(pictured: Kevin Johnson)
The U.S. Conference of Mayors’s Working Group of Mayors and Police Chiefs have made a set of recommendations coming on the heels of the crisis in Ferguson, Staten Island, New York and other incidents where police conduct have come under serious questioning.
After a four-month review of policing policies and practices nationwide during a community policing session at the group’s 83rd winter meeting in Washington, D.C, a series of changes are being recommended for police departments across the country.
At the heart of the report titled “Strengthening Policing-Community Relations in America’s Cities” is the trust between law enforcement and communities.
(pictured: Stephanie Rawlings Blake)
“Recent events have demonstrated that, despite instituting community policing in many departments and realizing substantial reductions in the crime rate in many cities, mistrust between the police and the communities they serve and protect continues to be a challenge that must be addressed,” the report noted. “Police officers need to interact on a daily basis with the community to develop credibility and establish an ongoing dialogue with residents, including those with whom they may disagree, to help keep incidents from becoming crises.”
According to the report community policing must be much more than one officer forming a relationship. It involves making inroads in the most challenged communities.
“Police officers should treat all people with dignity and respect. Given the history of tension, police should be particularly sensitive to minority communities. If people feel disrespected in their encounters with officers, the experience will leave a long lasting negative impact that will be shared with family and friends,” the report said. “The police should engage in problem solving partnerships with the community. Police should work to establish trusting relationships with community residents that can be the foundation for working together in times of crisis.”
The report also underscores the role of a police chief.
(pictured: Mick Cornett)
“The chief’s leadership, direction, focus and credibility are critical to the department’s success and to how it is viewed by the community. It is generally appropriate for the chief to take the lead, independent ofthe mayor, when serious incidents occur. The chief should be skilled in providing leadership in a crisis. The chief should be aware of resources and help (make them) available,” the report stated.
In the wake of the Ferguson crisis, one of the issues that came up was the lack of racial diversity with the Ferguson Police Department which was majority White.
“Police departments need to review recruiting and hiring practices to ensure they are reflective of the community they serve. Departments may need to use nontraditional means to attract recruits who are representative of the diversity in the community. At the same time, departments need to perform thorough background checks on all applicants to help ensure that those who are accepted will become good police officers,” the report pointed out.
The kind of training police officers receive in their dealings in communities of color has also been at the forefront of cries for criminal justice reform.
The mayors’ report is recommending a change in procedure.
“Training should cover more than the procedures of policing. It should help police officers understand their role in a democratic society how to engage in constitutional policing,” the report recommended.
“Training must concentrate on preventing unwarranted use of force, offer officers alternatives to the use of lethal weapons, and clarify when use of lethal weapons is appropriate. Training also must concentrate on community engagement and must reinforce the importance of treating residents with dignity and respect. Officers must be trained in how to defuse incidents.Police officer training also must include methods for handling individualsexhibiting mental illness. People from outside of the department, including the clergy, should provide at least some of the training.”
On equipment, the report said, “Many departments already have appropriate standards for the deployment of, and training related to, military and other equipment provided by the federal government to local police departments. These standards should be in place in all departments that have such equipment.Body worn cameras can be an important tool, and funding to assist in purchasing cameras, providing training in and standards for their use, and appropriately storing data collected via cameras is essential if more departments are to be camera-equipped.”
The report was presented to the White House by the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Kevin Johnson the mayor of Sacramento, vice president Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, second vice president Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City and Tom, CEO and executive director of the group.