Deputy Detroit chief is city’s first female police leader. Last year, 336 officers left the department amid a crisis over pensions.
A year after five Dallas police officers were killed in an ambush, the city named U. Renee Hall, a deputy chief in Detroit, to replace David Brown as chief to lead the bruised department, the Wall Street Journal reports. Hall is the first female chief in Dallas history, said city manager T.C. Broadnax. She will take over a department still recovering from last July’s sniper attack and faces an exodus of officers due to a police pension crisis. Brown, who retired in October, became a national figure noted for his calm leadership in the tense days that followed the ambush.
Last year alone, 336 police officers left the Dallas department, which has about 3,200 officers. Hall must contend with a murder rate in Dallas that has risen over the past two years from a historically low level in 2014. Twenty-seven of the 35 largest cities, including Dallas, have seen increases since 2014. “She’s got a lot of challenges facing her,” said Frederick Frazier of the Dallas Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers. “The biggest challenge she’s going to face is the recruiting and retention right off the bat.” Frazier said that she was at the top of the association’s list of preferred candidates. “I think the department is ready for the fresh start — it needs a big shot in the arm,” he said. Hall’s father was a Detroit police officer who was killed in the line of duty when she was 6 months old. In Detroit, she directed neighborhood policing efforts and oversaw 720 employees.
Police departments are turning to nonprofit or state-funded programs that help cops cope by connecting them to their peers and to mental health professionals. “There’s a much greater awareness of the effects of exposure to traumatic events in just the past five years,” said James Baker of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
For decades, police have kept silent about the toll trauma takes on them, their families and their careers. One result is that they have higher suicide rates than the general population. To change that, police departments are turning to nonprofit or state-funded programs that help cops cope by connecting them to their peers and to mental health professionals, Stateline reports. “There’s a much greater awareness of the effects of exposure to traumatic events in just the past five years,” said James Baker of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Many of the nonprofit programs are based on the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) that began in South Carolina 20 years ago. Eric Skidmore, a Presbyterian pastor, launched LEAP with a federal grant and now runs it in partnership with the state police. State taxpayers can check a box to contribute on their income tax forms, and the nonprofit raises additional money from supporters.
Programs like LEAP also offer professional mental health counseling, teach techniques to dispel lingering memories, and even provide massages to relieve tension. Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia have similar programs, and Kentucky is creating one. In Florida, police departments in Miami-Dade and Seminole counties are leaders in providing strong psychological support for officers, Baker said. Cops typically don’t talk about “the horrible things that one human being does to another,” said Gregg Dwyer, a psychiatrist who works with police assistance groups in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. “There’s fear of what it will do to them on the job if they open up. They worry, ‘Who’s going to know? Will it cost me a promotion?’ ” Many police officers are still reluctant to open up. “The ethos of policing is: ‘We’re super people and we can’t be weak. We’re not a bunch of sissies,’ ” said Prof. John Violanti of the State University of New York at Buffalo. “What they forget is that they’re human.”
Body camera footage released by the public defender’s office seems to show an officer placing a soup can containing a plastic bag of white capsules in a trash-strewn lot. Police and prosecutors are investigating as a heroin-possession charge against the suspect is dropped.
Police and prosecutors in Baltimore have launched investigations after being alerted to body camera footage that the public defender’s office says shows an officer planting drugs, the Baltimore Sun reports. One officer has been suspended and two others have been placed on administrative duty. The public defender’s office says the footage was recorded by an officer during a drug arrest in January. It shows the officer placing a soup can, which holds a plastic bag, into a trash-strewn lot. That portion of the footage was recorded automatically, before the officer activated the camera. After placing the can, the officer walks to the street, and flips his camera on.
“I’m gonna go check here,” the officer says. He returns to the lot and picks up the soup can, removing the plastic bag, which is filled with white capsules. Police cameras have a feature that saves the 30 seconds of video before activation, but without audio. The public defender’s office flagged the video for prosecutors last week, prompting prosecutors to drop the heroin possession charge against the man arrested. The man, unable to post $50,000 bail, had been in jail since January, according to attorney Deborah Levi, who is leading a new effort to track police misconduct cases for the public defender’s office. The footage, which got national attention yesterday, comes as prosecutors and police continue to deal with the fallout from the federal indictment of seven members of an elite police gun squad. Those officers are accused of robbing citizens, filing false court paperwork and claiming overtime they had not earned.
Rockford, Il., one of the nation’s most dangerous small cities, is starting a resident officer program to build trust and address the city’s violent crime problem.
Rockford, Il., is one of the nation’s most dangerous small cities. It’s now starting its own resident officer program to build trust and address the city’s violent crime problem, reports Governing magazine. Officer Patrice Turner is moving into public housing where she and her daughter will live rent free for two to five years. Turner will take the lead in coordinating the police department’s response to violent crime in the neighborhood. She’ll also attempt, as a friend and neighbor, to address the problems that give rise to crime. “We have low education attainment levels and we have high poverty,” says newly elected Mayor Tom McNamara. “It’s a horrible combination.” He’s planning to respond with initiatives targeting education and jobs. First priority is addressing violent crime.
A year ago, Rockford hired a new police chief, Daniel O’Shea, to lead that effort. He has moved quickly to make peace with the police union and improve morale in the department. He reached out to the county sheriff’s department and to federal law enforcement agencies. Police are hoping to disrupt violent street gangs and drug traffickers with traditional investigations and prosecutions. O’Shea also focused on building trust and encouraging problem-solving. Having officers like Turner live in troubled neighborhoods is a first step toward building that trust. Last year, the Urban Institute ran a survey that focused on citizen perceptions of police and their willingness to engage with them. Respondents lived in high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods in Birmingham, Al.; Fort Worth, Tx.; Gary, In.; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; and Stockton, Ca. What the survey found was sobering. More than half of the respondents thought the police were racially biased. Only a third believed the police “tried to do what was best for the people they were dealing with.” Fewer than a third agreed that police “always or almost always” followed the law.
Roy Oliver, 37, formerly of the Balch Springs police department, was indicted in the death of Jordan Edwards. Oliver, who is white, “discharged multiple rounds from his patrol rifle as the vehicle drove past him” on April 29, according to an arrest warrant. One bullet struck Jordan as the teenager rode in the car with four others.
A former Dallas-area police officer was indicted yesterday on murder and other charges over a deadly April encounter in which authorities said he fired at a car, killing an unarmed black 15-year-old passenger, CNN reports. Roy Oliver, 37, formerly of the Balch Springs police department, was indicted in the death of Jordan Edwards, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said. Oliver, who is white, “discharged multiple rounds from his patrol rifle as the vehicle drove past him” on April 29, according to an arrest warrant. One bullet struck Jordan as the teenager rode in the car with the group, including two brothers.
The five were driving away from a house party after reportedly hearing shots. Jordan, an honor student and standout athlete at Mesquite High School, near Dallas, died from a fatal gunshot wound to the head. “I have a personal guarantee to Jordan, his family, this community that we will prosecute this case vigorously,” Johnson said. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber fired Oliver, a 6-year veteran of the department, shortly after the shooting, with the department saying the officer “violated several departmental policies.” Johnson said it was the first time Dallas authorities had issued an arrest warrant for an officer before the case was presented to the grand jury. Oliver remains free on $700,000 bond.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a sweeping executive order directing the police department to equip patrol officers with body cameras, one month after the absence of video left lingering questions in the fatal police shooting of Charleena Lyles. Murray acted despite stalled negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild over deployment of the cameras,
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a sweeping executive order directing the police department to equip patrol officers with body cameras, one month after the absence of video left lingering questions in the fatal police shooting of Charleena Lyles, reports the Seattle Times. Murray acted despite stalled negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild over deployment of body cameras, declaring that additional delays would deprive Seattle residents of a necessary accountability tool He said body cameras lead to less aggression toward officers and less use of force.
The directive came a day before U.S. District Judge James Robart is to hold a status hearing on a five-year-old consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department requiring the Police Department to adopt reforms to rectify the use of excessive force. In May, Robart approved the long-awaited body-camera program, clearing the way for the city to begin negotiations with the guild. Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said, “We have received favorable responses from officers who have been involved in our pilot program” using body cameras. The body-camera issue received heightened attention after no video was captured of the highly charged killing of Lyles, a 30-year-old black woman and mother of four who was shot June 18 by two white officers during a confrontation in her apartment.
The authors of a study of police-civilian interactions in two cities in New York State say their findings challenge assumptions in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing that simply treating citizens with fairness and respect is sufficient to restore trust and confidence in law enforcement.
Building trust and legitimacy was the first of six “pillars” identified by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as essential for police reform. The Task Force urged police agencies to establish procedural justice as the “guiding principle” in police interactions with citizens for developing that trust.
Will police departments accrue greater public trust and legitimacy by promoting procedural justice—roughly defined as the fairness with which police authority is applied—in street encounters?
We don’t believe they will.
As well-grounded in theory and empirical evidence as this prescription appears to be, we believe it rests on a misdiagnosis of organizational dynamics and public attitudes.
In our recently published study of policing, Mirage of Police Reform, we found that citizens’ assessments of procedural justice are shaped much less by how officers use their enforcement powers—such as using physical force or conducting searches—than whether they use them.
Here’s what we mean.
When people encounter police, the procedural justice that they perceive is associated with their trust in law enforcement and their sense that police deserve to be obeyed. In other words, it is linked to their perceptions about the “legitimacy” —or lack of legitimacy— of the police.
A large body of research demonstrates the strength and consistency of these empirical relationships.
Police who are “procedurally just” treat people with dignity and respect, give them an opportunity to explain their situations and listen to what they say, and explain what police have done and/or will do. By doing so, they make clear that officers are taking account of people’s needs and concerns, and are basing their decisions on facts.
With this research in mind, we worked with police departments in Schenectady and Syracuse, two cities in upstate New York, to make procedural justice a measure of performance for which police managers were held accountable.
Over the course of 18 months, we regularly surveyed people who had recent contacts with police as a result of a call for assistance, a stop, or an arrest; we summarized and reported survey results to command staffs through the departments’ Compstat meetings.
Supposing that “what gets measured gets managed,” we anticipated that managers and field supervisors would pay attention to how their officers treat citizens, and that procedural justice and public trust would thereby improve.
Robert E. Worden
But we found a mixed reception to the administrative push for procedural justice among patrol officers, field supervisors, and mid-level managers. Some officers were receptive; some exhibited a tempered receptivity; others were quite skeptical. Some platoon commanders made procedural justice a frequent topic in roll calls; others neglected it.
With the introduction of these performance measures into Compstat, we detected no significant changes in citizens’ perceptions of, or attitudes toward, police in either city. Citizen satisfaction with police was fairly high at the outset of our study, leaving only little room for improvement.
We linked survey data on citizens’ subjective experience to independent measures of officers’ overt behavior—based on structured observation through the audio and video recordings of officers’ activities which Schenectady police routinely provided. (Syracuse police had neither in-car nor body-worn cameras.) We measured both officers’ procedural justice, e.g., displays of respect, attentive listening—and procedural injustice, e.g., discourtesy, ignoring citizens’ questions—and we discovered that citizens’ perceptions are weakly related to the former and only moderately related to the latter.
Our findings contradict the claim that legitimacy is “created” through police-citizen interactions. We saw no change overall in observed procedural justice, which was moderately high in the first place; or in procedural injustice, which was uniformly low.
However, in one platoon, whose commander and supervisors were all supportive, officers’ behavior measured by procedural justice standards modestly improved.
These findings make sense from the perspective of institutional behavior. The technology of policing—the process of turning the “raw materials” of community conditions and individual crises into the finished products of safer neighborhoods and resolved situations—is not well-developed, and a limited understanding of how and how much police contribute to desired social outcomes makes it difficult for anyone to assess how well police are performing.
The public’s demands on police therefore often rest on assumptions that positive outcomes will follow from the adoption (or imposition) of particular organizational forms, such as community policing, civilian review of complaints, and early intervention systems for misconduct. But in fact such forms often fail because they are only loosely coupled with the technical “core” of policing, where the work is performed—mainly in patrol.
Since the procedural justice of officers’ actions is not normally measured, everyone could assume that when a department “adopts” procedurally just policing, its commitment is honored on the street. But the implementation of administrative mandates is determined by officers’ interpretations of their meaning. The procedural justice model would likely be weakly implemented in any case, even if it might nevertheless have symbolic appeal to the community.
Meanwhile, the behavior that tends to generate police-community friction—such as the use of physical force or searches of vehicles or persons—would remain unaddressed. It’s not that we think that procedurally just policing is a bad idea – far from it. But as a reform prescription, our findings lead us to conclude that it offers false hope for better police-community relations.
As pointed out above, individual officers’ decisions about whether to use their coercive authority matter far more to public perceptions of police legitimacy than how they use it. Searches negatively affect citizens’ assessments of their contacts with police (unless they accede to them). So does the use of physical force.
We conclude that public trust in the police is closely tied to these critical exercises of authority. The experiences of some police agencies suggest that regulating these aspects of police performance will be more effective at achieving police “legitimacy” than mandating certain types of behavior to achieve “procedural justice.”
The Cincinnati Police Department is sometimes mentioned as an example of successful reform, partly because the frequency with which Cincinnati police use physical force has declined substantially. We believe that one key aspect of reform there involved use-of-force policies and procedures that were at least moderately coupled with street-level practice.
Supervisors were empowered to supervise—not merely to enforce policy but to guide officers in developing and using effective tactics. Such coupling cannot be taken for granted—the Ferguson Police Department had a similar policy on the books—but can be achieved and sustained.
Robert E. Worden is the Director of the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, and Associate Professor of criminal justice at the University at Albany, SUNY. Sarah J. McLean is the Associate Director and the Director of Research and Technical Assistance at the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.They welcome comments from readers.
Coalition of racial justice groups profiles 12 cities and counties, contends that too much is being spent on policing, too little on mental health, education, youth development and similar concerns.
One of the most contested planks of the Black Lives Matter movement’s platform is the demand that government agencies divert funds from law enforcement and put those resources into programs that communities, particularly black and Latino, actually want, like affordable housing, reports CityLab. It’s controversial because anything that tends to pit black lives versus so-called blue lives in the political landscape invites outrage from the right like few other issues. The divestment debate has been short on practical details about what such an initiative would look like. A new report produced on behalf of a coalition of national and local racial justice groups, “Freedom to Thrive: Reimagining Safety and Security in Our Communities,” fleshes out the idea.
The report focused on involving communities in their local government budgetary processes. It spends a few pages breaking down the various components of city and county budgets before laying out its case for how jurisdictions can better allocate resources. Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Center for Popular Democratcy says the report shows that investment in “black and brown communities … (is) going into criminalizing them.” Profiles of twelve cities and counties show the percentage of funds committed to police/prison-related costs compared to “expenditures on the resources and services that truly keep communities safe—health and mental health, education, youth development, workforce development, and public transportation.” In Atlanta, 13 percent of the operating budget ($251.7 million) is for the police and corrections departments while only 3 percent ($59.9 million) goes to the departments of community development and parks and recreation, which handle transit, affordable housing, and after-school programs. In Chicago, 17.6 percent of its budget, or $1.5 billion, goes to the police, as opposed to a collective 5.4 percent ($450 million) going to the departments of planning and development (which handles affordable housing), public health, family and support services, and transportation.
Milwaukee police and prosecutors are asking judges to freeze the cell phone numbers of heroin dealers, cutting off their income stream.
Heroin dealing has grown into a booming business in Milwaukee, with police scrambling to disrupt the deadly trade. Even as officers haul suspects to jail, the dealer’s key source of cash — the cellphone number where orders roll in — often is quickly back up and running, sometimes in just an hour. Police say many dealers, knowing they could get arrested, have set up contingency plans to transfer the prized 10-digit number to a new phone, preserving its value and keeping the drugs and cash flowing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
In the heroin business, the cellphone number is the lifeline of the trade. Well-established numbers can generate more than $11,000 a day. To combat the quick switch, Milwaukee law enforcement officials are trying a new tactic, dubbed a “seize and freeze” order. Prosecutors ask a judge to allow them to freeze the phone number, rendering the line unable to send or receive calls or text messages. Once addicts realize the number is dead, it loses its value and dealers lose the stream of income. The first such case in Wisconsin — possibly in the nation — was filed this year and shut down a number being used by a heroin-dealing crew known as Big Money Addicts. The group is one of several in Milwaukee that has turned to a new mobile model designed to quickly deliver narcotics and thwart police efforts to arrest them.
“No innocent citizens or officers [were] injured in this incident,” said police spokesman Kese Smith. “But at the end of the day the suspects are responsible for their actions.”
Sirens and flashing lights filled the dark sky Sunday morning after yet another police chase, a pursuit that ended in a fiery crash that left two men dead in Houston. High-speed chases have been a source of controversy in recent years, but Houston Police Department was prompt in offering an explanation as to why their officer started pursuing these two men, the Houston Chronicle reports. “It was a very short pursuit lasting under two minutes and we’re very fortunate that it had no innocent citizens or officers injured in this incident,” said police spokesman Kese Smith. “But at the end of the day the suspects are responsible for their actions.”
The weekend double fatality is symptomatic of a nationwide problem: high-speed police pursuits are dangerous and sometimes fatal. Between 300 and 400 drivers, officers and innocent bystanders die every year during police pursuits. That’s roughly one person a day and one officer every six to eight weeks, according to the non-profit Pursuit Safety. “Obviously, pursuits are like police shootings in that you have policies in place to try to find a balance between when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t,” said criminologist Larry Karson of the University of Houston-Downtown. “We’re talking about the potential of deadly force because cars are considered a deadly weapon.” In this case, officers were investigating a crash around 1 a.m. in which one of the drivers fled without stopping to exchange information. Around 92 percent of police chases nationally are for non-violent crimes, according to 2008 data from the International Association of Chiefs of Police