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.

 

 

 

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

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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