The White House’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing is currently holding listening sessions to draft recommendations to strengthen the relationships between local police and the communities they serve and protect.
The task is part of comprehensive plan to overhaul the federal funding stream focused on community policing, with the hope of avoiding recent race-related events as in Ferguson (MO), Staten Island (NY) and Cleveland (OH).
The task force includes law enforcement representatives and community leaders and is operating in collaboration with Ron Davis, Director of the Justice Dept.’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office. It will: build on the extensive research currently being conducted by COPS; examine how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.
The plan also includes a proposed investment package that would: increase police officers’ use of body worn cameras; expand training for law enforcement agencies; add more resources for police department reform; and multiply the number of cities where the Justice Dept. facilitates community and local LEA engagement. The task force’s recommendations will help direct this funding, if adopted by Congress.
Cameras could cub misconduct
A cornerstone of the proposed package is the new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program, because this type of equipment can deter incidents like in Ferguson. It would provide a 50% match to states and localities to purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage. The White House estimates the proposed $75 million, three-year investment could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras.
Implementing a Body Worn Camera Program, a new report released by DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services and the Police Executive Research Forum, shows that body worn cameras help strengthen accountability and transparency, and that officers and civilians both act in a more positive manner when they’re aware that a camera is present.
Mayors offer insights
The task force has been busy holding listening sessions throughout the country. At the seventh listening session in late February, the U.S. Conference of Mayors provided its insights and recommendations.
The recommendations come from a USCM report, Strengthening Police-Community Relations in America’s Cities, which is the result of a four-month review of policing policies and best practices nationwide that was conducted by a task force created by the organization. The report promotes strong community partnerships.
“We believe that improving police/community relations is not solely a law enforcement responsibility. The entire community — business, the not-for-profit community, civic and social organizations, the faith community, police, and government at all levels — must be involved to assure not just public safety, but justice and, equally important, a sense of justice in the community,” said Gary, IN, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson during her testimony to the White House task force
The USCM recommendations are grouped into six focus areas: (1) building police-community trust; (2) improving police department practices; (3) assuring timely and accurate communications; (4) conducting independent investigations; (5) addressing racial and economic disparities; and (6) providing national leadership.
Analysis: The White House will face an up-hill battle in getting its proposal through Congress. The administration, however, is astute at attracting private funders to fund its initiatives. For example, Bloomberg Philanthropies has funded city-focused endeavors promoted by the White House in the past, and could offer a program for law enforcement agencies to purchase body worn cameras.