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Univ. Cincinnati Shooting Exposes Fragmented US Policing

The shooting death of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati police officer on July 19, 2015 exposed the fragmented structure of American policing. The City of Cincinnati Police Department has undergone sweeping reforms since 2002, as a result of both a Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice and a Collaborative Agreement which settled several racial profiling suits. Many observers argue that the Cincinnati settlements represent the most successful of all the court-ordered reforms since 1997. Yet, the University of Cincinnati police were not covered by the two settlements. And in the wake of the DuBose shooting, it was reported that the campus force had previously been involved in a number of other controversial incidents.

The Cincinnati situation eposes some of the problems resulting from the highly fragmented and localized form of policing in the United States. There are between 15,000 and 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies in the U.S. Apart from Supreme Court decisions, federal EEO laws, and state certification requirements, all of these agencies are independently controlled. Metropolitan areas contain a number of separate police departments (a large number in the St. Louis metro area, as the Ferguson crisis in 2014 revealed). Thus, the court-ordered reform of the major urban department (Cincinnati, for example) does not cover the other smaller agencies.

Nonetheless, Sam Walker argues that the smaller agencies can follow the lead of the larger one in their area and adopt the same reforms. In fact, Walker argues, “Every agency across the country should work to implement these reforms.”We know what the problems are,” he added, [and] “we know what the solutions are. ” Read the Ohio Media Group story: UnivCincinnShooting

 

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Police Shooting at Moving Vehicles: New Issues, Old Questions

The issue of police officers firing their weapons at moving vehicles has recently gained national attention. A story in the Indianapolis Star, for example, cited two recent cases of officers firing at vehicles that were moving toward them, putting them in fear for their lives. The In response, the Indianapolis Police Department has revised its deadly force policy, loosening the previous ban on shooting at or from moving vehicles. Sam Walker comments that today’s police deadly force policies can be traced back to the 1972 New York City Police Department (NYPD) policy, that was the pioneer in establishing clear, written guidelines on officer use of deadly force. That police included a prohibition on firing at or from moving vehicles, along with bans on warning shots, shots to wound, and shots to summon assistance. As in Indianapolis, the important point is that many police departments have not established a clear policy that permits shooting at vehicles that pose a threat to the life of the officer.

Although not quoted in the Star article, Walker argues that many of these situations are actually training failures. Departments have not adequately trained their officers that, in an encounter with an occupied vehicle, positioning themselves in in one place greatly increases their exposure if the vehicle tries to come at them, while a different location is more likely to shield them from danger.  Read the Indianapolis Star story:  ShotsatVehicles

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Police Union Contract “Waiting Periods” Not Supported by Scientific Evidence

Some police union contracts in the U.S. have provisions barring interviews with officers involved in use of force and other incidents for 48 hours. The Baltimore, Maryland, contract (and the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights) provide for a ten-day waiting period. Additionally, there is evidence that some police  departments voluntarily delay interviews for 48 hours because of union pressure.

Police unions and their supporters claim there is “scientific evidence” that a stressful incident impairs an officer’s memory and that “two sleep cycles” (i.e., 48 hours) are required for that person’s memory to fully recover.

A report by Sam Walker, University of Nebraska at Omaha has found that there is no such scientific evidence. A systematic review of research by psychologists on the impact of stress on memory found no support for a 48-hour delay. The systematic review of 244 studies over 100 years found it a highly complex issue, with mixed findings.

Walker’s report concludes that the police union claims for a 48-hour or longer waiting period are “inconsistent, hypocritical and self-serving.

Read Walker’s report here: 48HourSciencepdf

Read the systematic review of the psychological research: Part 1: MemoryPart1    Part 2: MemoryPart2

Read the previous report on the Baltimore police union contract (which has a 10-day waiting period):

BALTIMORE POLICE UNION CONTRACTFinal

 

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If History is Any Guide: A Hard Road Ahead for Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court on Friday June 26th established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hudson was a historic victory in the long struggle for the rights of LGBT people.Everyone should celebrate this great victory.

But if history is any guide, a challenging struggle remains. The best evidence for this is the history of the civil rights movement following the equally historic Brown v. Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954, declaring racially segregated schools unconstitutional.

Read my short report on the lessons of civil rights history for the future of same-sex marriage:  IF HISTORY IS ANY GUIDE

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IF HISTORY IS ANY GUIDE: THE HARD ROAD AHEAD FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

IF HISTORY IS ANY GUIDE: THE HARD ROAD AHEAD FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

 

Samuel Walker

University of Nebraska at Omaha

June 28, 2015

 

The Supreme Court on Friday June 26th established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hudson was a historic victory in the long struggle for the rights of LGBT people.

Everyone should celebrate this great victory, but if history is any guide, a challenging struggle remains.

The best evidence for this is the history of the civil rights movement following the equally historic Brown v. Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954, declaring racially segregated schools unconstitutional.

Segregationists denounced the decision and vowed to fight back –and fight they did, for many long and bitter years. In May 1956 about 100 southern members of Congress signed the Southern Manifesto, pledging resistance to Brown by all “lawful” means. (Interestingly, three southern Senators did not sign it: Al Gore, Sr., Estes Kefauver, both of Tennessee, and Lyndon Johnson of Texas.)

They announced a policy of “massive resistance,” and resist they did –in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the streets. We can expect the same resistance to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage.

On September 23, 1957, famously and shamefully, a howling segregationist mob prevented nine African-American students from integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. President Eisenhower mobilized federal troops who, with bayonets affixed to their rifles, allowed the “Little Rock Nine” to enter Central High School on September 25th.

We can anticipate similar grass-roots opposition to same-sex marriages. It is almost certain that some local officials will refuse to issue marriage licenses claiming it violates their free exercise of religion. The authority of local officials to defy established law, on this and other grounds, will have to be fought across the country. It will be enormously hurtful to those denied their rightful marriage licenses, even if only temporarily. Ultimately, we will prevail, just as the “Little Rock Nine” did, but it will be a struggle.

In the Little Rock case, the Supreme Court settled the issue of local officials defying court decisions in the 1958 landmark case of Cooper v. Aaron, which held that decisions of the federal courts are the law of the land, and that “No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it.”.

Some states may enact laws designed to obstruct Obergefelter. In the 1950s, Alabama fought back against Brown by passing a law directed against the NAACP. The law required private organizations to disclose their membership lists, and the clear purpose was to expose Alabama NAACP members to harassment, job loss, and even possible death. The Supreme Court invalidated the law in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), in a decision that established the constitutional freedom of association that we enjoy today.

It is very doubtful that a religious exemption for public officials will ever prevail, but the fight over that claim will be long, will involve a sustained effort, and will cause much pain among people whose lawful rights will be delayed. Religious institutions certainly have a constitutional right to their Free Exercise of Religion and guaranteed by the First Amendment. But secular government officials, in the performance of their secular duties, have no such right.

Southern segregationists fought Brown v. Board of Education in many ways, including by Klan violence. We should expect a similar determined and multi-pronged battle against the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hudson. History is truly on our side, but we need to read the lessons of history, and muster the strength, determination and optimism to meet the coming struggle.

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Cleveland Consent Decree: A “Necessary Remedy” for a “Troubled” Police Department

In a story in the Christian Science Monitor, Sam Walker argues that the Settlement Agreement (consent decree) between the Justice Department and the Cleveland police department is a “necessary remedy” for a “troubled” police department. He defines “troubled police departments” as those “incapable of reforming themselves.” The Settlement agreement, for example, included provision banning shots at moving vehicles and as warning shots. The pioneering deadly force policy in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) banned those kinds of shots in 1972. The Cleveland police department has evidently been incapable of learning from other departments and reforming itself. Read the Monitor story: ClevelandCSM

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Walker Report: Baltimore Police Union Contract Impedes Accountability

In a report on the Baltimore police union contract and the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, Sam Walker argues that both have provisions that shield police officers from meaningful investigations and impede accountability.

Both the contract and the state law provide that an officer suspected of misconduct cannot be interviewed by the department for ten days. (Other jurisdictions have 48-hour delay provisions.) Walker calls the delay “unreasonable” by any standard. The emerging standard in policing is that officers should give a statement to his or her immediate supervisor on the scene of an incident or at least before the end of the shift.

The Baltimore police union contact and the state law also allow an officer to have expunged from his or her record any and all unfounded complaints. This is contrary to the principles of Early Intervention Systems (EIS), which are designed to capture as complete as possible a full picture of each officer’s performance.

Read the Walker report hereBALTIMORE POLICE UNION CONTRACTFinal  Read the Baltimore Sun story (which also has the report): http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-walker-bpd-report-20150524-story.html#page=1

Walker also gave testimony to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission regarding 48-hour delays in investigations. Read the testimony here: SUPPLEMENTAL TESTIMONY

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“Appalling:” Officer Who Theatened to Kill Still on Baltimore Police Force

Sam Walker labeled “appalling” the fact that Lt. Brian Rice of the Baltimore police department was still on the force after threatening to kill the husband of his ex-girl friend. Rice is one of the six Baltimore police officers arrested for the death of Freddie Gray, an incident that touched off massive protests in the city of Baltimore. Just two weeks before Gray’s death, Lt. Rice, using his status as a Baltimore Lieutenant, pressured a nearby suburban police department to “go arrest” his ex-girl friend’s husband, in a set of events in which Rice exhibited bizarre, unprofessional and possibly illegal behavior. The threat to kill incident occurred between 2012 and 2013. Rice was disciplined in 2013, but remained on the Baltimore police force. Sam Walker argues that threatening to kill a person is a crime, and at a minimum a sign in mental instability that would warrant termination from a police department. Read the Guardian story: BaltLtRice

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Ohio Task Force of Police-Community Relations Report Embraces Sam Walker’s Recommendations

Governor John Kasich of Ohio on April 29, 2015 released the report of the Ohio Task Force On Police-Community Relations, which he had created. The report makes recommendations in seven different areas: Accountability and oversight; Community education; Community involvement; Grand jury process; Recruiting and hiring; Standards; and Training. The report embraces two recommendations to the Task Force made by Sam Walker. (Walker’s in-person testimony was cancelled because of weather and air travel problems, and he submitted written testimony instead.) The Task Force endorsed the policy of police officers de-escalating contacts with community residents that have the potential for escalating into the use of force, as recommended by Walker, and also his recommendation for law enforcement agencies developing Early Intervention Systems (EIS) to systematically track officer performance. (It should be noted that other witnesses also made similar recommendations to the Task Force.) The Task Force did not specifically recommend that police departments act to eliminate offensive language by police officers, as Walker recommended, but did recommend improving training related “interpersonal relations and the issue of race” and “diversity and cultural competency.” Read the Ohio Task Force Report: OhioTaskForcereport   Read Sam Walker’s Testimony to the Task Force: OhioTaskForce

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Has Community Policing Just “Faded Away”?

A Washington Post article on Fresno, California, reported that a sustained community policing program by the police department has  resulted in a significant drop in gang-related violence. This success has come despite the fact that the recession has persisted longer in the city than in many other cities, and the city still has persistent problems with homelessness, methamphetamine, and some forms of crime. The sustained community policing effort, moreover, contrasts with the disappearance of similar programs across the country. The story cited an article in the Journal of Experimental Criminology to the effect that in many cities community policing “has been more buzzword than implemented policy. Sam Walker commented that “Most of these programs just faded away,” particularly after 9/11 when the focus of policing shifted to homeland security concerns. Read the Washington Post story: Fresno2015

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