2020 reported crime

October 13, 2021

As reported here, FBI UCR data for 2020 indicated a historic 29% increase in homicide from the previous year, yielding the highest U.S. homicide rate since 1997. The clearance rate for murders fell to 50% — it was 82% in 1976. Among homicides, more of the circumstances were undetermined (46%) and more victim/offender relationships were unknown (52%) than in prior years. Meanwhile, the property crime rate continued its steady decline since 1991, although that is likely an artifact of the increase in various forms of fraud and cybercrime, which are not counted in Part 1 UCR statistics.

Position open: Research & planning manager, Austin TX

October 11, 2021

Austin, TX is seeking a leader for its police department’s Research & Planning Division, which includes multiple crime analysis and research teams. The application deadline is October 15. For details, see here.

Information sharing key to safe & effective alternative responses

October 8, 2021

A recent case in Tucson, in which two crisis workers responding to a mental health welfare check were kidnapped and robbed, illustrates the need for a system in which health care and police can share information in real time. The welfare check call had been diverted from 911 to a crisis line, so police were unaware of it, and crisis line staff didn’t have access to police databases to check for previous incidents or encounters at the location or with the individual. Tucson previously had 911 and crisis line staff co-located to facilitate information sharing, but the crisis line contractor removed their staff when the COVID pandemic hit, and they have yet to return.

Two DOJ positions

October 5, 2021

Two senior positions are currently advertised in the Office of Justice Programs of USDOJ, with impending due dates. Check here for the position of Supervisory Statistician, Law Enforcement Statistics Unit, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), with an October 11 deadline. Check here for the position of Executive Science Advisor in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), with a deadline of October 14.

California raises police age & education standards

October 5, 2021

California’s governor has signed legislation raising the minimum age for police from 18 to 21 and introducing a higher education requirement, as reported here. The latter is to take effect within 4 years based on a plan to be developed by the state’s community colleges “with input from law enforcement administrators and employees, California State University representatives and community organizations.” Whether the new education standard will correspond to a 2-year or 4-year degree is to be determined, but it must include courses in “psychology, communications, history, ethnic studies, law, and those determined to develop necessary critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence.” Partial credit will be granted for police experience, military service, and other post-secondary education.

Promising strategies for police wellness

October 4, 2021

PERF and the COPS Office have released a report titled Promising Strategies for Strengthening Police Department Wellness Programs, available here. Based on a technical assistance project with 3 medium-sized agencies, the report “provides a roadmap to creating a wellness program, … encouraging participation in the program, and normalizing the routine use of mental wellness services in policing.” The report offers 82 recommendations applicable to physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual wellness, along with links for numerous resources.

Police vaccinations lag behind public

September 29, 2021

In many jurisdictions, the proportion of police vaccinated against COVID-19 is lagging behind the rate for the general public. The shortfall among police is 20% in NY, 21% in LA, and 28% in San Diego, according to this article. Police in Denver have sued to block the city’s vaccination requirement, nearly 200 San Francisco police employees are seeking religious exemptions, and dozens of Massachusetts State Police troopers have resigned rather than get mandated vaccinations. Meanwhile, at mid-year for 2021, more U.S. officers had died from COVID than from firearms-related and traffic-related causes combined, as reported here

Policing vs. other options

September 28, 2021

This article reviews the evidence on the benefits and harms of policing compared to other options for reducing crime and violence. For immediate reductions, research favors policing targeted at specific problems, places, and offenders, but the risk is unintended consequences that can harm individuals and communities. Non-police options, especially those that aim to address root causes, tend to take much longer to achieve results, and, because implementation is hard to sustain over the long-term, may not succeed at all. On the plus side, these approaches don’t generally cause harm. Overall, in the view of one expert, “The idea that we can reduce the violence we’ve been seeing without any use of the police is not evidence-based; it’s an aspiration, and it’s a high-risk idea. A balanced portfolio feels like the lowest-risk strategy to me.”

DOJ issues new rules for consent decree monitors

September 17, 2021

The Department of Justice has recently opened investigations of police practices in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Phoenix. This week the Attorney General announced new rules pertaining to the federal monitors who oversee consent decrees, as reported here. According to the AG, “It is no secret that the Justice Department believes in the value of pattern-or-practice investigations. It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community.” The new rules include budget caps, term limits, and restrictions on conflicts of interest. In addition, DOJ will develop more standardized tools to increase consistency among monitors working in different jurisdictions. 

More on Covid & cops

September 7, 2021

Since the start of 2020, 61% of police line of duty deaths have been the result of Covid-19, as reported here. The next biggest category, gunfire, accounts for less than 14%. More and more jurisdictions and police departments are mandating vaccinations for employees, as well as wearing of masks. The Officer Down Memorial Page displays the banner “Getting vaccinated is just as important as wearing your vest and your seatbelt.One chief put it this way — “Knowing that COVID-19 killed more cops last year than all other causes combined, to include traffic accidents and being shot, what kind of Chief would I be if I didn’t consider it to be the singular most critical Officer Safety issue of our time?”