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.

 

 

 

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

Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs: The Future of Policing

bob-gualtieri-02By Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Florida

People make mistakes. They do stupid things. Sometimes they make bad choices because they are down on their luck and don’t feel they have another option.

But it is important to realize there is a big difference between bad people who do bad things that hurt people and good people who make an error in judgment because they are young and immature or just find themselves in a bad spot.

Here in Pinellas County, Florida, time and again we see people making these mistakes, getting convicted, serving time or paying large fines and ultimately, leaving themselves with criminal records that will often haunt them for much or all of their lives. Given how information today is so readily available, that statement really is true. There are even websites now where anyone can locate a person’s mugshot for what in some cases is really just a petty offense.

After a lot of talking and planning, we have decided that in our county, just because people do something wrong doesn’t mean they all should be saddled with an undue weight for the remainder of their days. In October, we started an Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion program aimed at preventing these sorts of errors from keeping people from getting a job or stable housing. Read More & Share

It’s Not Weak to Feel Psychological Trauma – It’s Human

tammy-mccoy-picBy Tammy McCoy-Arballo
Counseling Team International Clinical Psychologist

Being courageous does not mean you are not afraid. Courageous people are afraid, but fear does not stop them from confronting danger. I have been thinking about courage and danger a great deal as the first anniversary of the San Bernardino terrorist attack neared. We saw a tremendous amount of courage from the men and women in law enforcement who responded to the Inland Regional Center a year ago today.

As the anniversary of the San Bernardino terrorist attack dawns, it seems only natural to ask: “What would I do in that situation?” and “How would I react to the emotional strain caused by an event like that?”

A husband and wife tandem fired off hundreds of rounds during the Dec. 2, 2015 attack, killing 14 people and seriously injuring 22 others – all civilians. The pair was killed hours later during a firefight with officers, some who were injured during the exchange of gunfire.

Of course all law enforcement officials hope such circumstances never repeat themselves, but it would be normal for all who carry a badge and gun to look inward and ponder how they would respond if they faced the same situation or some sort of active-shooter event. Media reports describe a broad range of emotions from responding officers, from anxiety to excitement. Read More & Share

Raising Our Standards Above Criminal Culpability

FLYNNEdwardABy Chief Edward A. Flynn
Milwaukee Chief of Police

These days, there cannot be many more difficult jobs than being a cop in the United States. It’s reached such a point that in many ways, I can liken it to being a member of the military, serving overseas in a hot zone.

I say that because much like in the military, we in the law enforcement community are in the business of making critical decisions that impact people’s lives, and yet have to make those tough decisions with insufficient information. We are going to make mistakes. We can’t not make them.

We are encountering criminals with high-capacity firearms who are becoming more sophisticated at being criminals every day. They are cold, calculating and clearly have no problem killing people, particularly people in our inner cities. We also deal on a daily basis with more mental health issues than mental health professionals. Read More & Share

Lessons from the Battlefield: A Case for Evidence-Based Policing

greer-photo-8x10By Lieutenant Stuart Greer
Morristown (NJ) Police Department

As twin bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians heroically rushed into danger to save lives.  The first responders found that they were dealing with devastation on a massive scale but utilized everything available to help those that had been critically injured.  One of the actions taken by a number of first responders was the application of makeshift tourniquets to victims who were in danger of bleeding to death from their injuries.  Those actions were reportedly responsible for numerous victims surviving long enough to reach a Trauma Center where surgical interventions were able to save their lives.

The decision to apply those tourniquets was not widely reported, but as we look back now, it is a perfect example of the evolution of an evidence-based practice that can have impact on the lives of police officers and those we have sworn to protect. Read More & Share

Leading Culture Change

debora_blackBy Chief Debora Black
Prescott Police Department

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” -Edgar Schein

As leaders of law enforcement agencies, we might well debate the accuracy of Mr. Schein’s statement as we daily face threats to the safety of people in our communities, challenges which threaten the credibility of our organization, and real dangers that risk the very lives of our officers. There is no debate, however, about the importance culture plays in creating effective police departments with strong connections with their community.

Given the events of the past 18 months and the widespread criticism of our profession, officers could easily choose to isolate themselves from the very people they are sworn to protect. If that happens in a department, the principles of community policing are weakened, ultimately leading to even greater distrust of officers, which undermines the overall effectiveness of the department’s ability to protect the community from harm. Read More & Share

Law Enforcement Must Regain the Public’s Trust

davethomas2By Dr. David J. Thomas
Police Foundation Senior Research Fellow

I write this as an African American male and as a retired police officer.

There is so much American history that some of America wants to forget. Quite honestly, we Americans have short memories when it comes to uncomfortable reality or truth that interferes with our way of life. For instance, if I bring up slavery, police would argue: “Slavery has nothing to do with where we are today. I am not responsible for something that happened 300 years ago.”

What is lost in this argument and what the law enforcement community fails to recognize is that our past is the root of problems today. Read More & Share

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