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Police Unions Fought Even Basic Police Reforms in 2016

Police unions across the country continued to fight important police reforms, including reforms that enjoy wide support among police and criminal justice experts.

In Boston, the police union fought the adoption of body cameras. First, the union pressured the department to make them voluntary for officers; then it discouraged its members from volunteering; and finally it went to court to block their implementation altogether (the suit failed). Read the story: bostonunionbodycams

Body cameras are rapidly being adopted by police departments across the country, and are supported by virtually all police chiefs.

Even when union opposition efforts fail, they succeed in polarizing the community and delaying the eventual reforms.

In Newark, the police union went to court to block the implementation of a new civilian review board, which was part of the consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. Read the story: newarunioncitizenreview

In Baltimore, the police union also went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to block the implementation of a new civilian review board. Read the story: baltunioncitizenrev

Civilian oversight of the police has gained broad public support in recent years. The National Association for Civilian Oversight of the Police (NACOLE) estimates that there are about 150 civilian oversight agencies in the country. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended some form of citizen oversight for all communities Read the Task Force report here.

In San Francisco, the police union sponsored inflammatory television ads opposing a new use of deadly force policy for the SFPD that would prohibit shooting at moving vehicles. Read the story: sf-unionshootingvehicles

The New York City Police Department banned shooting at vehicles in 1972, and virtually all police departments have done the same.

Finally, and most seriously, the national Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has recommended to the in-coming Trump administration “de-prioritize” “some or all” the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Read the FOP statement: foptrump

In short, the FOP stands in opposition to the best thinking in policing, which is represented in the President’s Task Force report.

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Invisible Institute Publishes Powerful 4-Part Series on the “Code of Silence” in the Chicago Police Department

The Invisible Institute, a project of activist journalists and lawyers in Chicago, has published a powerful four-part series on the “code of silence” in the Chicago police department. The series was written by journalist/lawyer Jamie Kalven. The series details how the department covered up narcotics dealing by Chicago police officers and then retaliated against offers who were fighting to expose the corrupt officers. Read the report.

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San Francisco Blue Ribbon Commission Issues Harsh Report on San Fran Police Department

In response to a series of scandals in the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the District Attorney created the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement. The Panel’s report in July 2016 was a thorough and harsh assessment of a broad range of issues in the SFPD, including the lack of openness and transparency, inadequate investigations and discipline of officer misconduct, the lack of a commitment to community policing, and the adverse effect of the officer police union on standards of accountability.

Read the Blue Ribbon Panel report here.

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Mayor’s Task Force Issues Blistering Report on Accountability Failures in the Chicago Police Department

In response to the release of the explosive video of the 2014 fatal shooting of Lacquan Macdonald by a Chicago police officer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel created a Task Force on Police Accountability in the Chicago Police Department. Released in April 2014, the Task Force report was a blistering analysis of the failure of all police accountability mechanisms in the department. Few officers were ever disciplined for misconduct. The citizen review agency, IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority) was completely ineffectual. The police union played a major role in shaping the culture of the department and minimizing discipline of officer misconduct.

Read the Task Force on Police Accountability report here.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Read the List of Recommendations here.

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PERF Issues Major Report on Re-Engineering Police Training

In 2016 the Police Executive Research Forum issued a report on Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force. The report is the best and most important statement of all the new thinking on police training. It begins with a major critique of the current training practice of over-emphasizing use of force and failing to provide adequate training on de-escalation and tactical decision-making. Read this important report: perfreengineeringtraining1

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“From Warriors to Guardians”: Don’t Miss Sue Rahr and Stephen K. Rice’s Major Statement on Rethinking Police Culture

The essay From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals (2015) is the most important discussion of American police culture in decades. The essay presents a sharp critique of the “warrior” mentality, which reinforces conflict between the police and the public, and argued for a “guardian” outlook, which emphasizes trust and cooperation between police officers and the communities they serve. In particular, the essay offers a critique of how traditional police training reinforces the “warrior” mentality. Read the report: warriorstoguardians

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Responding to the National Police Crisis: Read “Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action,” by Bayley, Davis, and Davis

In response to the national police crisis that began with the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the Harvard Executive Sessions series has published Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action by David Bayley, Michael Davis, and Ronald Davis. The essay succinctly summarizes the issues contained in the report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: that police crime-fighting strategies should focus on communities and not individuals; that effective policing requires the active cooperation between the police and community residents, and that police leaders need to emphasize the protection of human rights. Read the reportbayleyraceandpolicing

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Chicago Invisible Institute Releases Devastating Interview with South Side African-American Teenagers

The Invisible Institute in Chicago, an organization of activists journalists and lawyers, has released a series of video recorded interviews with African-American teenagers on Chicago’s South Side. The interviews provide a devastating picture of the constant harassment by the Chicago police, including stops and questioning for no reason at all. Watch the video recordings here:

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Illinois ACLU Issues Devastating Report on Chicago Police Stops and Frisks

The ACLU of Illinois in March 2015 issued a devastating report on the stop and frisk practices of the Chicago Police Department. The ACLU’s investigation found that (1) in half of all officer stop and frisk reports, officers either gave an unlawful reason for the stop or no reason at all; (2) stops and frisks were disproportionately concentrated among African Americans (72 % of all stops, although African Americans represent only 32% of the city’s population); (2) in the summer of 2014 the Chicago conducted 250,000 stops which did not result in an arrest; (4) there was virtually no training of officers on the proper conduct of stops and frisks. The report led to a 2016 settlement with the Illinois ACLU establishing new policies related to the conduct of stops and frisks, the training of officers, and also providing for an oversight role for the ACLU in monitoring the implementation of the settlement.

Read the ACLU report here: stopandfriskaclu-il

Read the settlement agreement here: stopandfrisk-aclu-il-settlement

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Comprehensive Report on Officer Body-Worn Cameras

Officer-worn body cameras have suddenly emerged as a new police accountability tool. Many departments across the country are reportedly adopting them or already have. In New York City, the judge in the stop and frisk trial in 2013 ordered a test of body cameras– possibly the first time ever that a judge has ordered a social science experiment.

Unfortunately, there has been precious little evidence on the impact of officer-worn body cameras, a few discussions of all the issues involved.

That gap has now been filled. Michael D. White of Arizona State University has just published Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, 2014). The report is must reading for anyone interested in this important topic. It reviews the evidence from the few available studies and carefully reviews the perceived benefits and the important concerns that need to be addressed.

You can read the report here: Body-Worn Cameras

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