More unsocial media

June 6, 2019

An independent review focused on 8 police departments recently uncovered hundreds of  social media posts by current or retired officers “displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language,” as reported here. One expert noted that much of the language may be hyperbole, just a way of dealing with stress and frustration, while another worried that it confirms the public’s worst suspicions about police. Some of the posts were from supervisors and commanders — a former chief lamented that “You pay sergeants to be leaders, you pay them to uphold the values of the organization, and to demand constitutionally correct behavior.”


Racially motivated 911 calls

June 5, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan is considering a local ordinance that would make it a criminal offense to place a racially-motivated 911 call, as reported here. The proposal, which came from the city’s Community Relations Commission, has so far been discussed at one public hearing. Earlier, state laws were proposed in Michigan and New York but were not enacted, while a civil penalty statute is pending in Oregon. In lieu of criminalization, some experts suggest giving 911 operators and dispatchers more training and authority in order to screen out inappropriate calls.

Peer effects

June 4, 2019

Reassigning officers due to misconduct tends to have a detrimental effect on co-workers in the new unit, according to a UK study summarized here. The researchers calculated that “For every 10 percent increase in the proportion of a police officer’s peers with a history of misconduct (for instance, adding one allegedly misbehaving member to a group of 10), that officer’s chances of engaging in misdeeds in the next three months rose by nearly 8 percent.” Effects go both ways, though — “when the number of deviant officers in a cohort went down, so did the chances of its remaining members engaging in misconduct.”

Atlanta PD withdraws from federal task forces over BWC prohibition

May 31, 2019

Atlanta police will no longer participate in FBI, DEA, or Marshals task forces because those agencies will not allow APD officers to wear body cameras, as reported here. The decision follows a fatal shooting in January by an Atlanta officer working with the FBI, and one in 2016 with the Marshals, neither of which were recorded on officer video. The local district attorney praised the move, saying “In Atlanta, a city steeped in civil rights tradition and a place which strives to follow the example set for us by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., your decision to remove Atlanta police officers from federal task force operations for the sake of transparency and accountability should not be understated.”

Need police, don’t trust police

May 30, 2019

Residents of fragile communities in Chicago are more likely than others to want more policing in their neighborhoods, even though they view police much less positively than others, according to 2018 Gallup surveys reported here. Only 5% of Chicago-area fragile community residents view police very positively, compared to 61% of all Americans. Yet 68% of those same residents would like police to spend more time in their neighborhoods, compared to 29% of all Americans. This conflicted pattern holds for fragile community residents around the country, but even more so in Chicago.

Everyone has struggles

May 30, 2019

The police chief in Kenyon, Minnesota doesn’t fit the hardened, stoic stereotype. He’s open about his own difficult childhood and emotional struggles — “This is an awesome career field to hide in if you want to help people and not deal with your own stuff.” His small agency goes farther than most to help residents in need, as reported here. Officers “take in stray animals and take care of them with money raised from people living in the community until the animals are adopted. Bikes lined up in front of the station are donated and free to anyone who needs one. A well-stocked food shelf is just inside the station’s front door, which is always unlocked.”

On-line recruit training

May 29, 2019

Utah has completed its first on-line police academy designed to serve remote rural areas, as reported here. Recruits gathered for live lectures by teleconference each weeknight for about 8 months, with the capability of asking questions, engaging in discussions, etc. Skills training was provided at local law enforcement agencies. Without this option, the nearest academy is a 3-hour drive away. Rural agencies expect this option to help with recruiting and also retention, as it appeals to local people with roots in the area. Individuals benefit since they can keep their day jobs while going through the academy.

Hate crime training

May 28, 2019

This NPR segment reports hate crime training delivered in New Hampshire by two formal federal officials on behalf of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The session aimed to familiarize officers with recent local and national hate incidents and generate discussion of the pros and cons of separate hate crime laws. Officers were skeptical of the need for special laws but supported the training, saying “If we don’t train, if we don’t stay on top of the current changes and laws and the attitudes and the climate, then we’re going to pay a big price for that. We’ll lose the trust of the community, and we can’t do that.”

Critical incident reviews in Tucson

May 26, 2019

Tucson PD has a Critical Incident Review Board that operates on the principle that “When bad things happen in a complex system … the cause is rarely a single act, event, or slip-up.” The CIRB convenes independently of the department’s Office of Professional Standards for the purpose of learning from experience and improving future outcomes by focusing on “broader issues of policy, training, supervision, and needed resources, as opposed to investigating individual misconduct or violations of policy.” Completed event reviews are posted on the PD website here.

Black, white views of police, criminal justice

May 25, 2019

Views of black and white Americans toward crime, police, and criminal justice continue to differ according to surveys by the Pew Research Center, as reported here. Over 80% of black adults say gun violence is a big problem in the country compared to less than 50% of whites. A majority of both groups think blacks are treated less fairly than whites by the criminal justice system, but the belief is stronger among blacks (87% vs. 61%). Black adults were much more likely than whites “to say they’d been unfairly stopped by police because of their race or ethnicity (44% vs. 9%), with black men especially likely to say this (59%).” Earlier Pew surveys of police officers conducted in 2016 showed similarly stark differences by race.