, Police Department

The present crisis in policing has gathered the winds of reform, generating important conversations about what policing should look like in the 21st century.  A clear consensus is often hard to achieve given the constituencies involved, yet there is almost universal agreement that our profession can begin to turn the ship around through improved hiring practices.  This avenue of reform is typically framed within the context of racial and ethnic diversity, the ideal being that a police agency should reflect the face of the community.  This is indeed an important end that can enhance police legitimacy.  The call to increase the number of women in policing is less pronounced, but no less important.  In fact, increasing female representation is arguably one of the most effective ways to reduce the rate of extralegal force.  We would be remiss, however, to straighten our rudder upon reaching some semblance of diversity on these fronts alone. Read more

Tracking Data is Key After a State Legalizes Marijuana

CHIEF Marco Vasquez_croppedBy Chief Marco Vasquez
Chief of Police in Erie, Colorado

My home state of Colorado recently released its first study of the consequences of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

What surprised me the most is how much we still do not know after six years of commercial marijuana legalization. The study examined as much data as could be found. But therein lies the problem: No one had been effectively tracking marijuana statistics prior to 2010 when Colorado legalized the drug to allow for commercial, medical, and then, in 2012, for recreational use.

It’s why I am here to tell you something important: If your state has not legalized marijuana, you can expect that there is a pretty good chance that will change in the future. What I see across the country is that law enforcement leaders are generally in denial that it will happen in their state. And if it does, the reaction is, “Hell no, we are going to resist it at all cost.”

That was the thinking of Colorado law enforcement leading up to the vote. We simply did not think it would happen, and then when it did, the reaction was: Holy cow, what do we do now? Read more

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