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.

 

 

 

Managing Chaos

McMahon_JohnBy John McMahon
San Bernardino County Sheriff

If you have been in the business of law enforcement for a significant time, there’s no doubt you have had to deal with some extraordinary circumstances and incidents. I have been the Sheriff of San Bernardino County, California, for three years, and I have definitely seen my share of high-profile cases.

Within the first six weeks of being sworn in as the Sheriff, I found myself and my department in the middle of an intense situation involving Christopher Dorner, a deranged ex-cop who terrorized Southern California during a ten-day killing spree that ended in a massive manhunt in my county. Hundreds of news cameras and reporters from throughout the world descended on the scene, and the event became the top national news story for five straight days.

Tragically, three officers and one civilian lost their lives, and many more were seriously injured as a result of Dorner’s domestic terrorist activities. One of my own deputies was killed and another was critically wounded during this event.

As you can imagine, this was one hell of a test in leadership for a brand new Sheriff. And as I expected, more tests were to come. Read More & Share

Strong Relationships and Skilled People Will Lead You Through the Chaos

Burguan_JarrodBy Chief Jarrod Burguan
San Bernardino Police Chief

The day of Dec. 2, 2015 will be etched into my memory for the rest of my life. I’ve spent the better part of my career watching other communities experience mass shooting events at schools, workplaces, churches; the list goes on. On Dec. 2, it was San Bernardino’s turn. It became one of those days that, as a chief, you think about and you run scenarios through your head wondering how you might respond if it ever happens in your city.

Some have said they thought the response from our department and our regional partners that day was textbook. Some have heaped a great deal of praise on the response and the leadership on display that day. I’ll readily admit that it’s nice to hear the compliments, and it feels good to play a part in showing the honorable side of our profession, especially in light of what our profession has been through in recent years.

But inside our department, we know it was organized chaos. It was not flawless and it was not textbook since there are no textbooks that can possibly prepare you for handling these types of dynamic incidents.  One person does not make it all happen. This case was brought to a successful ending and was solved because officers not only did their jobs—they showed exceptional skill and intelligence, and they worked together in what will likely be the most complex multijurisdictional event most of them will experience in their careers. Read More & Share

Race and the Police

clarence-edwardsBy Clarence Edwards

Race continues to influence how people of African descent in the United States are treated by law enforcement. Racism has been a systematic feature of American society and all of its institutions since this nation’s inception. Acknowledgement of the role implicit and overt biases have historically played in creating disparate law enforcement practices and the resulting frictions between African Americans and the police is a reality that should be immediately addressed.

The assignment of Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and even African American police officers to police poor, predominantly black neighborhoods who have had little or no social contact with members of this group or specific training in how to effectively interact in such environments is an ongoing recipe for disaster. Police officers from each of the aforementioned groups sometimes bring negative attitudes and or stereotypes to these communities that can adversely affect their decisions and the fairness of their enforcement actions.

Some police forces in this nation have historically played critical roles in maintaining positional power for whites. This has created a very difficult chasm to overcome when police departments attempt to implement community policing initiatives. Read More & Share

Law Enforcement: The New Caregivers for the Mentally Ill?

bernard-melekianBy Bernard Melekian
Santa Barbara County Undersheriff

One of the greatest public policy failures of modern times is the dismantling of our nation’s state mental health systems and the failure to replace them with any meaningful treatment options. The elimination of the mental health hospital system was as disastrous as it was well intentioned.

In the 1970’s, when I was a young police officer, the stated plan was to replace the state hospitals with neighborhood mental health clinics. Officers could take people they encountered in difficult but not criminal situations to these clinics for an assessment and treatment if required. For those persons who didn’t qualify to be held for 72 hours, they did get counseling, medication or just a place to sit quietly. It was an incredible resource for police officers. Sadly, funding for the program was eliminated. Worse, nothing came along to replace it.

What is left is a system that all too often consigns people to the street and eventually the correctional system, usually the county jail. Our jail and prison facilities have unfortunately replaced the mental health care system. Read More & Share

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