Really rural

September 18, 2018

This public radio segment reports on the difficult challenges facing Village Public Safety Officers in Alaska. Typically local residents with little training, VPSOs often work alone in extremely isolated villages that suffer high rates of suicide and substance abuse, and they frequently have to take action against friends and family members. To make matters worse, state funding for basic services, including policing, has been reduced.


Effectiveness + fairness

September 17, 2018

Police departments have gotten better at targeting hot spots and active offenders over the last decade, relying more and more on data, analysis, and evidence-based strategies. This approach has not reduced disparate impacts on people of color, however, leading some critics to call for scaling back data-driven policing. This column discusses the dilemma, argues against abandoning effective strategies, and recommends three additional responses: making strategies as tailored and surgical as possible, concurrent emphasis on engagement and community collaboration, and deeper investment in community crime prevention.

Armed off-duty

September 17, 2018

This public radio segment discusses the recent fatal shooting in Dallas by an off-duty officer who mistakenly entered the wrong apartment. One topic is the difference in investigative assumptions when the shooter is a police officer as opposed to an ordinary citizen. Another is the common practice of encouraging or even requiring police to be armed while off-duty. One analysis showed that over 500 officers are arrested each year for crimes committed while off-duty, and “where an officer’s arrested for an incident that involves off-duty gun violence, 42 percent of those cases are also alcohol-related offenses.”

Use-of-force data questioned in Oakland

September 15, 2018

Oakland PD came under federal court oversight 15 years ago and has yet to be found in full compliance in a few specific areas, including complaint procedures and racial disparities in stops. The department did see a 75% drop in use of force between 2012 and 2017, with a further 34% decrease so far in 2018. However, the monitor’s review of 29 cases in the first quarter of this year identified 7 instances of officers using force that should have been reported, but were not, according to this article. None of the unreported uses of force were deemed improper, but the discovery raises doubts about the credibility of the agency’s data.

Searching for truth, not partisan advantage

September 14, 2018

This columnist looks back at his early post-Ferguson writing and concedes that it contributed more to a “partisan narrative than to a tough, clear-eyed search for truth.” There is no epidemic of police shootings, but the number is far higher than previously reported. Some studies refute the claim that unarmed black men are disproportionately shot by police, but reveal that African Americans (men and women) are more likely to be pushed, pepper sprayed, and disrespected. The facts don’t fit a simple either/or narrative — “Most cops do what’s right. Many cops are extraordinarily brave. But I also think the best evidence indicates that race is more of a factor in modern policing than I wanted to believe.”

Slow-walking reform in San Francisco

September 13, 2018

This column reports delay in implementing a suggested policy reform in San Francisco. A working group comprised of citizens and officers recommended a new procedure following every street stop — police would provide their identification in writing, along with contact information for filing either a complaint or a commendation. One year later, without much explanation, the policy came back from command staff with “upon request” inserted, effectively negating the suggested change in standard practice. A deputy chief admitted that working groups can study and deliberate only to have it overturned by someone who “may have opined without all the other research.”

An American in Al-Qa’ida

September 11, 2018

This article decribes the experiences of the first American foreign fighter to join Al-Qa’ida following the 9/11 attacks. He traveled from Long Island to Pakistan and Afghanistan, completed several training courses, and participated in two failed missions before being captured. He subsequently renounced the affiliation, became a western intelligence asset, and testified against captured jihadists. He is coauthor of the article along with a former NYPD intelligence official.

Innovation in mid-size departments

September 9, 2018

This report from the Heritage Foundation covers a wide range of policing issues — resource constraints, training, community relations, immigration, technology, etc. — from the perspective of mid-size law enforcement agencies, described as “large enough to test solutions applicable to much larger departments, but small enough to remain agile and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances, making them well-suited to serving as laboratories of innovation.” The report is the result of a Policing Strategy Summit held earlier this year attended by 20 law enforcement leaders.

Launching a career from a streetcorner

September 8, 2018

This article reports a new initiative in Philadelphia, started by police, aimed at linking “corner boys” and “corner girls” with job opportunities. On the first Friday of each month, officers, local employers, and workforce developers will visit streetcorners in two sections of the city. “They’ll offer a wide range of support to help the new workers prepare for and retain employment. Barriers such as criminal records, transportation, child-care, computer literacy, and even wardrobe will be addressed through the program.”

Focusing on crime guns

September 7, 2018

This best practices manual explains how agencies are increasingly using crime gun intelligence to “disrupt the shooting cycle.” The aim is to develop quicker intelligence using NIBIN and the ATF gun tracing center to connect ballistics evidence, guns used in crimes, and shooters. Equally important is rapid dissemination and sharing of information among an agency’s units and between neighboring agencies. According to the manual, the approach “has proven its value in measurable reductions in violent gun crime through apprehension and successful prosecution of violent offenders.”