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I responded to a national media source regarding the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Additional media outlets are also inquiring.
What does the Act mean for law enforcement?
I responded to a national media source regarding the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Additional media outlets are also inquiring. They are using a variety of titles (i.e., the Federal Police Reform Act) and are asking about multiple law enforcement issues.
What’s below is a response to their inquiries.
USA Today-Overview Of The Act (edited and rearranged quotes)
Lawmakers reintroduced a sweeping police reform bill in February that was first introduced last year amid nationwide protests over racial inequality following the death of George Floyd.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which bans chokeholds and federal no-knock warrants, among other reform measures, previously passed the Democratic-controlled House. But the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time, did not act on it.
The bill aims to bolster police accountability and prevent problem officers from moving from one department to another by creating a national registry to track those with checkered records. It also would end certain police practices that have been under scrutiny after the deaths of Black Americans in the last year.
The reintroduced bill would: prohibit profiling based on race and religion and mandate training on profiling; ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants; require the use of federal funds to ensure use of body cameras; establish a National Police Misconduct Registry; amend the prosecution standard for police from “willfulness” to “recklessness” and reform qualified immunity; and require stronger data reporting on police use of force.
See the legislation at House Bill 7120
As you are aware, there are multiple provisions in the bill and it’s hard to say yea or nay without breaking them down into their individual parts. There are also contextual data sets that need to be explored.
Everyone in the justice system understands that we have to do better. We all took an oath to enforce laws equally for everyone. We acknowledge that some officers have made mistakes, and some have engaged in criminal conduct.
Unjustified use of force or conduct based on a person’s race or any other characteristic is repugnant. The only way to reduce today’s soring rates of violence is to gain the trust of the communities we serve.
Beyond that, the provisions of the bill have pluses and minuses.
First, we have Presidents Biden, Trump and Obama all stating they the vast majority of police officers are good and decent people trying to do a difficult and dangerous job with as little resistance as possible.
If the “problems” in policing are limited to a few of the million police employees (sworn and civilian) then it creates a question of stereotyping. If one is willing to extrapolate the actions of a few to a million people, then one is capable of any “ism.”
Law Enforcement Demographics
As to the numbers and demographics of policing, there were 11.5% fewer officers per capita in 2016 than there were in 1987.
Both the number and share of female officers have increased over time. The number of female officers more than doubled from 1987 to 2016, increasing by 112%, while their share grew from 7.6% to 12.3% of local officers during that same period.
The number and share of Black officers have increased by about 60% from 1987 to 2016, at which time Black people made up 11.4% of police personnel and 13% of the U.S. population. By contrast, the share of Hispanic officers has quadrupled since 1987, rising to 12.5% of officers in 2016, but remains lower than the share of Hispanics/Latinos in the general population (18%), Fewer Cops.
Critics claim that there is systemic racism in policing based on disparities. I would suggest that those same disparities exist in most professions and that systemic racism exists in the medical field, journalism, banking, religion, and many additional professions.
Racism, sexism, or homophobic behavior is an ugly curse and all Americans need to embrace equal treatment, without exception.
Existing Data-Confidence In Law Enforcement
Law enforcement is one of the most respected professions in America, Law Enforcement Public Opinion. The overwhelming majority of Americans have favorable views of law enforcement regardless of background. As a profession, 81 percent expressed a level of confidence in law enforcement.
As to a great deal of confidence, law enforcement did better than the medical system, public schools, the Supreme Court, the presidency, banks, unions, tech companies, newspapers, the justice system, big business, television news, and Congress. Policing came within two points of organized religion. Only small businesses and the military were significantly higher, Confidence in Law Enforcement.
Existing Data-Police-Citizen Interactions
As to police behavior based on recent US Department of Justice research:
Contrary to critics, there was no statistically significant difference in the percentage of Whites (12%) and Blacks (11%) who experienced a police-initiated contact.
There were 19,216,000 police-initiated contacts with Whites, 3,394,000 police-initiated contacts with Blacks, and 4,222,000 police-initiated contacts with Hispanics.
Contrary to media reports of a national police slowdown, police-initiated contacts increased from 27,416,000 to 28,881,000. Police-initiated street stops increased, 2,504,000-3,528,000.
Some media commentators suggest that police use of force is growing/common/frequent during stops. Less than 3% of U.S. residents experienced a threat “or” use of force during their most recent police-initiated contact.
Contrary to media reports, the use of force decreased for police-initiated contacts from 3.3 to 2.8 percent.
Contrary to critics, police-initiated arrests decreased considerably, 815,000 in 2015-386,000 in 2018.
There are suggestions that public confidence and a willingness to interact with law enforcement declined. Contact with law enforcement increased, 53,496,000 in 2015-61,542,000 in 2018. Most of this was resident-initiated (27,060,000 in 2015-35,468,000 in 2018).
The lowest and highest income household incomes had the same amount of police-initiated contact (11.4-11.5 percent), thus contradicting those who argue that proactive police contact is directed solely towards low-income communities.
The bottom line is that much said as commentary or in media reports about law enforcement is factually incorrect, Data On Policing.
As to qualified immunity, we within the justice system understand that officers need to make instantaneous decisions in the context of extreme danger during explosive circumstances. Under these conditions, cops are going to make mistakes in the two-three percent of cases where force “or” threat of force applies.
Out of 40-60 million public contacts yearly, it’s literally impossible to get it right every time, thus qualified immunity. The Supreme Court passed up at least seven cases recently that would have allowed it to reconsider aspects of a legal doctrine that ends lawsuits in which citizens allege abuse by the police.
Redirecting funds to community policing or social programs? Crime Solutions.Gov (the US Department of Justice’s program database) gives community-based policing or social work strategies inconsistent or ineffective ratings. Per data, the only intervention that seems to work is proactive policing, Police Proactive Strategies.
Because of unrelenting negative publicity, cops are not engaging in proactive policing, Media Objectivity. Out of a vast array of research on reducing crime, proactive policing is one of the few evidence-based practices shown to reduce crime, Police Proactive Strategies.
Officers in heavily criticized areas are responding to calls and patrolling neighborhoods, but self-initiated (proactive) stops are limited. In the minds of officers, they are giving complaining citizens what they demanded.
For the record, proactive policing was not a strategy cops promoted. Communities, politicians, and the media demanded solutions to growing crime. They saw considerable reductions in New York City during the 1980s via proactive policing and wanted the same results.
No Knock Warrants
No knock warrants? Remember the recent incident where FBI Agents were killed because of a video doorbell alert? The Miami Herald. There are times where no-knock warrants are necessary for the safety of occupants and officers.
I was one of four police officers arresting someone high on PCP after he assaulted a woman. He would not stop fighting. The encounter was brutal and we did whatever was necessary to safely effect the arrest. No one wants to use chokeholds. No one supports chokeholds. But there are times where it inadvertently happens.
Establish A National Database To Track Police Misconduct
Beyond criminal convictions and firings, what (or who) will be included? There are endless frivolous complaints. Policing has tens of millions of encounters where officers have to interact with citizens under very difficult circumstances.
I pulled an elderly mentally challenged woman off a beltway (she refused to leave) to save her life. People called and asked why a big cop was manhandling a small elderly woman. Would that event be included?
The components of the bill could be either understandable or ridiculously unfair without due process for the officers involved.
The bottom line is that we have a problem with “some” police officers in the same way we have problems with “some” reporters, nurses, bankers, ministers, priests, salespeople, social workers, etc.
Per media reports, cops are leaving the profession and recruitment is down 63 percent, Cops Leaving. There are media reports of cities not having the police officers they need and response time to citizen calls for assistance is rapidly declining.
Increasing Violent Crime And Fear
Because of cops leaving and a lack of proactive policing, violence is skyrocketing in some cities. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, violent crime increased 28 percent since 2015 (the year of the Freddie Gray incident and numerous disturbances). Serious violent crime increased. Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Gun purchases are skyrocketing. Security devices are hitting record numbers. People and businesses are leaving cities. A variety of sources have documented a dramatic increase in homicides and other forms of violence, US Crime Rates.
Application To 18,000 Law Enforcement Agencies
There is also uncertainty as to the bill’s ability to impact state and local operations, PBS. Beyond federal or US Supreme Court decisions, the federal government does not directly control the actions of 18,000 state or local law enforcement agencies.
The problem isn’t purchasing body cameras. The issue is maintaining hundreds of thousands of hours of video and having the capacity to respond to requests for footage while protecting investigations or innocent people recorded. That requires an enormous amount of person power thus the process becomes enormously expensive, especially for smaller agencies. Will the federal government pay all costs?
We understand that law enforcement has to do better. We understand that any hint of prejudice cannot be tolerated. We understand that the illegal use of force is repugnant.
But I also understand that cops can leave anytime they want. Because of the endless negative publicity and perceived unfairness, families are insisting that members leave law enforcement. They are demanding that they leave now.
I understand that violence is growing rapidly in multiple metropolitan areas. People in high crime areas are begging for additional police protection, Police Public Opinion. They are asking for a partial return to proactive policing.
So where I understand that all of us want police accountability and a rededication to community service, I also acknowledge that the problems within law enforcement, per the data, are hardly unique. If the issue is disparities, why is the medical field or the media or banking or social workers or others excluded?
We run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We run the risk of losing front-line protectors (i.e., Minneapolis). That’s why people are buying guns and security devices in record numbers. That’s why people are leaving cities.
That’s why violence is exploding in multiple metropolitan areas.
So let’s hold people who do their jobs improperly accountable. But let’s not go from a problem to violence that destroys everything in its path.
Disparities have been a major issue for decades. We polygraph and investigate prospective cops for any sign of unfairness or propensity towards violence. It’s heavily discussed during training. States run their own databases as to problem officers and it’s not that hard to find evidence of events-firings in other states.
If bad cops create multi-million dollar lawsuits and cause command staff or mayors to be fired, why would anyone hire someone with possible issues? If we accept that we are doing everything possible to discard problem recruits, what are the dynamics behind terrible decisions or criminal activity? Where is the federal commitment to exploring this issue?
The vast majority of cops expect and accept accountability. But perceived unfairness and an unrelenting campaign painting all officers with the broad brush of disparities will just cause cops to quit or cease proactivity.
Is that what we want? Lacking final details as to the provisions of the Act, it may be what we get.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
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My book based on thirty-five years of criminal justice public relations,” Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.
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