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.

 

 

 

Law Enforcement Leaders Can Learn from Their Rank-and-File

Frank Tona picBy Sergeant Frank P. Tona
Police Foundation Policing Fellow

Across the United States today, police departments are dealing with increased public scrutiny as a number of highly publicized events have impacted the law enforcement profession. I have read the various reports completed by a multitude of think tanks, working groups, and task forces outlining ways the police can build trust in the communities they serve while performing their jobs in a professional and safe manner.

Absent many of these groups are the perspectives and opinions of current rank-and-file police officers. Many of the contributors are distinguished police commanders, chiefs, and sheriffs focused on finding solutions in their communities while effectively managing their organizations.

I believe many of these agencies have rank-and-file officers who have the knowledge, education, and experience to offer different viewpoints on the issues affecting their communities and profession. The officers, many rank-and-file or mid-level supervisors, not only possess the practical aspects of policing, but also have educational and training backgrounds to qualify their opinions. Unfortunately, police departments are not taking advantage of these types of officers who possess these unique skill sets. Read More & Share

California PD Discusses Relationship with Community in New YouTube Video


vallejo PD seal

By the Vallejo (CA) Police Department
Introduction By Police Foundation
Staff

The Vallejo Police Department has commissioned a promotional video of the California city that it serves and protects. The eight-minute video examines the department’s relationship with the community, both the good and the bad, and addresses the need to reconnect to its roots, hence the name of the video — “Reconnecting” — which can be viewed below and on YouTube.

What’s particularly interesting about this effort is that while VPD paid for the video, it gave complete editorial control of the final product to the local company that recorded, edited and produced it. VPD did not give input or influence to the video. The reason for this was VPD wanted an honest, documentary-styled review of its relationship with the people of Vallejo, which has a population of nearly 120,000. Read More & Share

Lessons Learned from Stockton, CA

Eric Jones photoBy Chief Eric Jones
Stockton, CA, Police Department

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones knows all about trial by fire. Jones has spent his entire career in the Stockton, CA, department, working his way up the ranks until he became appointed as chief on March 1, 2012, shortly before the city had to file for bankruptcy, which led many of his experienced officers to leave.

Stockton has been considered a crime-heavy city for years, even ranking as Forbes’ eighth most dangerous city in the nation in 2012. And in July 2014, Jones faced one of the hardest, most stressful events any chief has had to face: three armed men stormed a Bank of the West branch, took three hostages, and led police on an hour-long chase, firing more than 100 rounds at the officers with an AK-47 and disabling a dozen police vehicles, including their armored vehicle. The event concluded with a dramatic shootout in which officers fired more than 600 rounds that left one hostage dead, killed by bullets fired by police officers. Jones was lauded for his handling of the traumatic event. None were really surprised because the chief has been praised throughout his tenure for showing how effective true leadership can be. Read More & Share

SWAT Teams can be Front-and-Center in Community-based Policing

paulwalters

By Chief Paul M. Walters (Ret.)
Senior Associate with the Center for Public Safety Management

Before the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, there were a growing number of people questioning the need for the militarization of police. Seeing law enforcement effectively use a military-grade vehicle while utilizing heavy duty weapons to eliminate the terrorist threat seems to have quelled many of those concerns.

But some still question how a full-time, highly trained military type police unit can operate in a community-based police department. Some might argue it seems counter-intuitive at best because the two naturally feel to be at conflict with the other.

I could not disagree more. In reality, a highly trained military type police unit is a critical element in a department’s ability to protect the community they serve. Read More & Share

Recruiting, Selecting, and Retaining Law Enforcement Officers

Brett MeadeBy Brett Meade, Ed.D.
Deputy Chief of Police
University of Central Florida

Ask any law enforcement executive worldwide to list the most challenging internal issue facing their respective agencies, and the vast majority will mention recruiting, selecting and retaining sworn personnel.  The fact is, given the current environment of the policing profession, recruiting the next generation of police officers is more difficult than ever. With the pressures, demands, and expectations of the community, finding individuals who want to step into and stay in this uncertain and dangerous career is a daunting task.

Costs are always a concern, as the standard cost to recruit, hire, equip, and fully train a police officer from the time they submit their initial application to the time they can function independently may exceed $100,000 and take up to eighteen months. A law enforcement agency needs about three-five years of service to recoup this initial investment.

Open positions lead to increased overtime costs to fill needed shift coverage, decreased officer morale due to the inability to take time off or transfer to other units, and decreased delivery of services to the community. Turnover cannot be completely eliminated, as some officers will use an agency as a stepping stone while others realize that police work is not for them.  From a retention viewpoint, many agencies are suffering from a leadership vacuum caused by mass retirements and other turnover causes. Loss of trained officers with a few years’ experience under their belt who understand the community and are just becoming eligible for promotion is especially damaging to an agency and hinders succession planning. Read More & Share

Building Guardians to Create a Better Community

sue rahr 2
By Sue Rahr
Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission

As a profession, law enforcement has become very good at fighting crime. The FBI stats have proven it over the past several years.

Yet, as a profession, we are struggling. And much of it, though unintentional, is self-inflicted.

While we have done a great job attacking the disease in the community that is violent crime, the way some have carried out the effort has damaged the immune system built on public trust. The results have been eye-opening and are tremendously important: it turns out most people care more about how they are treated than the crime rate – a phenomenon demonstrated over decades of social science research.

We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Who enjoys being conquered? Demeaned? Intimidated?

The results explain the negative cloud that has engulfed policing in this country and the growing divide between cops and citizens. Some communities fear police rather than seeing them as a source of protection and help.

So how did we get here? Read More & Share

Community Relations are a Two-Way Street

chief bidouBy Chief Andrew Bidou
Vallejo, CA, Police Department

It was a year ago when I became chief of the Vallejo Police Department. I was proud to join it – the department has a great group of officers and support staff, but like many communities here in Northern California, Vallejo has also been hit with tough times.

Not everyone may know it but Vallejo was the first city in the nation to file for bankruptcy from the financial epidemic that hit our country several years ago. The city officially pulled out of bankruptcy in late 2011 and we are continually making progress, but anytime a city goes through a bankruptcy, city services are altered and people’s lives are negatively impacted. That in itself builds a lot of cynicism, but it had been exacerbated by both the growing national negative opinion of law enforcement and several high profile local events.  A distinct separation from some in the community and the police was clear.

We as a command staff knew we needed to reach out as a whole and reconnect with the community. Too many invisible walls had been built up, essentially creating an us-vs.-them mindset, which really is only a lose-lose for everyone involved. Read More & Share

Inviting Outsiders Inside Policing

Joyce pictureBy Nola M. Joyce
Former Deputy Commissioner, Philadelphia Police Department

In many police departments, I would still be considered an outsider.

That might seem striking, given that I have worked in high-ranking jobs at three of the nation’s largest police departments. In Chicago, I was the deputy director of research and development, and while in Washington D.C., I was the chief administrative officer. In my last job, I was a deputy commissioner and the CAO with the Philadelphia Police Department.

But I have never been a police officer. I have never worn the shield , a fact that often surprises my sworn colleagues.

Unfortunately, the strong belief in many law enforcement agencies across the nation is that those who haven’t worn a badge are outsiders with no real understanding of policing. Another belief directly connected to this one is that as long as a person has worn a badge, they have the requisite skills to do any job in a police department, no matter their proficiency or knowledge.

These two beliefs are remarkably limiting. It has built a wall of isolation around too many police headquarters, fostering the status quo and a homogeneity world view. Quite obviously, this severely limits new ideas and prevents alternative policies and programs from being explored and developed that could improve operations. Read More & Share

Police Errors Are Opportunities to Build Trust

stephens_webBy Darrel Stephens
Executive Director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association

No one likes making mistakes, but admitting to them can be an even more loathsome prospect. In policing though, there is no better way to move forward – not just from the mistake but as an industry as a whole. Recent surveys show that people have less confidence in the police on a national level, and much of that is borne out of a loss of public trust.

Interestingly, those same surveys show that the public does have greater faith in their local police officers. At first glance, it’s hard to know exactly why there is a difference. Based on what I have seen in my career, I believe it stems from the relationships local departments have developed with members of their community. That provides a foundation for a greater level of trust between citizens and police.

Often times, a critical reason for that trust comes from acknowledging when errors are made by police officers. More often than not, people base their beliefs on the experiences they have had, and when they know a mistake has been made and handled correctly, it builds trust. The reason is pretty simple: everyone makes mistakes, and people generally understand that reality.

From my perspective, police officers make two types of errors: mistakes of the mind and mistakes of the heart. A police chief must recognize the difference and be ready to deal with both. Read More & Share

An Introduction to On Policing

jim-buerrmannBy Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.)
President, Police Foundation

As police practitioners advance through their careers, they gain invaluable knowledge about controlling crime and disorder, organizational life, and human nature. While they are still “on-the-job”, they are able to convey what they’ve learned to their co-workers or others through meetings or conferences. But when they retire, most of them lose these knowledge-sharing connections and any future links to what they learned over the course of their careers. Under the best of circumstances, almost all of this diffusion of knowledge remains local and can be diluted with time. Rarely are we able to capture what we came to learn during our careers in a way that others can benefit from – especially those separated from us by distance or time.

Historians use “oral histories” to capture the experiences and knowledge of our elders before they are lost. Similarly, the Police Foundation is committed to now widely capturing the knowledge and wisdom of veteran practitioners, policy makers, researchers and involved community members about the constantly changing world of policing. It is our belief that this wisdom will advance our noble profession and help the public understand the complicated and challenging nature of protecting our communities from crime, disorder, and terrorism.

The topics discussed in On Policing are intended to be as diverse as policing is itself. Read More & Share

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