Who speaks for police?

March 2, 2021

Black officers in Chicago have formed a new Black Public Safety Alliance “as a way to collectively speak out on policing issues,” as reported here. Referring to the PD’s controversial FOP leader, one of the founders of the new association says “We want to not just let other officers (know) but let the community know: He doesn’t represent us.” More generally, the FOP has resisted reform efforts whereas members of the new group “want to work to support programs and policies that strengthen bonds between residents and the community.”

Reimagining policing in Ithaca

February 28, 2021

Ithaca NY has a proposal to split off half its police department into a separate unarmed division under a Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety, as reported here. Overall funding would remain the same. Current officers would have to reapply for positions in the armed public safety division. The main proponent is the city’s mayor, who says “The men and women of the Ithaca Police Department have performed their duties with admirable skill and professionalism, but for too long the answer to every human behavioral problem in our City has been to call the police.” The proposal comes in advance of an April 1 deadline by which jurisdictions within New York have to submit reform and reinvention plans if they want to remain eligible for state funding.

Policing the American City

February 24, 2021

A new book, Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City is authored by a law professor, in her 40s, who joined the Washington, DC Metro Police as a reserve officer. It describes her path through the police academy and several years as a patrol officer in one of DC’s toughest districts. The book has gotten favorable coverage here and here, and there’s an excerpt here. The author doesn’t spare criticism, but also describes the “humanity of front-line officers and the despair of the people who are trapped in a cycle of poverty, poor decisions, and a criminal justice system designed for everything but justice.” Reviewers agree the book will challenge both supporters and detractors of the police.

Extremism within police

February 22, 2021

This report from the Brennan Center discusses the threats posed by racism, white supremacy, and far-right militancy within the ranks of law enforcement. Harkening back to the likes of slave patrols and the KKK, it notes that these threats aren’t new. The report criticizes the FBI for not taking the threats more seriously, and catalogs a variety of recent events and developments from around the country, though apparently there isn’t any credible measure of the current extent of the problem. Whether it is 1% or 5% or 10% or some larger proportion of today’s police officers doesn’t seem to be known. Several recommendations for law enforcement agencies and for the federal government are provided.

Boogaloo Movement

February 19, 2021

This article details the evolution of the Boogaloo Bois, described as “a decentralized, anti-authority movement composed of a diverse range of actors mobilized in part by adherents’ belief that they are following in the footsteps of the United States’ founders and participating in a revolution against tyranny.” Several members are awaiting trial or have pled guilty to recent crimes including murder of police, firing into a police station, conspiracy to attack a state capitol, attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization, and various firearms charges. The article attributes the group’s appeal to a “corrupted conceptualization [of] a set of abstract virtues, or ideographs, that are deeply familiar to many Americans: liberty, rejection of government abuses, and disgust at authoritarianism.”

Promising non-police response in Denver

February 9, 2021

The STAR program in Denver, which provides a non-police response to selected incidents, handled 748 calls during its initial 6-month pilot phase, as reported here. No police assistance was required for any of the calls, and no arrests were made. Officials plan to expand from one 2-person team to six teams in the coming year. Interestingly, even with the expansion, they only expect to handle 3% of Denver PD’s calls, far short of the 17% of police calls handled by the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon.

Rise in carjacking

February 8, 2021

The increase in homicides in 2020 has gotten a lot of attention, but another crime that seems to have spiked is carjacking, as reported here. Minneapolis saw a 4-fold increase, with heavy involvement by juveniles. Washington, DC saw their numbers more than double. Many of the crimes turn quite violent — “they’re not just pointing a gun and making the demand for the vehicle and phones or wallets; they’re also beating people up ruthlessly. People give up their phones, purses, and car keys, and then they’re beating them down.” Speculation centers on kids not being in school and the juvenile justice system being on hold due to the pandemic.

Combating domestic extremists

February 5, 2021

Combating domestic terrorism may be harder than the successful effort launched against international jihadists since 2001, according to expert Brian Jenkins, as reported here. He notes that domestic extremists have a larger constituency, are better organized, and are better armed than foreign-inspired terrorists. The American public galvanized against the external threat after 9/11 but is more split over the degree to which they repudiate groups that pose domestic threats. Jenkins warns that “The domestic extremists now threatening the peace are the latest incarnation of beliefs and quarrels reaching back to the 19th century. They may be contained, but never entirely rooted out.”

Police union contracts and reform

February 3, 2021

This article predicts that reformers will soon start targeting police union contracts, noting that “Over multiple rounds of negotiations, the number of job protections has slowly ratcheted up in many contracts as unions representing police pushed for rules that protect their members.” Houston and Chicago are currently in negotiations, with Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Memphis, Phoenix, and San Francisco coming up this summer. Topics recommended for reconsideration include grievance procedures, arbitration, misconduct reporting, internal investigation protocols, and record keeping.

Challenging time for Secret Service

January 22, 2021

January 6 at the U.S. Capitol illustrated the evolving threat environment facing the Secret Service and its duty to protect the President and other top leaders. This article reviews security enhancements that have been made since 9/11 and speculates about additional changes that may be on the horizon. Reduced travel by the president is one likely option — “You can’t launch the National Guard every time the president goes somewhere, and this will result in greater demands on local partners.” A related concern is insider threats, both within the Secret Service itself and with state and local police — previously, “You didn’t have the emotional content in the environment that you do now.” A specific suggestion is to make the Multi-Agency Command Center in DC a 24/7 operation to overcome information siloes within the dozens of federal law enforcement agencies operating in the District. That would likely improve coordination and allow for quicker identification and response to serious threats.