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.




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.

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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

Officers must learn to tell their stories

Tracy Miller of TM Consulting. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OCBy Tracy Miller
Orange County (CA) Assistant District Attorney

The officer who sat across from me at my kitchen table had clearly enjoyed a prodigious career but as he talked about himself, those tales weren’t materializing. I could see right then, if I were choosing whether to hire him, he would fail.

I’d seen it many times before. Cops are great at being cops. They do so many amazing things, they sacrifice so much, and they fight like hell for the people they pledge to defend.

But there are two things that cops are not good at: speaking up for themselves and showing they can be vulnerable. Read More & Share

Want to Connect Better to Your Community? Just Ask Questions


By James A. Cervera
Virginia Beach (Va.) Police Chief

A few years ago, some of my officers began investigating a shooting in which a guy had disappeared after he killed his wife and wounded his adult stepson.

As some of the officers began looking for the man, some kids rolled up on their bikes.

“Are you looking for that guy who shot those people?” one of the kids asked before saying as he pointed, “because he is hiding over there.”

Someone disconnected from our city might be surprised about that. But I’m not. That’s the type of relationship we have with our community.

It wasn’t always like that. Building relationships takes time, effort and some sweat. You have to be IN your community if you want to know the people that live there and make sure they know you.   Read More & Share

Policing takes a village, too

FB_IMG_1489107867360By Chief Damon Williams
Mooresville (NC) Police Department

Community policing can bring the entire town onto your team. And working together means communication, relationships.

No matter the demographics of the department, no matter the socio-economics of the community, relating as people and neighbors changes everything.

When I became chief in Mooreseville in April, I wanted to ease tensions in this large department, so I met one-on-one with every member of my staff — sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for hours. It gave me an opportunity to hear from them what they thought was working and what wasn’t. We molded our department into one of trust, partnership and team-building. I have a true open-door policy. If they come in and sit, I will never turn staff away.

How does that bridge with community? When you have an increase in morale in the department, it increases productivity in the community. In fact I have the same open-door policy with the community. If someone comes in, talk with me no matter how long it takes. Be open, talk about things that are unpleasant, and talk about how to fix it. Read More & Share

Body Cameras And Privacy — Where Do You Draw The Line?

del PozoBy Chief Brandon del Pozo
Burlington (VT) Police Department

Since an officer in my police department was brought under suspicion of perjury for statements he made when he thought his police body camera was turned off, some of our constituents have been adamant in calling for a policy that police officers cannot turn off their body cameras at all while on duty. They feel this will be an effective way to detect and deter misconduct and corruption.

It is a deeply flawed idea, and we have been clear in our opposition to it.

There should be a good discussion about when police ought to be required to activate cameras, but the idea that they should always have them on is untenable for both the police and the community.

  • Police body cameras that cannot be turned off as a matter of policy will capture the private conversations of anyone in earshot of the camera.
  • They will create surveillance footage of people in private and semi-private places going about their lives as police officers move about them.
  • They will capture confidential conversations with people who want to tell the police where the criminals are on their block.
  • They will capture the police discussing the lawful but sensitive tactics they use to investigate criminals and apprehend them.
  • They will capture privileged conversations with attorneys, and the identities of child crime victims or people in states of compromised dignity.
  • They will capture footage of cops going to the bathroom, eating lunch, and having cell phone conversations with their loved ones or getting a call from the doctor.

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