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WAPost: Police Shootings in Mid-2017 Same as 2016; Sam Walker Comments

The Washington Post reported on July 1, 2017 that the number of people shot and killed by the police in by mid-2017 (492 people) was nearly identical to the number at this point in both 206 and 2015. Sam Walker commented that people have unrealistic expectations about how police reform occurs in the U.S. There are 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, all of which are governed by local authorities with minimal controls over such key issues as use of deadly force policy, training, and discipline. In this highly decentralized context, it extremely difficult to effect changes in police practices that will cover all departments.

Read the Washington Post story: ShootingsMid2017WAPO

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Washington State to Vote on New Police Deadly Force Law, With Important Training Provisions

Community organizers in the state of Washington have launched a campaign to put a referendum on the ballot in 2018 that would revise state law and lower the current high bar regarding criminal prosecution of police officers for shooting and killing people. Current law requires that prosecutors prove that the officer had, in effect. “evil intent.”

The referendum also includes provisions mandating training for all officers in the state related to dealing with persons having mental health problems, and also on de-escalation. Sam Walker commented that putting these issues into state law will guarantee that all law enforcement agencies in the state will be covered by the requirements. One of the problems in the U.S., he explained, is that we have 18,000 law enforcement agencies (15,000 police; 3,000 sheriffs), without any process for guaranteeing that important reforms reach all of them.

Read the story in Vice News: WashStateReferendumJuly17

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San Diego PD Unveils New EIS; Sam Walker Comments

The San Diego police department in in mid-June 2017 unveiled a new early intervention system (EIS), a management tool designed to identify officers with repeated performance problems and to correct those problems. After a series of sex scandals involving SDPD officers several years ago, the department’s existing EIS was found to be non-functional. An investigation found that the once-highly regarded police department had suffered from a number or management lapses, some of which were related to the city’s financial crisis and a reduction in the number of officers. Sam Walker commented that many police officer performance problems stem from personal and family problems. Traditional police discipline systems, he added, often fail “to engage an officer” and address off-the-job issues.

Read the story: SanDiegoEIS2017

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Walker Tells NY Times: We Can’t Arrest Our Way Out of the Opioid Crisis

In a New York Times article on the national opioid drug crisis on June 12, 2017, Sam Walker commented that “if people think we are going to arrest our way out of the opioid crisis, they’re wrong.” The public backlash against the “war on drugs” has led to a growing national consensus that an arrest and imprisonment approach to social problems such as drugs is the wrong approach. Citing research in the area of public health, Walker added that the police do have a role regard opioid drugs: they “can play a critical role in a very broadly based social and medical response.”

Read the New York Times article: OpiodsNYTimes2017

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Seattle Passes Historic 3-Part Police Oversight Ordinance

The City of Seattle on Monday, May 22, 2017 passed a historic ordinance creating a three-part system of oversight of the Seattle Police Department. The three parts include a revised version of the Office of Police Accountability, within the police department, a new Inspector General, and a revised version of the Community Police Commission, which had been created under the consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. The ordinance passed unanimously.

Sam Walker commented that “This is breaking new ground nationally and it is a very exciting experiment.” No other city or county in the U.S. has three separate forms of police accountability.

The OPA was a unique insider/outside form of oversight when it was established several years ago. Inspectors General, also known as police auditors in other jurisdictions, exist in San Jose and New York City. The Community Police Commission is a relatively new concept that has also been mandated by Justice Department consent decrees in Cleveland and Portland, Or.

Read the Seattle Times story: Seattle 2017Ordinance Seattle Times

Read the City Council Press release: Seattle 2017Ordinance CityCouncilRelease

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Police Sexual Abuse of Teen Girls Continues

Police sexual abuse continues across the country, almost twenty years after the issue became a national controversy and the IACP issued guidelines on how police departments can and should prevent all forms of sexual misconduct by police officers.

A story in the Louisville Courier Journal on May 18, 2017 reported in the past 40 years at least 137 girls and 26 boys have allegedly been raped, seduced or “otherwise exploited” in 28 states. The youngest victims reported to be 13 years old.

The issue of sexual abuse of women of all ages became a national controversy as a result of a 2002 report on Driving While Female by Professor Sam Walker of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Dawn Irlbeck, now a professor at Creighton University.  A follow-up 2003 report Police Sexual Abuse of Teenage Girls focused on teenagers enrolled in Police Explorer programs.

In response to the national controversy, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published a 2011 report on Addressing Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement.

Read the 2017 story from the Louisville Courier-Journal and USA Today: DWBLouisville2017

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The Los Angeles Police Commission on April 18, 2017 approved a revisions to the LAPD use for force, which were recommended by Police Chief Charlie Beck. The changes are seemingly small, but in fact are very important. The key new language states that “Officers shall attempt to control an incident by using time, distance, communications, and available resources in an effort to de-escalate the situation, whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so.” Sam Walker told the Los Angeles Times that this new language reflects one of the most important new developments in policing over the past two and a half years (in short, since Ferguson). The important insight is that in many, situations perhaps even most, officers have the capacity to shape the outcome. They can choose one course of action, which is likely to increase the chance that force will be used; or they can choose a different course of action, which is likely to reduce the need to use force. Related to this, important new developments are occurring in policing related to tactical decision-making. Walker told the LA Times that the new policy is “absolutely the right thing to do.”

Read the LA Times story: LAPDForcePolicy2017


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AG Sessions to “Review” DOJ Investigations of Police; Walker Comments

On March 31, 2017, Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions released a memo stating that the Justice Department would “review” department investigations and settlements with local police departments over “pattern or practice” of abuse of citizens’ rights. The memo was vaguely worded, and did not include any of the rhetoric by candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign, or comments by Trump and Sessions following the election clearly indicating that they were opposed to federal intervention into local police departments. Read Sessions’ memo here: SessionsMarch2017Memo

Sam Walker told the Los Angeles Times that his 20-year review of the DOJ “pattern or practice” program concluded that across the country police chiefs had moved toward greater controls over police use of force, an emphasis on de-escalation, and toward greater transparency and review of officer conduct. Those reforms were all mandated by DOJ consent decrees, but other police departments have adopted them voluntarily. Walker also told the Times that the president and the attorney general can set a different tone regarding policing, but police chiefs have the power to nullify anti-accountability rhetoric and set their own standards of high accountability. Read the Times story hereSessionLATimes

Read Walker’s report on the DOJ “pattern or practice program here:

Walker explained to the Baltimore Sun that the DOJ program has been effective in obtaining reforms because “a judicially enforced consent decree adds real force” to any agreement to undertake reforms in a police department. Read the Baltimore Sun article here: SessionsBaltSun

Walker also told Mother Jones that his report on the DOJ program found that it has “been successful in achieving long-term reforms” in police departments. Read the Mother Jones story here: SessionsMotherJones

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Walker Releases 20-Year Assessment of DOJ Pattern or Practice Program

Sam Walker released on February 24th an assessment of the 20 years of the U.S. Justice Department’s “pattern or practice” program, which resulted in 30 settlements with local law enforcement agencies mandating comprehensive reforms. Walker argues that the program has been an ambitious and unprecedented effort by the Justice Department to end systemic abuses related to uses of force, racial and ethnic discrimination, and other problems. The assessment concludes that, for the most part, the pattern or practice program has been successful in bringing about major changes in police departments. There has been backsliding in some departments, but there are no known cases of complete failure. The DOJ program has made a major contribution to police reform by establishing a set of minimum “best practices” necessary for constitutional policing. Among other issues discussed in the report, the DOJ program has highlighted the enormous challenge of attempting to transform large public bureaucracies. The report discusses these and other issues raised by the DOJ program.

Read the report here: DOJ P&P Program Feb24

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2016 Elections Brings Wave of New Citizen Oversight

The 2016 elections brought a wave of new citizen oversight procedures across the country. Local elections brought new procedures in Oakland, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, and Honolulu. The Oakland Civilian Police Commission, which was approved by 83 percent of the voters, has the power to investigate citizen complaints, impose discipline, and hire and fire the police chief. Voters in Denver, meanwhile, placed the Office of Independent Monitor (OIM), which is responsible for both the Denver police and the county sheriff’s department, in the city charter,. The change makes it much more difficult to abolish the agency.

Sam Walker commented in an article in Governing that the national police crisis, which began with the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, has “created a lot of public support for a stronger form of oversight.”

Read the Governing article here: CitizenOversight2016elections


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