OnPolicing Blog

Welcome to the OnPolicing series.

PF On Policing logo final versionOnPolicing 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 National 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 OnPolicing for an in-depth introduction to the series by the National Police Foundation’s former president and founder of the OnPolicing blog, Jim Bueermann. If you would like to contribute to the OnPolicing series, please send your 500-1000 word essay to info@policefoundation.org.




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

How educated should police be?

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

Do uniformed police increase risk?

By Fred Burton
Stratfor.com Chief Security Officer

Recently, at a speech and follow-up discussion with the global security department of a major multinational company, an interesting and lively discussion ensued over the topic of whether the presence of uniformed police officers increases the risk to a venue or location.

The topic was raised in light of the police killings in Dallas and Baton Rouge coupled with the recent targeting of police vehicles and officers during violent demonstrations in St. Louis and Atlanta.

While targeting police officers is nothing new, these incidents seem to be occurring with disturbing frequency, both inside the United States and abroad. In Austin, Texas, in November, 2014, a gunman opened fire on the police headquarters building after also firing shots at the Mexican Consulate and the U.S. Courthouse. In July 2017, an NYPD officer was ambushed and murdered in the Bronx in an incident reminiscent of similar officer murders in 2014 and other ambushes of police officers in Iowa and Pennsylvania in November, 2016. Read More & Share

CALEA accreditation – a platform for excellence and reform

By Jim Burch
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the Police Foundation

The Police Foundation’s mission is to advance policing through innovation and science. We pursue this mission by consistently seeking opportunities to impact the profession we were created to serve.  

Many opportunities to impact policing exist – new technologies emerge and evolve constantly.  New tactics and strategies are always debated. New research and analysis on programs and approaches are typically within reach.

With our highly decentralized structure of law enforcement in the U.S., innovative practices typically emerge in one agency or jurisdiction and with luck and leadership, may spread to others, adapted along the way according to individual preferences and requirements.

What is far less common are opportunities for “one to many” innovations and change, where one action or intervention creates changes in many agencies or jurisdictions at nearly the same time. Certainly, federal and state case law has had an impact, but the courts are not typically, nor should they be thought of as a source for best practice in policing. Read More & Share

Police-community relations

By Tracy Miller
Orange County (CA) Assistant District Attorney

Every day police officers risk their lives to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately, law enforcement’s heroic efforts are often not recognized by local communities.  One way we are building stronger community relationships with law enforcement and highlighting their outstanding work is through an innovative program, OC GRIP.

OC GRIP (Orange County Gang Reduction & Intervention Partnership) shows the community the great work of local police officers, while focusing on preventing minors from joining a criminal street gang. OC Grip has more than 300 partners in 13 cities in Southern California. These partners include police and probation departments, private businesses and non-profit and faith-based organizations.

For over 10 years, through OC GRIP, we have had great success in inspiring children to resist participating in gangs, while improving the community’s relationship with law enforcement. Read More & Share

Building police legitimacy through measuring and managing performance

By Chief Cameron S. McLay (ret.)

These are tough times for those of us in policing…

The crisis of confidence and legitimacy that characterizes post-Ferguson policing illustrates a vital lesson for local governments and their police.  We, the police, must hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes of our policing services. We must measure our work and our outcomes based on a broader number of measures than simply measuring crime rates, and must continually reexamine our efforts in response to feedback and performance short-falls.

As with education and health care, policing would be well served by becoming more outcome-based. If the purpose for police interventions is to reduce crime, fear and disorder, to create safe communities suitable for normal civic life to occur, the question “Are we being successful in achieving these outcomes” must be part of the calculus. In other words, each police agency must operate as an open system, using feedback as a learning loop for constant performance improvement — becoming more responsive to to public needs and mindful of the impact of our efforts. Read More & Share

How do police use VR? Very well

By Deputy Chief Eddie L. Reyes (ret.)
Police Foundation Senior Law Enforcement Project Manager

In the very beginning the law-enforcement arena had a difficult time establishing an effective training program. If you can’t simulate a hot situation, you have to train with real weapons that are made safe, the law enforcement officer doesn’t really feel that the training is real and you have to bring in lots of role players sometimes, often members of the community.

That’s where we were in the 1980s, early ‘90s — using real people. But it wasn’t the real effect. Then in the mid-‘90s some new training came into play that used video scenarios on a big screen and you would have to interact with it (MILO | FATS). These systems were very expensive costing as much as $100,000 and often the scenarios were not very interactive with the law enforcement officer being trained, because the people in the video didn’t respond appropriately to the commands that were being given out

Virtual reality isn’t new.  The gaming industry has been using it for years.  With the advent of virtual reality goggles, virtual reality training has taken off in military and law enforcement training. Now you’ve got this virtual reality training, and with a smaller investment than the traditional training systems — a pair of goggles and some basic acoustics– the training incident becomes very realistic. It’s so realistic you honestly get scared about the situation you’re in because everything around you is blocked out and you really feel as if you are in the scenario. Read More & Share