Strengthening Law Enforcement-Community Relations
In this Research for the Real World seminar, forward-looking figures in the law enforcement community examine how law enforcement can be improved through the adoption of community-minded policies.
Karol Mason: You wrote a paper for the NIJ Harvard Executive Session on policing entitled “From Warriors to Guardians.” What is the central point that you hope people take away from your paper?
Sue Rahr, Executive Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission
Well, I don’t know that there’s a single point, but the main point is, it’s important for us to look at the culture of policing. I’ve watched through my entire career — we spend a lot of time talking about specific new programs. As the cops on the street say, “Oh, goody, it’s flavor of the month.” And what I wanted to delve a little more deeply into is what is — what really is going on in the police department — what really influences the behavior of officers in the street. And I believe what influences them the most strongly is the culture and the identity that they assume as a police officer.
I’ve watched, over 36 years, that — the evolution of that identity. When I started on the street in ’79, you didn’t see the accoutrements of warfare so much as we do today, and there’s a lot of things that contribute to that. But I really think, if we want to move policing forward, we really have to delve into culture. And the most important part of that journey is delving into the internal culture of the agency. It — there’s no credibility when a law enforcement leader says to the troops, “I want you to treat the community with dignity and respect,” if that’s not the behavior that the officers experience inside the police department. And so, I’ve spent a lot of time delving into “How do you establish a culture inside the agency that models the kind of behavior that you want to see on the street?” And I think that’s the key.
Karol Mason: So we hear this dichotomy all the time: warrior versus guardian. Is it really an “either/or”? Or what is your position on that?
Sue Rahr:I am so glad to get that question, because that’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had when it comes to people resisting the idea. Those of you — I know we have a lot of cops in the audience. Two things we know about cops: They hate the way things are, and they hate change [laughter]. So I’ve met a lot of resistance talking about changing the culture. And it isn’t so much a matter as either/or; it’s about having a guardian mindset as your primary identity. And if you see yourself as a guardian, if you see your primary mission as protecting and caring for the community, I think it’s going to influence the way you approach your job, and it’s going to influence the techniques and the approaches that you take to different problems.
At our academy, we luckily got a fair amount of funding from our legislature to do crisis intervention training of our — for our new recruits. And one of my concerns was, if the officers see themselves primarily as an enforcer — as a, you know, warrior-type mentality, they’re not going to embrace these new techniques; they’re not going to be very excited about taking somebody to a diversion center rather than booking them in jail.
So what I want to convey is that officers need to have — see their identity as a guardian, but I also want to be extremely clear: They still need to possess those warrior skills, and they still need to have the tenacity and the courage of a warrior. So we’re not abandoning the warrior, but we’re finding the appropriate balance between those two things, and the balance is “guardian identity, warrior skills.” When we have our academy graduations, we often repeat the phrase, “Go forth with the skills and tenacity of a warrior but the heart of a guardian.”
Karol Mason: So you have a unique opportunity and a unique perspective, because when you were the sheriff, you had an opportunity to test out these theories. So tell us how you — what you did to transform your police — your department and how that’s influencing what you are doing on a state level now.
Sue Rahr:Well, I wish I could say I transformed my agency, but I didn’t. I certainly made some attempts. I — as I said, I watched the evolution over the years in office, and one of the things that bothered me a lot when I got to, primarily, my position as the patrol operations chief — that was the number two spot in the agency, so to speak; I was responsible for overseeing field operations, which was about 500 officers in the field. And one of the things that bothered me was what we call the “cowboy mentality” — and I see some of my fellow officers in the audience — and these are the officers that — they make a lot of arrests, but they’re not the one you really want to show up as a backup, because you know they’re going to jack everything up and you’re going to have to calm it down after they get there.
And so, I watched — we had a number of different precincts throughout the county, and each precinct had their own culture. It was almost like different — distinct, different police departments. And one particular precinct was really known for having this cowboy mentality. And so, we really had to focus on what was it that we were doing to reward or hold people accountable for their behavior. And I ended up having to take some pretty significant disciplinary action when some folks weren’t going to go along with the program. I ended up having to terminate quite a few people. But once that happened, the shift was pretty clear. I had to be very, very clear about where the line in the sand is. But like I said, I was sheriff for seven years; that’s barely enough time to really change the culture. But we certainly made some strides. I’ve had much more opportunity to make changes in the academy, because we’re getting recruits from day 1 and we’re able to model behavior that we want them to show on the street.
Karol Mason: So one of the things you talk about in your paper is that you — this boot camp style of training and how you have transformed that, and it includes your picture juxtaposed to a piece of the Constitution. I think about what you’ve done in your department. So for those who haven’t read your article, talk about what you saw as the concerns with the boot camp philosophy and what you’ve transformed the training into.
Sue Rahr:Well, the thing that struck me when I first got there in 2012 was, it was so very different from when I went through in ’79. And it was very militaristic: The recruits had to snap to attention whenever they crossed a staff person in the hallway. And it just seemed very strict, and it just — it didn’t seem very — it didn’t have any connection to policing on the street.
At the same time that I was watching that behavior, I was listening to chiefs and sheriffs and training officers complain that “These millennials can’t talk to people.” And I thought, “Well, this is pretty counterproductive, if they cross somebody in the hallway and their response is to snap to attention and be silent. Why don’t we require them to do something that is more in line with what they’re going to do in the field?”
So after many, many months of coaxing, we finally changed the protocol. And the requirement was, instead of snapping to attention, they had to initiate a conversation with the person they encountered. Now, the excuse that I got before is, they need to snap to attention to demonstrate situational awareness, which I get; that’s extremely important. But you can demonstrate situational awareness by making eye contact and greeting someone. So that was one thing that jumped out right away.
The other thing was, all of the symbols and artifacts around the agency were all about war and fighting and dying and killing. And I thought, “Holy smokes, you know, this is a little bit intense.” I know it’s important when you bring a new recruit into the academy. You have to get them to understand that there are very real threats on the street. I don’t want to downplay that, because that’s important. But I think we had gone too far and we were overdoing it and planting the idea that “Everybody’s trying to kill you, you know. Beware. Everybody is a potential threat.” And so, we still work very hard on helping the officers recognize the real threats, but we also try to balance that with “What is your role as a police officer?”
And so, we started putting up artifacts related to the Constitution and civil rights and other things like that. I did a lot of reading once I got to the academy, because I don’t have a strong background in training. And one of the things that really stood out to me is the importance of helping the recruit see that they’re working for something bigger than themselves. That was a real important lesson that I took away from my reading. And so, we put up, around the academy, several murals of the Constitution. And that has become a central theme: that, at the end of the day, your job is to support the Constitution.
One quick story: When I greet classes at the academy during the first week, I always talk to them about the fact that when they become commissioned, they will have more power than the President of the United States — more personal power to deprive someone of their liberty and their life. And with that power comes tremendous responsibility. And I said, “If you lose sight of where you get your power, then you’re going to lose credibility in the community.” And in each class, I would say 20-30 percent of our recruits are veterans, and I always ask the veterans, “How many of you lost friends? How many of your friends gave their life to defend our Constitution?” And that always ends up with a moment of silence. And then I’ll say to the rest of the class, “How many of you are willing to dishonor that sacrifice by going out in the street and dishonoring and violating somebody’s civil rights?” And it really seems to resonate with the recruits.
Karol Mason: One of the things you also talk about in the paper is the top-down leadership model and how that user isn’t equipping officers. Talk to us about that dichotomy and how you have re — have transformed what it is they learn to give them the critical thinking skills they need out in the field.
Sue Rahr: Well, that is the key — is — the reality on the street is, we need officers to be critical thinkers and decision makers. Our officers in the street generally don’t have direct supervision. There’s very few places in the country that has the luxury of that level of resources. And so, we need to be training our officers to think, not to just follow orders. And what I saw was, it’s much easier for a poor leader to simply bark out orders and people have to follow those orders, but that isn’t the most effective way to train.
We also talk a lot about maintaining your empathy and your humanity as a police officer. Again, you have the balance of — you still have to be safe, you still have to recognize the very real threats on the street, but you don’t have to give up your humanity in order to be safe. And so, what we try to display at the academy is, we want our officers on the street to be critical thinkers; we want them to ask questions. When they’re going through their training — our mock scenes, where they would be tested on their skills — every mock scene used to end with an arrest, and each mock scene was set so you would display a particular set of skills — demonstrate your knowledge of whether or not the person had violated the law. Now the mock scenes are more open-ended, and we expect officers to explain, “Why did you make this decision?” And some of the scenes are set up so that an arrest is not required and they have to explain why they did make an arrest. So it’s not all black and white; we try to make it much more like real life.
Karol Mason: I saw a lot of recognition and head shaking when you said that about the exercises leading to arrest, so I think that issue’s resonating with folks. Why don’t you tell people about your LEED philosophy, which I think is also integral to how they relate to the community?
Sue Rahr:I coined the phrase “LEED.” It’s a stupid acronym, I guess you could say: L-E-E-D, and it stands for “listen and explain with equity and dignity.” And what I — the — where that came from was from Tom Tyler and Tracey Meares. I’ve done a great deal of writing about procedural justice and why procedural justice is so important in individual, on-the-street interactions. And it’s — the theory behind it is extremely powerful, but it’s also very dense; and as I told Tom Tyler, I need to package it in a Happy Meal, not just — not a huge smorgasbord. And I also wanted to package it in a way that it could be measured, so we could tell officers very specifically what exactly we wanted them to do and why. And so, the “listen” and “explain” part are two of the most strong theories behind procedural justice — is, you have to listen to people; give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story; and once you decide what you’re going to do as the officer, just explain why you’re doing it so that people understand your reasoning. If you don’t offer an explanation, they’re going to fill in that blank. And depending on their background and perspective on policing, they’re going to fill that blank probably with something negative. And “with equity and dignity” — obviously, that’s just how you treat other human beings.
By having very specific behaviors described — and I came up with this when I was still sheriff — my thinking was, we could go back when we survey citizens, and we can ask very specific questions: “Did the officer give you a chance to tell your story? Did the officer listen to you? Did the officer explain why they were taking their actions?”
One of the things I’ve learned over the years from being in law enforcement and being a parent is, if you can’t keep score, it’s pretty hard to tell when somebody’s doing what you want them to do. And by able — by being able to say, “Do these specific things that I can measure or count — or tell whether you’ve done them or not,” I have a better chance of getting that behavior to be repeated.
Karol Mason: So I’m coming to the end of our time, and so I want to give you time. As a member of the 21st Century Policing Task Force, leading training for the State of Washington, what’s the — what is a key piece of advice you’d like to leave with everybody in the audience?
Sue Rahr:Oh, boy. That’s tough, because it’s a pretty mixed audience, and my tendency is to want to speak to the cops in the audience. And that is — I think we’re all so lucky to be in a line of work that’s meaningful. And one of the things that just breaks my heart — makes me sad — makes me angry is the way many people in the public are looking at the profession of law enforcement right now, and the images that we’re seeing on TV so misrepresent what I think the majority of us really want to do. And so, I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to try and do something to elevate the people’s belief about law enforcement, because I think it’s the greatest profession that one could have, and it’s meaningful, and I want it to be respected.
Karol Mason: Excellent, and thank you for your leadership and taking the time with us. Because of the opportunity you have as a member of the Task Force, you are an ambassador out there spreading the message, so we look forward to you transforming training across the country and policing across the country as you have an opportunity to speak with people across the country.
Sue Rahr: Thank you so much.
Karol Mason: Now we’re going to do the Oprah thing, and you’re going to move down — or that’s the Johnny Carson — yes. [Applause] Okay, we’re bringing Anthony Braga up now, and I’m going to try to juggle and trade — change papers. And I’m also going to try to talk into the microphone.
So, Anthony, you have authored several papers for the executive session, but this one we want to talk about — the police and public discourse on black-on-black violence — I can say from reading it that it was really informative, and again, I wish we could give this class to the press, about how they use terms. But right now, you have an opportunity to educate a group of, I think, practitioners, researchers — lots of folks who are interested in this field. What message would you like them to have about why this term is not useful?
Dr. Anthony Braga, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University: Well, it’s undeniably a statistically accurate term. Most offending is intra-racial: You know, most people who are white are victimized by other whites; most people who are black are victimized by other blacks. And clearly, there’s a problem with elevated violent black victimization. Homicide rates are much higher for African Americans in the United States.
If — I’m an academic, so I do have a chart. And it’s up, okay; there we go. So as you can see, even though homicide rates have declined greatly over the course of the 1990s after increases, it’s still, relative to whites in the United States, six times higher — the victimization rates. So there’s clearly a problem. Next slide. If we look at offending rates — there we go — it’s about eight times higher. So clearly, there’s a problem there.
But when you break it down to a very simple “black-on-black violence,” it is devoid of any context, and that’s where the problem is. Black-on-black violence happens within particular neighborhoods: neighborhoods that are characterized by high levels of concentrated disadvantage. They are areas that aren’t able to stand for themselves in the way that neighborhoods that are more privileged are able to stand for themselves. They’re not able to realize a common set of values and intervene on the behalf of the neighborhood and exhibit this collected efficacy that folks like Robert Sampson have talked about that are related to violent crime.
And this term is so vague, it makes — gives folks the impression that everybody in the neighborhood are at risk of being victims of violence or perpetrators of violence when, in fact, when you go below the neighborhood level, you see that violence is incredibly concentrated, even within a so-called “high-violence neighborhood” — that very few folks within the neighborhood are actually involved in homicides and shootings and robberies and assaults. Not only is it highly concentrated amongst a small number of people; it’s highly concentrated in a small number of very specific places within those neighborhoods.
So to use a term to talk about homicides and shootings in the cities, “black-on-black violence” is just sufficiently vague. And it also has these negative connotations that somehow it’s, you know, acceptable: “Well, that’s black-on-black violence.” It’s not the way we talk about white-on-white violence. White-on-white violence is usually described as “domestic violence” or “drug-involved violence” — very specific terms. So, the use of this phrase, I think, is very problematic, particularly if you’re a police executive speaking to a community about what’s going on with the sudden increase in shootings and homicides.
Karol Mason: So how would you change the script, and how would you direct police departments to address the issue of crime in concentrated neighborhoods of minority communities and impoverished communities?
Dr. Anthony Braga: When you’re talking about violence in your city, you want to have a right description of it; you want to do your homework. I’m an academic; I do analysis, so you want to do some analysis. And this is what major cities do all the time with their crime analysts. When you start delving deeply into black homicides’ problems, you find that it is incredibly concentrated amongst a small number of people.
So, for example, in Boston, you have roughly 1 percent of the city youth being involved in gangs. However, these gangs generate half of all the homicides in the cities, two-thirds of all the non-fatal shootings in the city — and are very well-known to the criminal justice system. When you examine an offending in a particular community — and this is this sort of meatball that’s up there on the screen, if we could close in on that a little bit — that’s a network of about 750 people within one of Boston’s communities in Dorchester. This represents about 3 percent of all the people in Dorchester. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boston, Dorchester is one of the higher-violence neighborhoods, characterized by pockets of disadvantaged, and it’s a neighborhood that’s, you know, one of the ones that I looked at for high levels of shootings.
So this is a network of about 750 people; it represents only 3 percent of all the shootings — sorry, 3 percent of the people in the neighborhood, but that network generates 80 percent of all the shootings in that neighborhood. When you are connected to a shooting victim, every handshake that you get closer to a shooting victim, you’re 25 percent more likely to be shot yourself — so incredibly concentrated amongst a very small number of people in a neighborhood that’s generally regarded as a disadvantaged black neighborhood in the city of Boston.
When you think about the places within Boston, only about 5 percent of the streets and corners in the city experience three-fourths of all the shootings, year in, year out. Over a 30-year period, 5 percent generated 74 percent of all the shootings — incredible spatial concentration. The worst 50 blocks generated over 1,000 shootings over that same time period. I can’t imagine what it is like to grow up on one of those blocks and — trying to, you know, spur people to invest in those areas — attract businesses and opportunities.
So — the point being that you want to start to describe it in this way — say, “Okay, we’re not talking about everybody in the neighborhood. We’re not talking about all black residents. We’re talking about a very small percentage of people who are very well-known to the police — very well-known to the people in the community. And we want to focus on prevention. We want to try and reduce harm in terms of saving lives, by disrupting ongoing cycles of conflicts amongst these groups, but also trying to prevent youths from carrying guns and shooting people and getting involved in the criminal justice system.”
So there’s also harm reduction to the people who are in these social networks, because we tend to forget that they are people. There are people in the neighborhoods’ brothers; they’re people in the neighborhoods’ fathers, cousins — and even though they’re caught up in these high-risk networks, there should be an obligation to approach them in a way that is preventable.
Karol Mason: So how do you take this information — and this is about police community relationships — how do you take this information, knowing it’s concentrated, and use that information to build a relationship that ultimately ends up in creating a safer community?
Dr. Anthony Braga: Well, I think, in two ways. One is, when you frame the problem in very precise terms, it resonates with the community; they say, “Okay, that’s a description that I understand.” It’s not “It’s all, you know, people of color in a particular area”; it’s these individuals involved in these very, very high-risk networks that tend to — conflicts tend to play out in very particular places. So it’s really an opportunity to get involved with the community and make those connections with the community with that appropriate description.
But I think, for a lot of police executives, it’s, you know, “What do you do with that information?” You know, anybody who’s familiar with my work — that — you know me as a hot-spots policing advocate, and many police departments control crime by putting cops on dots. But I think what we need to think about is “What are the cops doing when they’re on the dots?” There’s any number of ways that police officers can control crime within a particular hot-spot area by taking an approach that really brings us back to community policing. A lot of the conversations that we had during the second executive session was finishing the unfinished business of community policing, reclaiming some of the ideas that seem to have been lost over the years as we’ve kind of moved away from community policing efforts and more towards performance measurement and accountability models.
So what the police officers are doing in these areas and with these high-risk networks is incredibly important. Are they getting to know the individuals in the networks? Are they forming partnerships with the neighborhoods? Are they disrupting the dynamics in those areas that are causing problems to recur over and over again? So having both the knowledge and a community problem-solving orientation to deal with these high-risk people and places is the way to go.
Karol Mason: So you also talk on your paper about over-policing and under-policing. Help us understand that and how to police in a way that meets the needs of the community and building those relationships while also reducing crime.
Dr. Anthony Braga: Yes, it’s interesting that a neighborhood can be both over-policed and under-policed at the same time. So over-policing is the idea that police are inserting themselves into situations that they do not need to be —that they’re, you know, focusing too much enforcement efforts within these areas beyond presence, because one thing is that community members — they want the police there, you know. They want the police there; they want them to be holding the offenders accountable; they want them to be preventing crime. But they also want to make sure that they’re not being overly aggressive, indiscriminate — that they’re treating people with respect and dignity. So, you know, the idea of over-policing is, you know, too much of a focus of, you know, arrests and too many contacts with an array of people in situations that don’t really deserve that level.
Under-policing can also happen at the same time, where community members have the perception that their problems aren’t being taken seriously — that, you know, “it’s taking a long time for the police officers to show up, and when they do show up, they’re not really listening to what our problems are — that they’re not treating us with respect” — that they’re being underserved at the same time that they have cops all over the place. So you can have this under-policing and over-policing at the same time. And this, you know, sort of brings me back to the idea of what seems to be lost over the years — is this, you know, layering over of community policing ideals, you know, with these — the knowledge of concentrations of crime, and what do you do about that?
Karol Mason: The question I have is, how do we sustain the trajectory to people, understanding what community policing is and how to appropriately use the data we have, but still maintain the fundamentals in community policing?
Dr. Anthony Braga: Well, I think it really needs to continue to mature as a concept, and, you know, it needs to be a department-wide commitment to this set of ideas. So it can’t just be a handful of officers who are assigned to a community service office. It can’t just be, you know, “Hey, well, that’s the problem-oriented policing team; they’re dealing with some bad conditions.” It’s got to be something that every single police officer, you know, understands is a value; you know, “This is what it means to be a police officer. We’re part of the community, we’re dealing with community concerns, and we’re getting to learn, you know, who’s in the community.”
I think there are a number of important lessons to be learned from procedural justice and legitimacy on how officers who aren’t assigned to the community policing could be treating people in terms of dignity and respect. And it’s — as I said, it’s not just the officers answering 911 calls; it’s, you know, the officer who’s behind the desk at the station house. That person needs to be greeting people in a way that is engaging. I mean, people come into the police department because they need something. I think that having this fuller vision that community policing is the responsibility of everybody and they contribute in different, important ways is absolutely critical.
Karol Mason: So what question do you wish I had asked you to make sure that you convey…?
Dr. Anthony Braga: “Why am I so hung up on community policing?” [Laughter] Well, because it’s been a bit of a frustration of mine to see, you know, with the adoptions of certain models of policing — to see policing sort of, you know, slide away from getting out there in the neighborhoods and getting to know people and getting, you know, to make those connections that are important, you know, not just for preventing crime but for solving them as well. And I feel like we’re always looking for a panacea.
So, for example, body-worn cameras — I like them. I think there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that they can be helpful in reducing citizen complaints. I think they add a transparency and accountability. I think there’s a lot of things that we don’t know about body-worn cameras that we still need to figure. But I don’t think putting cameras on a bunch of officers is going to necessarily change the way that a community is experiencing their police department. They may have a record of it, but you’ve got to get back to that, you know, getting to know people — you know, who are you policing — getting involved in the neighborhood. And I think that’s where the magic really is.
And just to go back to — I kind of went off on a tangent. You know, the theme of my paper is, having these vague types of descriptions, where you say, “Okay, you know, what’s going on is black-on-black violence,” is not taking a step to engage a community that you really need to engage with.
Karol Mason: And I loved your characterization in the paper to remember that everybody has a family member: the victim, the perpetrator — and how they receive what happens — they’re still a person to their families. So thank you for all that you do, and we’re going to continue to follow you and help us sustain this change in dealing with the hard part of community policing. So thank you, and I’m going to have you move down a seat.
Nola Joyce: I came to the Chicago Police Department in 1993 and worked with Chuck Ramsey and Barbara McDonald and Kevin Morrison and a few other people who put together the CAPS program — the community policing there. When he came here to D.C. in 1998, when he got that call, he came to my office and said, “I’m going to go to D.C. You know, I’d like for you to join me. Would you?” I said yes. I didn’t even call home [laughter] — not good, but anyway — and then finally, again, we stayed here almost 10 years — 2007 — and started in Philadelphia in 2008. I told him I was not going there, but there I am.
Karol Mason: Oh well. So it’s — so I think that it is fair for us to think that you guys really channel each other, and so I’m going to ask you questions, but I’m going to presume that he shares your philosophy. So I found the paper fascinating, and one of the phrases in there that I like that I want to say — read out loud and just have you respond to is this notion of the metaphor of the police being the thin blue line. And he says, “I would prefer that police see themselves as a thread woven through the communities they serve. That metaphor makes police an integral part of the very fabric that holds communities together in a democratic society.”
Nola Joyce: Yeah, he actually came to that metaphor back in Chicago during our community implementation process, and he actually taught every supervisory class in the Chicago Police Department on the philosophy and the rules and responsibilities of first-line supervisors; he personally did that. And during that time is where he began to realize, much as Sue said, that the language that we use is very important. And Ramsey has a great deal of leadership qualities. I think on top of that list is his ability to — able to step back, to look at and to listen and to discover the big idea, which is always a great leadership trait.
But beyond that, he’s able to take that big idea and communicate it through stories and metaphors in a way that people get it. And they get it, and they go, “Yeah, I kind of do like that a little bit better.” And so, when he talks about the thin blue line, that metaphor is very clear: It’s the good and the bad, the good and the evil. And if you’re on that thin blue line, you’ve got to make that decision: Who’s the good? Who’s the evil? Who’s the bad? And so, if you’re carrying that metaphor in your mind, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
His attempt is to communicate to police officers that it’s not that simple — the world is not that simple — and that, indeed, to be effective, you need to think of yourself as one of many threads in the tapestry of a community. And that tapestry, woven with all those threads, is what makes a community safe and healthy. And yes, you’re one of them, and you’re a strong thread, but you have to be woven together. So that is what he is trying to communicate.
Karol Mason: And I love the visualization of that and reminding them that they are the community.
Nola Joyce: That’s right.
Karol Mason: So he talks about metaphors in the paper, and he talks about the profound change in him as the result of visiting the Holocaust Museum and how he took that to weave in training for the officers here in DC, and it’s still going on. Tell the audience a little bit about that, because I’m not sure that everybody’s read the paper.
Nola Joyce: So in 1998, when we were — our first year here in D.C., we got a lot of invitations to come and see all of the great things that exist in the city. And David Friedman from ADL offered an invitation to us to come visit the Holocaust Museum. And it was toward the end of the day — not very many people there. We got a private tour, and one of the Holocaust survivors, Irene Weiss, led us through that tour. And anybody who’s ever visited the Holocaust Museum — you know how powerful that experience is. And frankly, I find myself depressed about 2 or 3 days after visiting that museum.
At any rate, she described her experiences during that time. Ramsey was — left there — got on a plane headed for Chicago, because his family was still back there. What he said was, something there — and he wasn’t quite sure what it was, but something there troubled him a great deal. And he went back by himself several times to try to figure out what it was that so haunted him. And what he came to realize was that the German police had a very significant role in the events of Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. A realization that he said — and frankly I would have to agree — “I did not know — a history I did not know.”
And so, he began talking with the people at the Holocaust Museum and at ADL about developing a course for the Metropolitan Police Department, first for their recruit class, and then we did the entire department. And it was a course on policing a democratic society. And again, this was back in 1998 — ’99 is when the course started. It consists of a tour and a conversation — a very hard and frank conversation with police recruits and later with police officers about what happened in Nazi Germany and how the police lost their way and contributed to that piece of history.
And so, today, roughly — someplace close to 90,000 officers, state, local, federal, have gone through that program. And oftentimes, when we first started this, we got — we heard complaints: “Well, there’s enough history in this country to talk about in terms of police and community. Why are we going back in Germany?” And Ramsey’s response to that was very simple: When we start talking about the history in this country, especially during that time, even today, people’s resistance rises, and all of a sudden it’s not talking about what happened and what’s been learned; it’s talking about you and me and our prejudice, which is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing, but you’ve got to get there first so people are open and hear it. So he went through the back door to get us there.
Karol Mason: So one of the images in the paper that he uses is someone who was liberated from a Nazi war camp, and it’s under — the high title of this is “Resignation.” But I combine that with the story of his — someone talking years ago about starting with a 10 and then moving down to the 1. And so, explain that story to folks and how those relate together — those concepts and what we can learn from them about how we treat people, particularly in communities that — and we talked about — that feel as though the police don’t care about them.
Nola Joyce: So there’s a picture in the museum, and it’s in the piece, and this is an individual who was just liberated. He had a bowl of food or something in front of him. And what Ramsey noticed was the vacancy, if you will, in his eyes. He was looking at you, but he wasn’t looking at you, and you knew that that individual experienced something that will forever change his life. He would never — he may be liberated physically, but he has a long way to go to be liberated emotionally and mentally and psychologically.
What Ramsey suggests is that sometimes, maybe more often than not, there are people in our neighborhoods, especially our challenged neighborhoods, that have that vacant look. They may have been the victim one too many times. They may have been the young juvenile who sees nothing but crime and death and prison in their future. And so, it’s that resignation.
He tells a story of when he was a sergeant in the narcotic unit in the Chicago Police Department. The story — and he continues to share those stories, oftentimes at our recruit graduation. And what he says is, you know, he had this officer, and no matter where they went, how they came in — because, you know, narcotics, right, especially back then — no matter where he went and who he dealt with — that this young — this officer was able to walk out of that room having had a good relationship and even getting information and probably an informant for the rest of his career. And so, at one point, Ramsey said, “How do you do that? How do you — I don’t — how do you do that?” And so this guy told him, “Well, you know, everybody’s born with a 10. We’re all 10s. But if you happen to be born in a — an African American, Latino, a non-white, take away 3, because the opportunities given to you aren’t the same as opportunities given to others. If you happen to have been born in poverty, in a poor neighborhood, take away another 3. If you happen to be living in a dysfunctional family, with your parents too young, perhaps, take away another 3. And now that 10 is down to 1. And that 1? That 1 is respect and dignity. And never, ever try to take that away, because if you do, they will fight like heck to keep it.”
And I think — and what he thinks is, a lot of the relationships and the people that — officers find themselves responding to calls to 911, working in the community, walking a foot beat, coming up against individuals who are down to that 1. And if they don’t remember that they will fight like heck — and that is respect and dignity, and they expect and demand, need, and deserve respect and dignity back.
Karol Mason: So I hope you’re hearing the common threads in these papers, and it’s not just in these papers; it’s what we’ve learned over the last 20-plus years about why community policing’s important and what it really means. It’s not just a philosophy; it’s got to be embedded in everything you do. So juxtapose the community policing philosophy and foundation of what policing should be with our notion of zero tolerance and the impact that has had on community policing.
Nola Joyce: So Ramsey talks about what he sees zero tolerance being, and it is what it says, right? It’s limited — no tolerance. If you break the law, if you break the rules, you get the punishment, right? If you’re drinking on the street, you’re going to get a summons. If you’re littering, if you’re jaywalking — and behind that, you know, some have argued that came out — and perhaps it did — came out of the broken windows. But the problem with zero tolerance is that it does exactly that: It takes away discretion. And down at the bottom of it all, that interaction between a police officer and a community member has to allow for, even today, discretion.
And frankly, one of my greatest concerns right now, today, on the police — for the police is, as we talked about body-worn cameras — is, we can — we will move toward a point of reducing the amount of discretion an officer has, or the officer will believe he has lost his discretion. I have heard officers say, “Okay, I’ve got this camera on, and I’m going to follow it by the book, because I don’t want to get jammed up.” That is as scary to me as not having a body-worn camera on the officer, because we don’t want them to jam up everybody. We want them to understand the circumstances and the realities and that maybe they are the individual with a 1 and, this time, just have a conversation and let them go.
So I think that where we have to keep an eye out — and I hear a lot about “either/or.” I think if you read the 21st Century Task Force Report, you don’t hear “either/or”; you hear “both.” You hear crime reduction and increasing community trust. You hear public safety and privacy concerns and rights. And you hear a lot of discussion around balance. And that’s what we have to be about. And I think this is really where philosophy community policing can help — is helping us understand there’s a balance that we have to find and maintain.
Karol Mason: Excellent. So I’m going to change the rules a little bit, because that’s what Oprah gets to do; and rather than me asking the — our wonderful, wonderful, talented folks questions, I’m going to open it up for questions from the floor. And if you don’t have any, I do have some; but I know that oftentimes in these programs, we’ve had you sit and listen a lot, so we want to hear from you and really make sure that you have the opportunity to ask your questions. And if you don’t ask them, I also have the prerogative of calling on people, because I’ve watched your expressions, and I was looking around for reasons, because I saw things resonating with different folks. So this is your opportunity to share what you’re thinking, to ask questions of these wonderfully talented people and get some answers that might help you in your work, be it as researchers, practitioners — just students of this — that — Eugene, good. So Eugene?
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for your comments. I’m Eugene Schneeberg. I head up the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for DOJ. Can you share a couple of examples of instances where you’ve seen really strong partnerships between the community and law enforcement?
Nola Joyce: So one example that comes to my mind is a recent one in Philadelphia. And so, we have talked about the pipeline between schools and prison. And one of our deputies there, Deputy Kevin Bethel — and some of you might have heard him — he came up with this idea. He had school police under him as well as all patrol. And he decided — and he worked with and he pulled together parents, teachers, our juvenile justice agency, our courts, and our DAs and the school administration and said, “Let’s stop arresting these kids. Let’s just stop arresting them.” Well, you would think, “Holy cow.” And when he looked at the data, what he found was, “Guess who was a primary complaint on these arrests? Police.”
And so, they set a program: First-time — you know, certain — you know, there was a threshold of offense, but most of these arrests were minor anyway, and they began not arresting them. And DHS, our Child Services Department, wrapped around services for the family and the children. There’s been, like, almost a 60 percent drop — and this has been going on for less than a year now — school year — in the number of juveniles arrested. But it is — again, it’s the whole idea of finding the problem. We know what the problems are — good at that — good at problem identification — but working together to solve and implement.
Dr. Anthony Braga: I think that in Boston, there’s lots of different examples of successful partnerships between the police, the community, social service providers, private businesses — but I just want to take a step up from that and say what you really need is a network of capacity. You really need to make sure that you have strategic relationships with a wide range of actors that can all bring something to the table, depending on the problem that you need. And thinking through developing this network in particular neighborhoods, I think it’s a challenge for the police to identify the more marginalized members of the neighborhood. It’s very easy to be able to connect with, you know, a community group or a nonprofit that’s got an agenda that’s out there and doing good work. Or, you know, there’s a very robust set of relationships between the faith-based community and the police of Boston; but they don’t represent everybody in the neighborhood, and sometimes it’s difficult to try and penetrate below the low-hanging fruit in a neighborhood to make those connections, especially with the young people, because that’s the group that you really need to have a good connection with in order to try and launch a lot of these prevention strategies. And the young people who are caught up in these high-risk networks I was talking about earlier can be particularly difficult to reach, because they’re not going to schools; they’re not going to community centers; they’re hanging out, you know, on the corners, in the parks. They need to have a capacity to reach them, whether it’s through street workers or others. You need to think about, you know, “What’s the network that I need in order to create change and engage the whole community in an effective way?”
Sue Rahr:I guess I would echo the importance of building or creating opportunities for officers to interact with youth in a positive environment instead of in an enforcement-type relationship. But the other one that I’d like to bring up is dealing with people with mental illness. And, you know, the criminal justice system has inherited the mental health responsibility in this country, and one of the relationships that I’ve watched grow in our state over the last many years is mental health workers and law enforcement and trying to get — give police officers an alternative to taking people to jail and understanding what it is they’re dealing with on the street and getting officers to not fear the unknown. And we’ve had — about once a month, we have people who are recovering or living with a mental illness successfully come to the campus and interact with officers to give them an opportunity to see that it’s possible for somebody with those challenges to function effectively. So that’s been sort of a different area that we have built a partnership.
John Rosiak: Good morning. My name is John Rosiak from Prevention Partnerships. And going through the President’s Task Force Report, I searched for “youth,” and I found that term so many times, it’s interesting: During the question period, that’s when youth really came out, which is great to hear. I would love to hear a little bit more, if I may, about the issue of perhaps school-based law enforcement and what we know about best practices concerning school-based law enforcement. It’s some tricky stuff. How do we do it well so that we drive down arrests and get people connected with resources they need?
Sue Rahr: If I could start out here, this — I have to say, one of the most challenging parts of being on the task force is, we had a very diverse group of people from very different perspectives, and a couple members of our task force were very much against school resource officers. And that was shocking to me, because in my experience, the school resource officer program has been extremely successful, because the focus in our programs had been toward building relationships and rapport and clandestinely recruiting people. But the experience of a couple of our task force members were quite different, where the law enforcement officers and schools were put there to make arrests and generate arrest statistics. And I have to be honest: I was really shocked to hear this, because in my mind, that was such a perversion of what the program was intended to be. And, you know, we had some pretty tense words for a while, until we finally understood one another’s perspective.
So I think that putting officers in schools for the purpose of enforcement is really the wrong approach. Obviously, if there’s something that needs to be handled, if there’s, you know, something dangerous going on, obviously the officer needs to take action. But the focus really should be on building relationships and role modeling positive behavior.
Nola Joyce: So in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia School District has school police. We have officers — I think the last number I saw was 90-plus officers, and they are assigned to our most troubled schools. We have a chief inspector, which is a rank just below a deputy commissioner, so a very high rank in the Philadelphia Police Department, who is given, basically, to the school district to run their safety programs, including the school police.
When I said that it was the police who were the primary complainants, it was the Philadelphia — I mean the school district — school police who were the complainants. And again, when looking at the data, what we realized is, most of those officers are retired officers. The average age was 50, all right, so, you know — been there already, unfortunately, but just dealing with young people is a challenge to most of us. But the dealing with young people at — you know, from a law enforcement career over 50 — even more of a challenge.
I think — and I totally agree: To be there — to enforce law is not the reason to be there. The reason to be there is to begin to build relationships and affect perceptions, right? And we can do that, and we do do that, in schools in a variety of different ways. But we’ve also realized we have to do that in the community. And so, we have made and are in the process of making some very significant changes in Philadelphia.
So, for example, we have what we call a cadet program: young people 14 to about 17. It was centralized, headquartered in our training academy — difficult to get there; it’s not the easiest place to get there — limited public transportation. What was recently done is to decentralize that, and every police district — we have 21 in Philadelphia — now runs a cadet program. The officers in that district have volunteered to be part of that program and to be a trainer in the cadet program and to recruit people from their neighborhood to come to their police district to become a cadet. And what we are introducing or hope to be introducing very shortly is that an individual who is a cadet can roll right into taking the police exam. We have a 60-hour college credit requirement. We want to waive that and say, “You’ve gone through the cadet program; you don’t need the 60 hours. You can come in and become a police officer.”
And youth advisory boards — we’re setting up youth advisory boards in each of our districts. So we’re doing a lot of different things with kids, because they’re the ones that are the future. They are the ones who are — you know, you look at what happened in Baltimore; it was the young people that, you know, really were on the forefront of a lot of that trouble.
James MacGillis:You know this face; I always have a question. I’m James MacGillis. I’m from Milwaukee Police Department, and I’m one of the lead scholars. We all know data’s important; the message of getting connection with the community is very important also at the executive — and also at the community advocacy interaction. So the million-dollar question is, “How do you bridge the gap between data that drives us and guides us and push it down to re-humanizing the rank-and-file cops?” I mean, I see Dr. Braga; you’re an academic. I see Director Rahr. We talked about training, but how do we bridge the gap and really push it down to the rank-and-file level where we can re-humanize our cops so they interact better with the community? I mean, I think that’s really where we’re — we should start also. That’s my question.
Dr. Anthony Braga:I think that gets to the point of what I was saying about hot-spots policing, you know. I think it’s important to put cops on dots. If the trouble’s over here, you’re not going to put a police officer over there. And that’s where I think, you know, training, leadership, and values takes over once the police officer is assigned to a particular area that has a high level of crime. Is that officer going to arrest everything that moves? Is that officer going to, you know, be engaging in over-aggressive and indiscriminate enforcement actions? Or is that officer going to be taking the steps to say, you know, “Why is this in a place — a high-activity crime place, you know? What are the things that are going wrong in the area that I can work with the community — work with city government — work with other agencies to try and change? And how can I engage the community in that to figure out, you know, who are the individuals in the area that are most likely to be victims and offenders of the crimes? And how can I, you know, prevent victimization but also, you know, head off, you know, individuals from making — from committing crimes so they don’t have to be arrested and economize on, you know, scarce prison space and not getting people who shouldn’t be involved in the criminal justice system caught up in the criminal justice system?” So I think, you know, it’s, you know, really a set of normative questions, you know. Once you have those data, you know, what is it that you do with it? And, you know, that, I think, flows with some of the stuff that Sue was talking about, so now I’m passing it on to her.
Sue Rahr:Well — so I’m going say something — probably going to piss some people off, but frankly, I think there are some agencies that want to use the data as a substitute for asking the street cop what’s going on in their district. Depending on the size of your police department and whether your officers are assigned to work the same areas, you can ask any cop where the hot spots are, and they will draw you a map, I guarantee, whether it is a little tiny police department or a large agency. And so, I think we have to be careful not to demean the knowledge and wisdom of our street officers. They know where the hot spots are.
I think the value of the data is to help, you know, those in power to bring resources to bear where they need to be. Now, if your data disagrees with what your street cops are telling you, then you’ve got a real problem. There’s somehow an inappropriate disconnect between the street and the cop, but I think you use the data to bring resources to support the officer in the street, and you can never get away from that one-on-one relationship that the officer has with the people in their district.
I think where you get into a problem is when you use cops as just interchangeable pieces and they’re anonymous, you know. I don’t want to say “Robocop,” because I don’t want that image; but if you just have, you know, “Every cop is just a cog that you can stick in any spot,” you know, that’s wrong thinking. If we really believe that we want our cops to be part of the community, they need to stay someplace long enough to actually be part of the community. So one has to support the other, and you can’t substitute data for relationships. And I think sometimes that there’s a tendency for that to happen, and it happens when people don’t want to accept personal responsibility for making decisions about where resources are going to be allocated or actions that are going to be taken.
Nola Joyce: And if I may, quickly — so every new officer spends the first 9 to 12 months on a foot beat. We started that in 2008. And the reason we started it was — and they walk the foot beat in the most challenged neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia — is, by getting them out on foot every day, for them to make it through 8 hours, they’re going to have to make relationships. They’ll have to go into a room — store to know who to talk to, to get a break from the weather, or to use a restroom or whatever it might be.
And the other reason is, as Ramsey said, they need to discover that there are far more good people living in a neighborhood — a challenged neighborhood, a crime-ridden neighborhood — than there are bad people. And the only way to know that is to be in the neighborhood.
The other thing that we’ve done is — we call them crime briefs. Again, I think language is important; we don’t call it CompStat. So our crime briefs — we require our captains to bring in officers to understand the conversation that’s having — is being had at the upper levels and to acknowledge the work that they do. We’ve established new awards, such as community policing and community — I’m sorry — problem-solving and community service awards, that are as important — well, for some of us, we think it’s as important as a merit award for, you know, doing good enforcement work. So it’s those kinds of changes and communications and the executives, from the commissioner down to the captain, demonstrating that that’s what is important.
Dr. Price:I’m Dr. Price. I’m a criminologist. This question is for Nola. So we know that procedural justice is very important when it comes to policing. Now, scholars will tell you that procedural justice is composed of two things: quality of decision making and quality of treatment. So let me just mention a few of those items. So, for example, under quality of decision making, we have — the police have to explain their decisions to the people they deal with, and the police make their decisions based on facts — or do they make their decisions based on facts? Now, with the quality of treatment, we have the police treating people with respect and the police respecting people’s rights, like the constitutional rights.
We know that procedural justice is an antecedent of police legitimacy, which, in turn, is an antecedent of cooperation with the police. There’s a lot of research out there: Tyler, Sunshine and Tyler, Tyler and Huo. In 1984, Axelrod said that procedural justice policing is so important for the police to use when they deal with community members, especially minorities, and they said that — use that and only turn away from that if the person you are dealing with has been aggressive.
So my question is, why aren’t the police using procedural justice a lot more when they deal with minority, especially young black males in the community? And what are the specific strategies that the Philadelphia police are using to deal with young black males in that city?
Nola Joyce: You’re a criminologist; correct?
Dr. Price: Yes.
Nola Joyce: Most of our police officers are not. Now, that’s not an excuse, but what it does mean is, those concepts — and Sue said it earlier: Those concepts have to be packaged — and she used the term “Happy Meal,” but they have to be packaged in a way that is understandable but not — as important — let me back up. I have come to believe — I’ve done organizational change my entire career, and I have now, today, where I sit — I’ve come to believe that really, when we talk about organizational change, we’re talking about changing work habits. Now, anybody who’s ever trying to change a habit knows how difficult that is. And so, when you are talking about changing organizational work habits — how an officer does his job on the street, you’re not talking about something that’s going to happen overnight, in a year — maybe not even a decade, to be very honest, because, remember, officers have long careers. The average — I mean average career: 25 — 30 years, right — long careers, long experience, ingrained habits. And yes, we need to train them right when we get them, but what I think is even more important is helping to maintain what they’ve learned as they go along in their career.
So to answer your question, what are we doing? We are retooling training in the Philadelphia Police Department as we speak. And we’re bringing in, as best we can, the concepts of procedural justice. But, you know, what it really comes down to, again, is — back to community policing — is how you treat your people. When we talk to recruits — and we talk to them as they graduate — if you treat the person you deal with as a family member, you’re going to be okay — bottom line. That’s a simple line; that’s a simple answer. Would you treat your mother that way? Would you want your mother to be treated that way by your fellow officer or your sister or your brother or whoever it might be? You know, it’s the old golden rule that can get much easier communicated. When you start throwing around — my advice — when we start throwing around $0.25 terms, like “procedural justice” and “legitimacy,” you’re flipping the switch, and it’s not a positive switch that you flip. Language is important, and understanding the culture of the people in which — you’re dealing with is important. So you take —you’ve got to take the philosophy and the good concepts and the $0.25 words and make it meaningful to the people who do the daily work.
Sue Rahr:I want to add something to that, even though the question was for Nola. We can’t forget that policing exists in the context of a political background. And, you know, the tough-on-crime, zero-tolerance rhetoric didn’t start with the police. And what is valued or has been valued over the last several decades is “tough on crime.” And so, the metrics — the measure of success would boil down to the crime rate, arrest rate — things like that. And so, we have to find ways to measure and reward behavior that reflects procedural justice, not just “tough on crime.”
Karol Mason: So I’m going to still have other folks come up for questions, but what I wanted to ask you all is, how has this renewed dialogue about 21st-century policing and community relationships and partnerships changed, if any, how you recruit?
Nola Joyce: Recruiting is a problem today, to be very honest. We have money; we have had money for the last two to three fiscal years to hire up to 6,500. Right now, we’re a little bit below 6,300. And it’s — so it was difficult before everything. Some think it has become more difficult with what’s going on in the public today around policing. It could well be. I don’t know that.
I think — we talk about instilling value; more importantly, I think, we have to select on value and deselect on value, because of our 6,500, if we’re lucky, we may hire 500 people in a year. That means 6,000 are already out there. So it’s not — and creating a person’s value system is something that a police organization can support but I don’t know if we can do. So I think it’s a selection and deselection question.
Sue Rahr:I think we have to really look at our recruiting strategies. And I know, you know, back when I started, the recruiting strategy was all about adventure. And, you know, if you look at recruiting posters — you look at, you know, some of the police magazines, it’s all about adventure and equipment and, you know, all the cool stuff. And so, we really do need to adjust our recruiting strategy.
I’m a huge fan of millennials. Maybe it’s because I raised a couple of them, and so I kind of like them. But I think that there is some hope there, because one of the characteristics of the millennial generation is this belief in, you know, doing something that matters. I know some of my peers have complained about — “Oh, you know, these new kids — they — you know, they want to do something important, you know; they don’t care about just having a job; they want to do something that matters.” Well, I think we need to lock into that, and that’s what we talk about — is “Make a difference; do something that matters.”
And frankly, I think that we’re in a great position now. We have an ongoing study at our academy. We don’t actually do the hiring; we train the people after they’ve been hired. But we were doing some evaluation about how effective some of our strategies have been at instilling a guardian perspective in our recruits. And a surprising finding to me was that what we were doing wasn’t making any difference, which — at first I was very crushed, until I read deeper into the study. And what we found is that most of our recruits come in the door with a guardian mindset. And I had to adjust my thinking to “Okay, they’re coming in here because they want to do something good; they want to protect and save people.” So what we have adjusted to is protecting that mindset, because what typically happens in the academy is, in our state, after five months, you already become cynical, and you already begin to dehumanize the people in the communities. So now we’ve adjusted our strategy to protect the good heart that comes in the door.
And so, you know, I think the recruiting may not be as complicated as we think it is. I think what we really need to do is look at the culture that they’re coming into, and if we get good people in the door, can we keep them there?
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