President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing



President Barack Obama publishes interim report noting Chief Charlie Beck’s recommendations

On January 30, 2015, President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing held a public listening session at the University of Cincinnati’s Tangeman University Center Great Hall. Members of the Task Force heard testimony from five panels of witnesses on effective use of evidence-based research, use of force policy, diversity in law enforcement and best practices for police interaction during demonstrations.

Los Angeles Police Chief Beck discussed his continued effort to evolve and refine strategies to further the Los Angeles Police Department’s mitigation of crime, the reduction of gang violence, the containment of terrorism, and the continuation of reforms. The Chief also spoke on turning a time of crisis into an opportunity to engage in dialog with the community and how the Department has taken a hard, honest look at what can be done better in terms of evolving the culture of policing and building greater trust and communication with the community.

In addition, Chief Beck spoke about how the Department is formally governed by the Board of Police Commissioners and how fortunate the Department is to have a well-established civilian oversight system in place that not only sets broad policy and holds the Chief accountable, but also encourages collaboration.

On March 4, 2015, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing published the Interim Report. The following is an excerpt from pages 20 and 46 of the Interim Report on
21st Century Policing:

2.1 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should collaborate with community members to develop policies and strategies in communities and neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime for deploying resources that aim to reduce crime by improving relationships, greater community engagement, and cooperation. The development of a service model process that focuses on the root causes of crime should include the community members themselves because what works in one neighborhood might not be equally successful in every other one.

Larger departments could commit resources and personnel to areas of high poverty, limited services, and at-risk or vulnerable populations through creating priority units with specialized training and added status and pay. Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) described the LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership, in which officers engage the community and build trust where it is needed most, in the public housing projects in Watts. The department has assigned 45 officers to serve for five years at three housing projects in Watts and at an additional housing project in East Los Angeles. Through a partnership with the Advancement Project and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the program involves officers going into the housing developments with the intent not to make arrests but to create partnerships, create relationships, hear the community, and see what they need—and then work together to make those things happen.33
2.1.1 ACTION

4.5 RECOMMENDATION: Community policing emphasizes working with neighborhood residents to co-produce public safety. Law enforcement agencies should work with community residents to identify problems and collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community. As Delores Jones Brown testified, “Neighborhood policing provides an opportunity for police departments to do things with residents in the co-production of public safety rather than doing things to or for them.”81 Community policing is not just about the behavior and tactics of police; it is also about the civic engagement and capacity of communities to improve their own neighborhoods, their quality of life, and their sense of safety and well-being. Members of communities are key partners in creating public safety, so communities and police need mechanisms to engage with each other in consistent and meaningful ways. One model for formalizing this engagement is through a civilian governance system such as is found in Los Angeles. As Chief Charles Beck explained in testimony to the task force, The Los Angeles Police Department is formally governed by the Board of Police Commissioners, a five-person civilian body with each member appointed by the mayor. The Commission has formal authority to hire the Chief of Police, to set broad policy for the department, and to hold the LAPD and its chief accountable to the people.82 Community policing, therefore, is concerned with changing the way in which citizens respond to police in more constructive and proactive ways. If officers feel unsafe and threatened, their ability to operate in an open and shared dialogue with community is inhibited. On the other hand, the police have the responsibility to understand the culture, history, and quality of life issues of the entire community—youth, elders, faith communities, special populations—and to educate the community, including its children, on the role and function of police and ways the community can protect itself, be part of solving problems, and prevent crime. Community and police jointly share the responsibility for civil dialogue and interaction.
46 Interim Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing

Photo by Obama – Flickr License

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