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Reinventing America’s Police Forces

Camden, NJ police chief Scott Thomson tells his cops that they will not be judged by the number of arrests they make—but by how well they build community trust.


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 […]


Will Police Accountability Change Behavior?

Three months after passing some of the nation's most progressive bills on police accountability and sentencing reform, the state of Connecticut is still mired in debate over how much further to go in reforming its criminal justice system. The challenges emerged graphically yesterday at a panel discussion involving the state's top justice advisor, and representatives of law enforcement and the state legislature. “If people in the community don't trust the police, everything gets worse,” said Michael Lawlor, Connecticut's Under Secretary […]


Cops and the Mentally Ill

Newly minted New Windsor (NY) police officer Frank Pierri Jr. got the call on his second day on the job. Someone was in mental distress, uncooperative—and refused to open the door when police arrived. But Pierri had a weapon in his arsenal that most cops don't. In the police academy, he underwent 40 hours of crisis intervention team training, learning about mental illness and its manifestations, learning how to defuse tense situations, and about the resources available (in the region) […]


Weaning America Off Violent Crime Stats

It's been 175 years since London's Sir Robert Peel codified the foundational precepts of law enforcement, including this one: “The absence of crime is the best proof of a police department's efficiency.” And that proof is usually provided by comparative statistics: this year's stickups, break-ins and butchery vs. last year's. The media, police commanders, politicians and the public have hewn closely to that number-crunching convention since Peel's time in order to measure the ebb and flow of lawlessness. It was […]


How to Restore Trust in the Police

This is a difficult time for policing. Notwithstanding the historically low crime rate we currently enjoy, public confidence in the police is the lowest it has been since 1993, when murders and property crimes were near their peak. Police departments can turn things around. We know this because they have done so before. Thirty years ago, police agencies across America were facing a crisis. The crime level was soaring, on its way from less than 300,000 violent crimes annually in […]


How Seattle Bridged the Community-Police Divide

Having a voice in police policy-making has been a major demand of community groups since the 1960s. But various reforms have provided only a very limited voice at best, or have been largely window dressing. Recent events in Seattle, however, represent an important step toward establishing a genuine community voice in police policymaking—and may offer a model for cities elsewhere. I believe they have broad significance for the future of American policing. The demand for a community voice in policing […]


A Cop's Story: 'Customer-Service' Policing

When I was training to become a police officer in the Madison, Wi., Police Department, I heard one phrase over and over: “customer service.” It may seem odd to think of policing in this way, but it's a big part of the Madison Police Department's (MPD) Community and Trust-Based Policing approach. There have been many times when I could have made an arrest, but chose not to. I determined that an arrest would not help the individual in this crisis […]