Doubts Raised About ‘Early Warning Systems’ to Catch Police Misconduct


“Early warning systems” used by many police departments around the country to flag “at-risk” officers who demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate behavior need a serious overhaul, according to a report released this week by the nonprofit organization CNA Analysis & Solutions.

The systems are used by over 39 percent of municipal and county law enforcement agencies that serve populations of 50,000 or more, according to the most recent survey conducted in 1999. But there is a continuing concern over whether the systems “are capturing the data needed to identify and then alert supervisors to potentially problematic behavior,” the report said.

At a panel convened by CNA last September, police chiefs and analysts gave the system mixed reviews—with some pointing out that officers resented the system and felt it reduced their effectiveness. Robert Haas, commissioner of the Cambridge MA police department, however, said it helped his department’s efforts “restore faith not only in he community, but also internally” after the well-publicized incident involving Harvard Prof. Henry Luis Gates and a Cambridge police officer in 2009.

CNA said it was developing five new pilot projects for improving the approach, in the wake of controversies over police misconduct in Ferguson, Baltimore and other American cities—a project welcomed by many participants in the panel. “As departments begin to shift from the ‘warrior’ to the ‘guardian’ mentality, it will become increasingly important for (police) departments to reach a broader audience,” the report quoted Lynn Overmann, senior policy advisor and chief technology officer for criminal justice at the White House, as saying.

The report is available HERE .

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