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Expert Panel Calls For Reforms To Reduce Racial Bias In Policing

A national panel of experts issued a set of comprehensive recommendations on ways to reduce racial bias in policing. The Council on Policing Reforms & Race is sponsored by the National Policing Institute, formerly the Police Foundation. It is chaired by Former Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a former Orlando Police Chief, and Yale Law Prof. James Forman, Jr.

"For 400 years, Black Americans have been over-policed, over-punished, and under-protected. Today, we have the chance to imagine and create a different future—one in which Black communities depend less on the police for safety and where law enforcement consistently values and protects Black life," Forman said.

The top recommendation of the group is to take a close look at police use of traffic stops.

Although stops have been shown to improve traffic safety and reduce and prevent crime, they have been associated with harmful police-community interactions, the report says.

Black motorists are disproportionately stopped by the police, more likely to be searched, cited, and arrested, and are less likely to be treated with respect during stops. This has been associated with psychological harm and damage to trust in the police.

The risk of harm may be enhanced when the volume of stops, or stop-related outcomes are linked to officer performance through formal or informal “quotas.” "Pretextual or investigative stops, in particular, can lead to decreased perceptions of police legitimacy and increased safety risks to both the public and the officers," the report says.

The panel says stops must be "carefully tied to traffic safety, closely monitored by agency supervisors and leadership, and carried out by officers trained in procedural justice."

The panel calls on law enforcement agencies to abolish performance incentives and quotas based on the volume of traffic stops, require signed consent for vehicle searches and monitor traffic stop activity for bias and disparate impact.

Among other major subjects covered by the report:

--Body-worn cameras. The group said the impact of cameras on reducing racial disparities in policing is not yet known and issues of transparency and public release of videos have not been resolved clearly. It called for more research on the issues.

--Community violence prevention. The panel said youth engagement strategies can reduce crime and that many programs have succeeded, but success seems contingent on local implementation methods. The council supports improving the programs and researching their effectiveness.

--Culture of policing: A "warrior" mindset can harm police-community relations and a "guardian" mindset can improve them,, the panel said. Warrior Mindset can Negatively Impact Police-Community Relations; a “Guardian Mindset” can positively impact police-community relations. It recommended assessing organizational cultures, including the community perspective, and promoting a "culture of community safety and service."

--Data collection and transparency. The council said data standardization is critical for understanding local and national trends and that police agencies should develop a data collection, analysis, and dissemination plan.

--Fines and fees imposed throughout the criminal justice system have a racially disproportionate impact and may impair public safety and contribute to recidivism. The panel urges not using law enforcement to collect fines and fees and decoupling law enforcement budgets from fines.

--Mental health and substance abuse. There is no consensus on whether crisis responses should be handled primarily by law enforcement or independent health services. Crisis response programs can help standardize officer decision-making and reduce disparities.

--Pedestrian stops. The council said evidence suggests that police stop people of different racial groups at disparate rates and that pedestrian stops undermine perceptions of police legitimacy. It proposed limiting such stops and including community in put in establishing strategies for stopping pedestrians.

--Police training. Most time is spend on firearm skills, defensive tactics and patrol procedures. The council says evidence on effectiveness of specific types of training is limited. It added that virtual reality and simulation training may show promise.

--Policing in schools. The panel said there is limited evidence that school resource officers reduce crime or improve school safety. The presence of such officers has been associated with greater discipline that disproportionately affects black students of lower socioeconomic status and have disabilities. It urges developing alternatives to school-based law enforcement.

Other members of the council in addition to Demings and Forman are Shon Barnes, former Madison, Wi., police chief, Rev. Jeffrey Brown of Boston, co-founder of My City at Peace, criminologist Rod Brunson of the University of Maryland, Ralph Clark, president of ShotSpotter, Washtenaw County, Mi., Sheriff Jerry Clayton, former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, criminologist Robin Engel of the policing institute, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrington, OneTen CEO Maurice Jones, Tarrick McGuire, assistant police chief of Arlington, Tx., Mary Beth O'Connor of Ironbound Film and Television Studios and Lucky VIII films, Bill Taylor of Miravast, and criminologist Ronald Weitzer of George Washington University.



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