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.




The barbershop: where real conversations take place

By Chief Mark Holtzman
Greenville (NC) Police Department

What police department in America is not looking for a way to bridge the gap between the police and the community we serve?  Skipping right to the issue at hand, the trust and relationships between our police and the African American community is an equation we [Chiefs and Commanders] are trying to solve.

Like most, after doing a thorough review of our current community-policing outreach initiatives, we recognized that something was still missing.  We still weren’t bridging the gap.

But could the Barbershop really be the answer?   Read More & Share

As mass casualty attacks proliferate, new model to prevent them emerges

Professor John D. Cohen
Rutgers University

On June 14 a lone gunman open fired on a group of Congressmen practicing for an upcoming softball game, wounding six, one critically.

The shooter was stopped when two Capitol Hill Police Officers engaged the gunman, killing him.

That same day, a disgruntled employee open fired on co-workers at a San Francisco UPS facility killing three and wounding two other people.

As a nation we are experiencing a significant increase in mass casualty attacks by individuals using guns, knives, motor vehicles and even bombs.

Some of these attackers have self-connected to a terrorist or other ideological cause while others are motivated by some other perceived grievance.

Extensive research and analysis have revealed that many of these attackers share common behavioral and psychological characteristics, and this is important because understanding the dynamics of this offender population allows us to develop strategies to prevent these attacks in the future. Read More & Share

Making time for yourself when there is no time

By Tammy McCoy Arballo
Counseling Team International Clinical Psychologist

Time is unkind.
The days are not long enough to meet the never-ending demands of law enforcement careers and family life. It feels like we have never been busier or more accessible than we are at this point in human history. With the dinging from a text message, our focus automatically shifts from dinner with our family to the sudden demand of a sensitive work matter.
High achievers, (which is to say, 99 percent of the law enforcement officials I’ve ever met) are not comfortable saying No when asked to take on additional duties or see things certain things need to get done right and take on the task for the betterment of the organization.
This can result in feeling overwhelmed at work, reduced time at home with the family and less opportunity to decompress, and have fun.
So, how can we steal a few minutes for ourselves? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use the commute to and from work to your advantage

During the drive, turn off or mute your cell phone during the drive (yes, you can do it for a few minutes.) Make a playlist of your favorite tunes and crank up the music. This gives you a chance to clear your mind and lift your mood.

Listen to podcasts that you love and escape into a great story. This gives you the opportunity to take a mental break and engage in something relaxing and fun. (Fun matters, folks!)

  • Go to the gym first thing in the morning

There is an abundance of scientific data attesting to the physical and mental health benefits of working out regularly, even if it is only for 15 to 20 minutes. A workout will help reduce stress, improve mood and overall health.
You also get the feeling of accomplishment early in the day. It is automatic “me time” that you can spend watching a movie on your phone, listening to music, ESPN podcasts or the like.

  • Sit in your car before you leave the station parking lot or before you walk through the front door of your home

Give yourself five minutes to prepare yourself to re-enter your home after a long and stressful day. The transition from work to home is an important one. We work so hard to provide for our family. Seemingly everything we do is to make the world a little better for the people we love.
Giving yourself a few minutes to switch from law enforcement official to father, mother, husband, wife is a gift to both them and us.
If we walk through the door with the angst of the day still swirling through our minds, we are not going to be able to be present for them and enjoy them. Take a few deep breaths and focus on where you are and why you want to be there.
Remember that we can control how we spend our time. We have the power to decide how we use our time. Life feels more demanding than ever and law enforcement officials are under more stress than ever before. There has never been a more important time to take care of yourself. Please spend your time wisely and invest in yourself at some point during each day.
Be safe and take care

Read More & Share

Officer’s fentanyl crisis discussed

Photo credit to CBC/Radio-Canada

A Q&A with Chief John Lane
East Liverpool (Ohio) Police Department

The opioid epidemic continues to stretch across the United States, just as it has been doing in Canada and the United Kingdom. Last month, an East Liverpool (Ohio) police officer accidentally came into contact with fentanyl and overdosed.

He was treated with one dose of Narcan at the station and three more at the local hospital to save his life.

We spoke to Chief John Lane, whose department of 17 officers has had multiple run-ins with fentanyl-related incidents, and asked him five questions about the impacts of the epidemic on the community of 11,000 people along Ohio’s eastern border with Pennsylvania.

How is the officer now?

He is doing well. He is back to work. He is a bulldog, he is always chasing drugs. It took him a few days before he started feeling better but he is doing well now. He had some chest pains afterward. They say the drug slows your heart way down, and the Narcan gives a shock to the system to revive you.

How does a police chief lead under these types of conditions?

I have to try to think ahead of ways to protect my guys. They are trying to protect the city and sometimes you have to protect them from themselves because these guys are hard charges, and they have to think about themselves. They think they are invincible, and all it takes is just touching touch it. In this case, the officer just brushed some power off his shirt. It’s hard to get them to slow down, and this didn’t even happen out on the streets. It’s also important that they have to think about them bringing it home to their families, their kids, or anyone around them. This stuff is that strong, that dangerous.

What changes in protocol have you made?

It is hard with a small department. We don’t have a lot of people or a lot of money. You need the gloves, the masks, the protective gear. You need to have Narcan. You can touch fentanyl or inhale it, and just like that, it’s got you. It is scary to think about. Our guys don’t carry Narcan, we leave that to the ambulance paramedics. They are the professionals, and really, how much can we carry in our cars? How much is enough? I’d rather the paramedics are dealing with that. If we were a rural county, it might be a different story.

In a small town like this, we run out of Narcan. The ambulances carry it, and when they get there to the scene to use, they are counting it out, saying how many cans they have left. They were down to their last one on one case.

The big changes are when we do evidence collection. There are no more field tests. We want two guys back at the station, together, gloved up, double bags, everything we can possibly do so we aren’t leaving a trail of it. Even if we think it is cocaine, and sometime people tell us it is and they are lying but they are already getting arrested. They don’t care.

How does the opioid crisis compare with previous narcotics-driven epidemics?

As far as the officers or people innocent of it being overcome by it, there’s never been anything like it in my career. The danger is incredible. I worry about it being used as a weapon. If people sprinkled it somewhere above where you had a lot of people, you could have a mass casualty situation. Get it in the air. Spread it on doorknobs. It is that strong. It is a terrorist’s dream. I have never heard of anyone worrying about it being used as a weapon. But it is so simple, just touching it will take you down. Someone could just sprinkle it on door knobs. My goodness, the possibilities are endless.

In September 2016, the department released images of an overdosed couple passed out with a 4-year-old child. The department received some criticism for it but you were adamant that it was the right move. You spoke to a reporter and said, “Enough already. People need to know what is happening. This picture is graphic, it’s disturbing. I need people to get upset and help us take back the streets. I need the presidential candidates to look at this and tell me what they will do to fix it.” Three quarters of a year later, do you still feel the same way?

People even today don’t want to realize how dangerous these things are. In that particular picture, the kid is in the back seat. What do kids do? Touch everything. It can kill everybody. I don’t think people realize how dangerous it is. And that was just fentanyl, not carfentanil, which is so much stronger.

I will tell you what, the laws are going to have to change when it comes to this stuff simply because of how dangerous it is.

I have talked to some people who say they haven’t had to deal with it. I tell them, it’s there. They just haven’t had to experience it. Be glad that’s the case, but it won’t last. All of that stuff is around. It’s in just about every community. And if they ain’t got it yet, it is coming.


Chief John Lane has been with the East Liverpool Police Department for 22 years where he started his career as a patrolman. He was promoted to captain in 2000 and then took over as chief in 2013. He graduated from Ohio State with a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice.

There is no such thing as a free body camera

By Chief Brandon del Pozo
Burlington (VT) Police Department

In the early days of police body cameras, the few companies that served the market relied on an emergency procurement model: Pioneering police departments would buy the cameras in response to crises to show the public they were engaging in the reforms necessary to keep their trust.

This typically followed an ugly use-of-force incident or a corruption scandal. Other forward-thinking chiefs paid high prices for body cameras to keep ahead of these crises, knowing they were purchasing a technology in its earliest stages of its development, when it was likely to be the most expensive.

Police body cameras have evolved since then. They are quickly becoming a standard piece of police equipment, but in doing so they are also becoming a standard piece of consumer electronics.

Body cameras are not especially complicated devices – they comprise a camera, battery, a microphone, a button or two and a processor in a rugged case. They are like a smartphone without a screen.

It follows that, as with these phones, the profits won’t come from the devices themselves, which will be basically given away for free. Read More & Share

Policing is a relationship driven business

By Chief Rick Myers
City of Newport News (Va.) Police Department

Somewhere along the journey of providing our officers with better tools, better training, increasing their safety and protection and access through advanced technologies of real-time information, we forgot about a basic reality: All policing is done through relationships.

It is just as important that we provide training and tools to maximize relationship building as it is the many other facets of policing.

Relationships cannot be developed without direct human interaction. At a time when it seems folks are more adept at communicating through thumbs on a phone’s keyboard than looking eye-to-eye, it falls on police leadership to recognize skill deficiencies that we can train and improve.

Read More & Share

Quantifying, justifying cost of body-worn cameras

By Valarie Findlay
Research Fellow, Police Foundation

Body-worn camera equipment and infrastructure, program development and implementation are by no means cheap. Assessing their cost-benefit and return on investment is not only crucial but straightforward and easy — if you’re doing it wrong. And you don’t want to do it wrong.

Justifying a multi-million dollar expenditure when policing budgets are hard fought for and stretched thin can be a tricky proposition. With many organizations pulling back after implementing BWC pilots, mostly due to high storage and maintenance costs, justification has become more important, with higher accountability and scrutiny. With conceptual costing and actual costing often having different price tags, ad hoc implementation that lacks costing, analysis and planning is no longer acceptable. Read More & Share

Policing leaders need to align their views with the public

By Chief Art Acevedo
Houston Police Department

I am a supporter of traditions. They serve an important role in keeping the positive parts of the past alive.

When it comes to policing, the heritage we celebrate, honor and maintain should be a tradition of excellence.

But tradition should not be about the evolution of an organization. Too often, policing agencies fall back on tradition as an excuse to prevent change. We must never allow our careers to become so calloused that we stop changing.

Here’s a good example. Most policing agencies in the United States require officers to keep all tattoos hidden from the public. That means officers with tattoos on their arms have to wear long sleeved shirts or cover sleeves if they are to have any interaction with people outside the department. Read More & Share

Drones help augment a police department’s capabilities to fight crime

By Jarrod Burguan
San Bernardino Police Chief

These days, the term “drone” elicits all sorts of emotional reactions.

Some see it as fun, a hobby, a chance to explore a world above the ground that you couldn’t do previously without spending a lot of money. Others see it as a viable operational tool that can be used under numerous work opportunities.

And still more see it as an infringement on privacy at best and a militarized Big Brother at its worst.

I get it — I understand all of them.

In a way, not one of those reactions is wrong. Just as is the case with all innovations, the potential is there for drones to be any and all of those things. Read More & Share

Going back to school is worth the effort – if you’re committed

higgensBy Ronnell Higgins
Yale Police Chief

On the fateful day that President John Kennedy was assassinated, he was prepared to give a speech in which he planned to say that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Nearly two years ago, I decided I wanted to go back to school. Our department had been part of a high-profile case involving the son of a New York Times columnist, which I have written about before.

That situation took me out of my comfort zone. I realized that police chiefs are all one major incident away from no longer being the police chief.  I write that very candidly, and I also write that knowing that Yale University supported my department and me in that situation. Read More & Share