LEN’s 25 years — views from the field
Law Enforcement News asked dozens of police practitioners, scholars and others to take a look back at the quarter-century of the newspaper’s existence and single out some of the trends, milestones, dark spots and more that have highlighted the period. Here’s what they have to say:
Transferring technology and ideas
Several events in law enforcement over the past few years that have had a lasting impact include:
Developments surrounding technology transfer and usage: Computers and other technological developments that revolutionized the world also had their impact on law enforcement. As we move into the future, the Internet will have a major influence on how policing is performed. Perhaps a more direct impact on law enforcement was the transfer of ideas. Many business principles, including partnerships, consumer concerns and problem solving, have had a revolutionary and (foreseeably) lasting impact on law enforcement, having developed into COP and POP and continuing to drive those approaches. Herman Goldstein was able to transform many of these ideas into a policing environment and increase the professionalism and effectiveness of policing. Performance measures, Compstat, GIS, etc., are all ideas developed in other areas but used in law enforcement. This concept of using ideas and technologies from other professions has had an enormous impact on policing.
Other transfers of ideas and technology includes weapons use and training. In recent years, we have moved from the blackjack as an intermediate weapon to stun guns, bean bags, nets, sprays and other technologies that save lives and reduce injuries. As this process continues and as other weapons technologies are developed, more injuries will be avoided and more lives will be saved.
I should not fail to mention the FBI shootout in Miami in 1986 as having had, and continuing to have, an impact on law enforcement. The FBI did not work with the local agency and claimed to be outgunned. This tragedy, in which two FBI agents were killed, resulted in agencies throughout the country going to the 9mm. semiautomatic that had 10-17 rounds, rather than the old six-shot revolver. This is an example of a solution that was not really related to the problem, as the FBI agents were not prepared and had weapons in their trunks, and fully automatic machine guns in other areas. The 9mm., which has led to more shots fired per incident, was not and is not the answer for preparation and planning.
GEOFFREY P. ALPERT
Professor and Director of Research
College of Criminal Justice, University of South Carolina
A dog’s life, and more
Arguably the most universally recognized symbol of U.S. crime fighting is the figurehead of the National Crime Prevention Council, McGruff the Crime Dog. Since the canine’s introduction in 1980, few police agencies haven’t at some time utilized the cartoon character to promote crime prevention in their communities. In an era of “program of the month” policing, it is unique to have one symbol remain constant for 20 years. McGruff remains a leader in promoting the crime prevention message, partnering with community and media groups for exposure and providing a positive police image for many of us.
The March 1982 issue of The Atlantic Monthly probably included the most copied article for police use from any magazine — the first part of a two-part feature by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, titled “Broken Windows.” This article became the bellwether for the entire force of community policing sweeping the nation. The authors made a grand demand to change the way police provide provide social order and enlarged forever the roles of American police. Kelling later expanded the thesis into a book he co-authored, “Fixing Broken Windows,” providing a bit of cop slang for both problem solving and taking ownership of a problem under the auspices of community policing,
The use of DNA typing has rocked the criminal investigation field, providing a definitive link between a specific subject and even minute traces of evidence. Crime scenes now offer voluminous pieces of evidence, which must be kept scrupulously uncontaminated and available for later analysis. Furthermore, the storage of DNA “fingerprints” from convicted criminals serves as a constant threat to recidivists. The actual use of DNA typing for crime solving was popularized by Joseph Wambaugh in his 1989 nonfiction work “The Blooding,” which focused on the efforts of constables in Leicestershire, England, to solve two vicious murders and explained in great detail how DNA was used to focus the police investigation. This book helped review the potentials of DNA and popularized its use. Not until the trial of O.J. Simpson did it receive as much public scrutiny. Today, of course, it is a significant part of the standard police tool kit.
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Police Department, Fort McDowell, Ariz.
Anti-intellectualism and surrender
Three things stand out as I look at the last quarter-century’s police landscape:
Race and gender. Blacks have become mayors and chiefs but are woefully under-represented in the ranks. This is due to racism and the rhetoric of black leaders. Women have done wonderfully well.
Anti-intellectualism. Most ideas have come from criminologists, not cops. “Broken Windows” from Wilson and Kelling; domestic abuse and more from Sherman, and community policing from Goldstein. The police have not only failed to raise educational requirements, but exhibited a numbing scorn for ideas, thought, scholarships or innovation.
Surrender on street crime. Notwithstanding a tripling of those under correctional control, from 2 million to 6-plus million between 1980 and the end of the century, cops have abandoned really aggressive tactics like decoys, stings and stakeouts, as they’ve rounded up everyone around for drugs.
The rooster crows because he thinks he has summoned the sun. Police chiefs echo in their claims of success.
It’s demographics (Roe v. Wade, mostly); prosperity (more jobs for all); welfare reforms and other social, racial, economic and political factors, stupid.
ANTHONY V. BOUZA
Former Chief of Police, Minneapolis, Minn.
Tear gas, a bomb and two fires
The darkest moment in law enforcement in the past 25 years occurred when the Justice Department and the FBI decided to use a tank to introduce tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The fire that resulted, whether accidentally or purposely set, caused the deaths of 80 people, including 18 children age 12 and under. It also served as a catalyst for the Oklahoma City bombing two years later that resulted in the loss of 168 additional lives.
The second darkest moment occurred in Philadelphia in 1985 when the mayor and the police commissioner resolved a standoff between the Move cult and the government by dropping a bomb from a helicopter onto the house where cult members were living, causing the deaths of 11 men, women and children.
These were not the actions of patrol officers in a life-and-death situation. They were the carefully thought-out decisions of high ranking government officials which ignored the fact that the children in both Waco and Philadelphia should have been treated as hostages. In both instances, the government ignored the first rule in any hostage situation, which is not to do anything to endanger the hostages. Clearly, these two events represented the worst in law enforcement in the past 25 years.
The high points in policing are the advent of automated fingerprint identification systems and, even more importantly, the ability to identify someone based on DNA. Prior to the introduction of these two technologies, latent fingerprints were virtually useless unless there was a known suspect, and most other human trace elements were of little or no value. These breakthroughs have elevated the collection of evidence at a crime scene or from a victim to new levels, and have served to help convict the guilty as well as to establish innocence.
Former Police Commissioner, New York, N.Y.
What police could and should be
On the one hand, of course, there is community policing, problem-oriented policing and the diversification of the police (as women and minorities establish themselves in policing). On the other hand, there are the darker moments — the unfortunate numbers of public events in which the police acted outside the law which they swore to uphold, by using force that was excessive, illegal methods to “get the bad guys,” and a growing intolerance for protest and civil disobedience.
But what I’d really like to highlight is why police continue to fall short of what they could be, and should be. Many of these ideas have been around for well over 30 years. Here are a few of them: Police in a democracy should be well educated and intensely trained; above reproach as to their honesty and integrity; representative of the community they serve; committed to the problem-solving method and organized to deliver services at the neighborhood level preventing crime rather than responding to it; respected and trusted by their leaders; experimenting with innovative strategies; building organizations led by leaders who see the big picture, who intelligently and compassionately speak out on social problems, and who resist efforts to use the police improperly; and, finally, police should be front-line defenders of our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Rev. DAVID C. COUPER
Former Chief of Police, Madison, Wis.
From vocation to profession
1979 was a milestone year for law enforcement, as four leading executive organizations united in support of a nationwide initiative to develop and implement a law enforcement accreditation program. The result of that initiative was the creation of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). At that time, as today, issues of accountability, integrity, liability, performance and community partnership dominated the public dialogue and media coverage of law enforcement. CALEA’s creators knew that accreditation had the potential to elevate the law enforcement vocation to professional standing and to affirm the quality of police services.
In 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which authorized $8.8 billion over six years for grants to local police agencies to add 100,000 officers and promote community policing in innovative ways. As a result, cities and counties across the nation are turning to community policing, a strategy that builds on fundamental policing practices with an emphasis on crime prevention and lasting solutions to problems. It requires new resolve from citizens and new thinking from police officers. Community policing reduces crime and fear while restoring a sense of order. It also can rebuild the bond between citizens and government. It provides law enforcement officials with a unique opportunity to demonstrate the importance of citizen involvement, while in turn they realize that their authority and effectiveness are linked directly to the support they receive from citizens. When fully embraces, community policing is democracy at its best.
he effects of technological advances on law enforcement over the past 25 years have been staggering, affecting everyone in the criminal justice system. As a result, the educational requirements for law enforcement have increased as well as the training needs and opportunities. Throughout the United States, there is an increased demand for highly educated law enforcement professionals. Now more than ever, police work requires skills of a technical and academic nature, gained primarily through a college education and advanced in-service training.
Technology also has its negative side, one of the best examples being the video camera. These cameras can provide reliable, unbiased and sometimes crucial evidence in citizen complaints. In the past decade, cameras have aided in the convictions of criminals and police officers alike. The most notable incident was the beating of Rodney King in 1991 by Los Angeles police officers, which was recorded by a bystander. As a result of this tape, the United States was sent into a racial frenzy that changed policing forever. Another, more recent example was the videotaped beating in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, in this age of instant global communications, these events were seen around the world within hours of their occurrence. This helped to create the image of police forces out of control, rather than what they were: isolated aberrations.
SYLVESTER DAUGHTRY JR.
Executive Director, Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
Former Chief of Police, Greensboro, N.C.
Politicization of policing
The greatest highs and lows in policing during the past quarter century have more to do with trends and tendencies than with specific events. I take the most dangerous of these trends and tendencies — all of which have to do with politicization of policing — to be:
The abbreviation of background investigations and recruit training in order to satisfy political mandates for rapid hiring of police, with applicant pools narrowed by residency requirements.
The rise of the view that public perception of the police is more important than the truth about police and the real quality of police service to the public, conjoined with the idea that a police department is of necessity no more than a microcosm of society as a whole. A police department is supposed to be selective in personnel appointments, and to live up to higher standards than those expected of the general public. It cannot live up to the public trust if it declines into a mere microcosm of society with all of its faults. Among the great challenges of leadership in policing and law enforcement is teaching the public the truth about police, so that public perceptions bear a resemblance to reality.
Legislative enactment of laws without adequate budgets for police to enforce them. This common practice forces police to be selective about enforcement priorities, thereby generating public cynicism.
The tendency of foolish arbitrators to overrule wise disciplinary actions within departments, at the expense of good policing and the public interest.
The great accomplishments in the past 25 years are so many as to defy a brief list. Nonetheless, among them are:
Greater justice among enlightened departments in the allocation of resources to protect the portions of the public most at risk of criminal predation. This trend has been much advanced by more sophisticated use of data and information technology in tracking crime patterns, and thereby both preventing crime and solving specific crimes.
Increased understanding among law enforcement leaders of the personnel, policy, educational and ethical standards appropriate to a genuine profession, and widespread resolve among these leaders to make policing thoroughly professional — including, for example, absolute refusal to tolerate lying in internal investigations.
Enlarged opportunity for qualified adults to undertake careers in law enforcement irrespective of race, ethnicity and gender. As with any walk of life, expanding the potential applicant pool of qualified candidates improves policing and law enforcement.
EDWIN J. DELATTRE
Dean, School of Education, Boston University
Setting the tone
In a nutshell, these three issues have colored much of the past 25 years in law enforcement:
- The riots of the 1970s (with roots in the riots of the 1960s).
- Supreme Court decisions.
- The increased use of advancing technology.
There are more, certainly, but no list should be considered complete without these.
Police Commissioner, Boston, Mass.
Policing’s bold LEEP
Law Enforcement News has been publishing during a time of extraordinary ferment in our society and great changes in policing. In my opinion, those changes which have had the greatest impact on the police are:
Women in law enforcement. Women have emerged as a major force in policing along with the gradual institutionalization of the community policing/problem solving philosophy and the emergence of consensus-driven management styles. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Any profession that opens itself completely to an additional 50 percent of the population cannot help but dramatically improve.
Kevlar. No one fiber has had a greater positive effect on the health and safety of police officers (and the peace of mind of their families). It has become a fixture in policing, saving hundreds of lives that otherwise would have become names on the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
The emergence of the community policing/problem-solving philosophy. Whether one dates the year the movement began to reach critical mass as 1977 (when Herman Goldstein published “Policing a Free Society”), or 1982 (when George Kelling and James Q. Wilson published “Broken Windows” in The Atlantic Monthly) or the period from 1988 to 1993 when the National Institute of Justice sponsored the “Perspectives on Policing” series, or the emergence of the COPS office, the fact remains that Americans are experiencing policing differently. The maintenance of a peaceful, democratic, diverse society depends to a large extent on credible, responsive, restrained policing that can retain the support of all of its constituencies. Community policing and problem solving offer a strategic vision that will enable the police profession to meet this challenge.
The end of the draft. When I entered the profession, the vast majority of officers had military experience. They had spent time away from home, experienced diversity firsthand, learned to function in a bureaucratic environment, and had to subordinate their personal preferences to the needs of the group and the mission. The vast majority of recruits today come to us with little experience in life or with diversity (not to mention doing what they’re told). Recruits are better educated than ever, frequently highly motivated and very inquisitive, but I can’t help but think young people could benefit from military experience.
The end of the Law Enforcement Education Program. Another thing that I don’t think is coincidental is the acceptance of the logic of community policing by a generation of police leaders who earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees with grants from LEEP. Change in policing has a long gestation, as change agents take time to be promoted up the chain of command. Education broadens, enlightens and encourages the challenging of the status quo. LEEP police officers have made their mark; the loss of LEEP will have an impact on police innovation yet unknown.
The erosion of confidence in American policing starting with the 1991 Rodney King beating continuing to today’s “racial profiling” controversy. It’s sadly ironic that at a time when American police are better educated and trained, more carefully screened, more diverse, more restrained in the use of force and less corrupt than ever, we are losing the confidence of constituencies that need us the most. In an era of the global village and instant TV images rebroadcast endlessly, there is no margin for error in policing. The sins of one agency are visited on us all.
EDWARD A. FLYNN
Chief of Police, Arlington County, Va.
Credibility and capability
Increased Representativeness in Policing. This has been a trend rather than an event, beginning in the early 1970s. Although they are still underrepresented, especially at advanced ranks, the influx of women, men of color, and those formerly barred by arbitrary and irrelevant physical and character credentials — height, weight, ability to perform physical tasks that in no way reflect the realities of policing — has made policing far more open, human, credible and capable of protecting citizens’ lives, rights and dignity.
Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services (1978). Monell is easily the most important United States Supreme Court decision affecting the police. It held that official agencies could be held liable in federal courts for civil rights violations by their employees if it could be shown that the violations were caused by inadequate training and supervision. This has had an enormous and positive effect on law enforcement because it has led directly to the development of professional policies, practices and training in areas that would otherwise still be left to the good judgment and common sense of officers faced with life-threatening situations.
Publication of Herman Goldstein’s “Improving Policing: A Problem-Oriented Approach.” This 1979 article helped the police to understand that former measures of productivity — numbers of arrests, tickets, responses to calls for service — described only effort rather than results, and did little to help in planning or assessing police activities. Much that has come since — the community policing movement, Broken Windows, crime mapping, Hot Spots — has its roots directly in this modest but seminal article by a modest but visionary man.
And, of course, the three low points:
The police bombing of the MOVE house. At 5 A.M. on May 13, 1985, 550 Philadelphia police officers showed up at a rowhouse and gave its occupants 20 minutes to leave. When the occupants did not comply, the police fired between 8,000 and 10,000 shots into the house. Eventually, the police fashioned a bomb out of two explosives (one of which was designed to burn rocks in mines and had never before been used above ground). They then flew a helicopter over the house and attempted to drop the bomb on the roof. The house, and 60 others, burned to the ground and 11 people, including five children, were incinerated, There was no evidence that any shots had been fired from the house, or that MOVE actually possessed any of the heavy weapons that police claimed were there. Surely the most stupid and reckless police action in my lifetime.
The Rodney King incident in March 1991. What is there to say? This exposed to a disbelieving public a side of policing that was often alleged but never before so clearly documented.
The response of the State of New Jersey to revelations of racial profiling by the State Police. In 1996, a judge ruled in the state’s longest ever evidence suppression hearing that the New Jersey State Police had engaged in an unconstitutional practice of stopping black and Latino motorists and coercing them to waive their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search. It was clear that racial profiling had been encouraged at the top levels of state government, and that the state tried to do everything it could to short-circuit this case. The governor and the attorney general were eventually forced to acknowledge the truth they had so long denied, as well as to reorganize the State Police and to submit them to federal monitoring. This disgraceful episode has sensitized us all to the problem of racial profiling and has put it on the forefront of the police reform agenda.
JAMES J. FYFE
Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University
Unleash the cerebral power within policing
Of many achievements in policing in the past 25 years, the most significant are not specific events or programs, but evolving trends.
One such trend is the increased willingness on the part of both the police and the public to recognize the limited capacity of the police in the awesome task of maintaining an appropriate level of social order in a diverse and democratic society. This has led to a wide variety of efforts, to encourage, engage, empower and persuade others, far better equipped than the police, to take ownership for addressing problems. By engaging others and thereby reducing public expectations of the police, it has become more possible for the police to meet their responsibilities fairly and effectively without having to stretch their authority or resign themselves to an ineffective response.
Another significant new course of direction has been the development of alternatives to the use of arrest and prosecution. Increased use of preventive strategies, education, conflict resolution, civil remedies and lesser forms of regulation have given the police a panoply of more appropriate new tools for dealing with a broad range of problems. That has not only made the police more effective; it has also helped to reduce the tendency, absent such tools, to overextend their authority — a practice that often leads to unfairness and abuse.
Finally, I would single out those efforts to acknowledge and address the fact that police exercise broad discretion. Ultimately, the initiatives of police leadership in developing and enforcing policies in sensitive areas, as in the use of force and the stopping and questioning of people, have been far more effective in achieving the balance of required control over police authority than is possible through external forces such as aggrieved citizen groups, civilian review boards, legislatures or the courts.
Within the special, complex needs of a democratic, diverse and changing society, nothing is more important than the capacity of the police to exercise restraint in the use of their authority and to relate with equal effectiveness and fairness to all citizens regardless of their individual differences. The past 25 years have demonstrated that such a form of policing can better be molded through greater candor, openness and accountability, by making police forces more reflective of the diverse communities they serve, and by more effectively engaging the cerebral power that has too often lain dormant in policing.
On the negative side, progress has been eroded by highly touted, politically popular programs that may produce short-term, dramatic results, but, in many respects, constitute a return to the simplistic, ineffective practices of the past. Such programs resort to even heavier dependence on arrest and prosecution, eroding the integrity of the police and frequently leading to an increase in allegations of abuse. They overwhelm an already overburdened and fragile criminal justice system. They reinforce the misleading notion that the police are omnipotent; that they alone can guarantee a higher level of public safety. They belittle or ignore the potential contributions of researchers and rank-and-file officers. And they cater to the notion that policing is a simple task requiring a combination of will and authority, rather than careful thought and sensitivity to the values that are important in our society. They are the opposite of smart policing in a democracy.
Professor of Law (retired), University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law
The good, the bad and the air-conditioned
Computerization and the emphasis on quantity instead of quality. Enabling law enforcement agencies to become much more efficient at storing and retrieving information has been both a blessing and a curse. The arrival of mobile digital terminals in police cars for dispatching and other uses contributed to the emphasis on efficiency. Still, with the advent of computers, the most important issues in policing became “how much are we doing and how fast can we do it?” This led to the heavy emphasis on counting things such as arrests, traffic tickets, response times, etc. So we arrested more people, wrote more tickets, responded to crimes faster, but we totally lost sight of the human factor in dealing with people and their problems.
Air-conditioned Cars. Silly, perhaps, but it made a big difference in policing. On the positive side, it was more comfortable for the officers. On the negative side, they always drove around with their windows rolled up and cut off communication with the public.
Advent of Women in Policing. In 1972, the EEOC guidelines were applied to local government. That ruling, along with court decisions across the country, struck down separate entry exams for men and women and discriminatory height requirements, thereby opening the doors to hiring more women. Sadly, 28 years later, we still average only 14.3 percent women in law enforcement.
Emphasis on Community Policing. As police administrators began to see that communication and cooperation between the community and the police was poor and that it was affecting the ability of the police to provide adequate services, there has evolved a national effort to return to the concept of the “beat cop,” with partnership in solving community crime problems.
Rise of Strong Police Unions. In the mid-70s, unions began negotiating a larger role in management decisions. Today, unions present a major obstacle to reforming police practices, and often do not fairly represent the interests of women and minority officers.
Gangs, Drugs & Violence. This is perhaps the biggest change in crime trends that we have ever seen in this country. In the mid-70s, other than in the huge cities, there was a small drug problem and no gangs. Today, almost every city in the United States faces problems of gangs, drugs and street violence.
Citizen Oversight of Police. A movement that has steadily gained strength, with more and more communities demanding some type of oversight of police actions.
The Recognition of Domestic Violence as a Crime Problem. The Violence Against Women Act has been one of the most important legislative actions of the last 25 years. Previously, many law enforcement agencies viewed domestic violence as a “family problem” and not a crime. Many states had to pass laws mandating arrests and then had to pass additional laws with “primary aggressor” language. Recent research shows that as many as 40 percent of officers admit to using violence in their own homes. This is clearly a cultural problem that requires concentrated community effort.
Major Discrimination Lawsuits. At the expense of their careers, many women and minority officers have brought class-action lawsuits against police agencies to challenge discriminatory policies and practices. The resulting consent decrees have resulted in more diverse workplaces in many major cities.
“Action” News Coverage. Most television stations in medium to large cities now have helicopters and other equipment that can provide live, on-scene coverage of police pursuits, riots, crimes in progress and other events. The resulting public disclosure of good and bad police practices has brought many issues to the forefront of community concern.
Police Brutality. The videotapes of the Rodney King beating will live on in the history of policing in America. They were followed with videotapes of officers in other cities using excess force, especially against minority members of the community. These videos proved the existence of police brutality and forced law enforcement agencies to stop denying the problem. The challenge now is to train officers on the appropriate use of force and to make certain that they never engage in this type of behavior in the future.
Police Corruption. The current scandals in Los Angeles, New York and other cities have embarrassed law enforcement professionals in this country. Lying on search warrants; falsified reports; perjury; bribery; drug dealing and murder being committed by police officers — amid such allegations, juries no longer believe that officers always tell the truth. This is the greatest challenge facing police professionals — how to clean up our agencies and regain public trust, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Director, National Center for Women & Policing
Former Chief of Police, Portland, Ore.
Film at 11
Law enforcement is a reflection of society, but not always of a wide range of society. Fortunately, leaders in law enforcement are not dumb and have learned to read the writing on the wall. Fortunately, the past 25 years have seen a dramatic increase of women and other minority officers in law enforcement, generally improving the delivery of police services and increasing public confidence in our ranks.
Technologically, the development of DNA as an investigative tool ranks among the last quarter century’s greatest advances.
On the down side, many in law enforcement have failed to adjust to technology in the hands of private citizens — most notably, the video camera. Come on, guys! Videotaped images of cops wailing on arrestees has damaged support for law enforcement more than anything imaginable.
Lastly, the war on drugs has been a boon for the jail business, but a disaster for law enforcement’s relationship with the public. You know there is a problem when you hear Gen. Colin Powell telling the Republican National Convention: “If you want to solve our drug problem, you won’t do it by trying to cut off supply and arresting pushers…. It’s time to stop building jails in America and get back to the task of building our children.” Well said.
Sheriff, San Francisco, Calif.
From the ashes of defeat
Three major trends revolutionized police during the period 1975-2000. First, the dominant police strategy at mid-century was completely defeated by its rejection by minority communities and its inability to demonstrate its effectiveness. By the late 1970s, American policing was an occupation desperately pursuing a core competence.
Running parallel to this defeat was the emergence and evolution of an alternate line of thought about policing that originated in the research of the American Bar Foundation during the 1950s. Its two major contributions to our understanding of police were the complexity of policing and the ubiquity of discretion. Flowing out of this tradition, problem-oriented policing and “Broken Windows” gave substance to the evolution of community policing: that is, community policing is not just about improving relations between police and communities, as important as that is. Community policing is about solving problems and preventing crime.
Finally, police leaders figured out and developed organizational structures and administrative processes that allowed them simultaneously to maintain a centralized vision of policing and a decentralized response to local problems. Compstat is the most well-know example, but its principles — know the numbers and hold people accountable — can take a variety of forms.
The starting point, however, — and the advantage, ultimately, over other public sector organizations and police in other democracies — was the acknowledged and clear failure of mid-century American policing.
GEOERGE L. KELLING
Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
Don’t forget Genesis
To ask an academic to identify the major events in policing since 1975 is a little like asking for a list of the high and low points of the Old Testament that begins with Exodus. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it just misses all of the excitement that happened between 1970 and 1975 and really began everything — like Bittner’s truly revolutionary work of genius “The Functions of Police In Modern Society” (1970), Reiss’s “Police and the Public” (1971), Kelling et al’s Kansas City Patrol Experiment (1974), Westley’s “Violence and the Police” (1970), Rubinstein’s “City Police” (1973) or even any of Wambaugh’s great novels like “The Onion Field” (1973), “The New Centurions” (1970), and “The Blue Knight” (1972). As the three most exciting intellectual events in the past quarter century of police history, I would identify the publication of Herman Goldstein’s “Policing a Free Society” (1977), his “Problem-Oriented Policing” (1990) and Muir’s “Police: Streetcorner Politicians” (1977).
Academic low points? Almost everything that has been written about community policing in the past decade.
ARL B. KLOCKARS
Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
University of Delaware
Talking things over
The issue of interest and concern for me, personally and professionally, is the law enforcement response to hostage situations. During the past two-plus decades law enforcement response to several incidents involving armed adversaries resulted in siege events that ended disastrously. These include the attempted apprehension of the Symbionese Liberation Army in Los Angeles after the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the1978 and 1985 interactions between the Philadelphia Police Department and the group MOVE, the 1992 attempts by the U.S. Marshals Service, and subsequently the FBI, to apprehend Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the 51-day siege in 1993 of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. While the courage of the law enforcement officers and others who lost their lives in these encounters must be honored, the decision-making process of the commanders must be continually reviewed.
Many in law enforcement, as well as academic advisers to post-incident reviews, believe that a strategy of formal negotiation could have been useful in reducing violent outcomes to such incidents. In each of these incidents, a strategy of formal negotiation was not fully accepted and was often set aside in favor of more traditional tactics. Effective if not actual police control was in the hands of the SWAT team or of incident commanders who were more oriented toward use of force than negotiation.
The interplay between hostage/crisis negotiators and their SWAT team counterparts illustrates a continuum approach to authority and force, requiring substantial procedural overlap and cooperation. The complex and mutually dependent relationship between military-like aspects of police work and a more cerebral approach to solving hostage problems may seem incongruous, certainly in light of the policy concerns associated with the spread of military-style (SWAT) policing units at the expense of other methods. Nonetheless, there is a symbiotic relationship between these approaches. The probability of peaceful resolution increases dramatically for hostage situations that last approximately eight hours when compared to situations lasting four hours. The present research determined that 3.5 hours was the average for SWAT interventions. One question to be resolved through future research is whether it is more advisable to continue to negotiate for a longer period of time, and still have the possibility of death or serious physical injury, or to initiate a tactical intervention that is inherently dangerous but will end the situation more quickly.
Director, Criminal Justice Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Former commander, Hostage Negotiation Unit, New York City Police Department
No worse injustice?
The police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the sodomy torture of Abner Louima in the bathroom of a New York City police precinct stand out as obvious examples of the worst in law enforcement in the last 25 years.
Perhaps the worst injustices during the Law Enforcement News era, however, were brought on by the reinstatement of capital punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. In the last decade, at least 53 death-row inmates have been exonerated by one of the best advancements in the field of criminal justice — DNA testing, a scientific procedure that more often helps convict the guilty. There is no doubt that some of the 646 persons put to death since 1976 were innocent. Can there be a worse injustice than being wrongly executed? The only surefire way to assure that it never happens again is to ban capital punishment, as most of the civilized world does.
On the minus ledger, there was not enough recruitment of women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups into policing, and there were far too many missteps in the areas of police brutality and corruption. The Mollen Commission in New York and the Patten Commission in Northern Ireland both decided that oversight is necessary, but police on both sides of the Atlantic are lockstep in their resistance.
On the plus side, college has become required for admission to many police agencies, and there was some movement toward diversity in policing. In addition, federal and local law enforcement agencies combined to successfully prosecute decades-old civil rights murders and convict more organized crime leaders than ever before. New York City had its first black police commissioner and he made two years of college a prerequisite for police officers. The crime rate is down throughout America and this is great news.
Overall, the growing number of college graduates who chose careers in law enforcement, as well as the increased awareness by police departments across the country that an educated cop is a better police officer, has improved the state of policing. The professionalization of police in America is moving forward.
GERALD W. LYNCH
President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
The blame game
Some significant trends in American policing over the last 25 years:
On the positive side, there is the openness of local police agencies to researchers and increasing sophistication in conducting and using research.
Along with that has come a willingness of police agencies for self-examination of their performance and undertaking some new ways to improve it.
Third, setting and trying to achieve higher standards in the way that the police exercise their authority with the public.
Negative trends include a continued habit of firing the old chief when things go badly and hiring a new one and calling that reform — without altering fundamental policies, practices, or personnel.
Second would be the willingness to conduct a war on drugs without sufficient attention to the effectiveness of strategies and the “collateral damage” caused by the methods used.
Finally, the habit of blaming other institutions of social control (families, schools, courts) when crime goes up and taking the credit when it goes down.
STEPHEN D. MASTROFSKI
Professor of Public and International Affairs
Director, Administration of Justice Program
George Mason University
No close second
The most significant development in policing since 1975, with no close second, is the improved quality of police management. Today there are thousands of police managers with graduate degrees. This was not true in 1975. Almost all the credit for this major improvement is due to the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP). Highly educated managers create a synergy for college education for all. This improved educational level of police provides the intellectual foundation essential to the quality implementation of concepts such as community policing.
Community Policing. The recognition that community policing is the most efficient approach to reducing crime, keeping the peace and improving the quality of life is gradually emerging. Yet to be recognized by many is the recognition that C-OP is the most appropriate form of policing for a democratic society, by facilitating the reality that the police are servants of the public and that police-citizen cooperation is essential. Unfortunately, today’s COPS office subsidy grants for more officers distort two major principles of community policing: one, that community policing, when properly implemented, is a more efficient form of policing, generally not requiring more officers; and, proper implementation requires total integration throughout the department and city-wide.
Accountability of Police Departments. Based on the landmark 1978 Supreme Court decision in Monnell v. New York City Department of Social Services, the equally significant case of City of Canton v. Harris 11 years later established that gross negligence by police officials in failing to implement accepted practices in policies, training and/or supervision could constitute deliberate indifference to the protection of those who suffer from police abuses, and thus expose the department and city to liability. An expansion of this concept for improving the police is found in the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, which empowers the Justice Department to file suit against departments showing a pattern and practice of civil rights abuses. The remedy is usually a consent decree for needed changes and a court-appointed master to oversee compliance.
Among the more troubling developments is the general failure to implement many well known and proven concepts and commission recommendations, while adhering to myths, traditions, untested assumptions and disproven ideas, such as preventive patrol, shift rotation and centralized bureaucratic military organization. The list of ignored or overlooked concepts includes the universal recommendations of six national commissions and the federal courts that the minimum education level for a well qualified police officer is a four-year college degree. To remedy this, the Police Association for College Education was formed to help achieve universal college education standards for all police officers at the earliest possible time.
Then there is the over-emphasis on physical science and technology in place of quality personnel for improving policing. There is no reason today that a competent chief could not run an outstanding police department with the knowledge of management, technology and policing that existed 25 years, if he had the right high-quality personnel. Until the emphasis is shifted from technology and procedures to improved quality of personnel, policing improvements are limited.
Finally, consider federal “assistance” to law enforcement. Most needed improvements in policing do not require increased budgets, except for one-time transition costs. The policy of making subsidy grants to “bribe” police departments into hiring more officers to implement new concepts, like C-OP, is analogous to a drug pusher’s strategy. First, lure the victim with a “free” offer. After the victim is hooked (with a habit developed over a 1-3 year grant), withdraw the “free” offer, leaving the victim police department with a choice between going through withdrawal pains to return to its former state or continuing to support the new habit by getting new funds, usually by funds reallocated from other city agencies. So long as police executives continue to be seduced by “free” offers, and federal policy continues to imply that policing improvements require larger budgets, any such growth will continue to be impaired.
LOUIS A. MAYO
Executive Director, Police Association for College Education
Problem-oriented policing: Because of Herman Goldstein, the police are more likely to think broadly about crime control. Many cops are now willing to listen to capable researchers.
The Information Age: Ten years ago the police were not technically wired for timely research, information gathering, and crime mapping. The Internet changes everything.
Quality of cops: The police officers of this country are incredibly talented, compassionate and humane — far beyond what the media can portray or the community could know. For every violent confrontation the police are involved in, there are many others where officers risked injury to avoid lethal force.
The diversity gesture: Rather than dealing with systemic racism, we blamed racial profiling, gave sensitivity training and called it good enough. We continue to disproportionately incarcerate minorities at unacceptable levels. Politicians ran for cover, minority leaders blame everyone other than the criminals and the police accepted little responsibility.
The crime bill: Billions of dollars were designated by Congress for 100,000 community policing officers. Adequate funding was not allocated to distinguish between good policing and feel good programs. The feel-good programs won. Future attempts at community policing are ruined. The money caused numerous police executives to distort the mission of the police.
Sergeant, San Diego, Calif., Police Department
Calling all “techie nerds”
When the first issue of LEN came out, it had only been a couple of years since J. Edgar Hoover’s half-century at the FBI had come to an end, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was created and the abuses of power of Watergate were revealed. These seminal events would set the stage for profound changes in law enforcement.
In my view, the three most significant changes in law enforcement, at least at the federal level, have been the expansion of the federal role, the globalization of crime and the impact of technology.
The extraordinary expansion in federal law, jurisdiction and resources devoted to the crime problem, while expanding government’s crime-fighting ability, has also often created confusion, overlap and duplication of effort.
The globalization of crime, while initially primarily related to drug trafficking, today encompasses crimes as diverse as terrorism, fraud, money laundering and alien smuggling. No major police force today can afford to avoid the reality of the international mobility of criminals and evidence.
The revolutionary changes in technology are putting unique pressures on all police agencies. While the character Q in the James Bond movies was treated as a “techie” nerd, the technical needs of today’s law enforcement require a sophisticated and professionally diverse work force including many such “nerds.” The DNA technician, the computer whiz, the statistician or the forensic accountant may be more important to today’s crime-fighting than the more traditional detective or agent of the past. Attracting professionals with these skills and treating them as equals creates an important challenge for the future of law enforcement.
These three major developments require creative approaches to coordination and cooperation among police agencies, domestically and internationally. They also require that law enforcement become less insular and reach out as never before to other professions, agencies and the private sector. Unfortunately, to date, there are as many failures as there are successes in such efforts.
Former Director, U.S. Marshal’s Service
Strangers no more
Among the significant events:
Soon-to-be President Clinton’s 1992 campaign proposal for a partial federal subsidy for the hiring of 100,000 additional officers for community policing. Congress’s approval has strongly influenced a transition from undemocratic stranger policing to democratic friendly policing that is reducing violent crime in dozens of inner cities.
The birth of Law Enforcement News.
The birth of the American Police Association. It will create the desperately needed professional leadership to replace the establishment that dominates state legislatures and prevents city chiefs from getting the support structure and state aid they need. The pros will have to start by educating city chiefs concerning needs they are unaware of, such as the professional exchange of knowledge and practitioners.
Police Foundation reports: The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment undercut the long established ineffective, wasteful myth of visibility (stranger policing). The Washington MPD evaluation research on women in policing provided some of the first hard facts to demonstrate that women could perform satisfactorily. The study on police use of deadly force, strengthened by the enormous contribution of Jim Fyfe, produced hard data to provide a first-time view of comparative experiences.
Paul Evans, the brilliant Boston police commissioner whose partnerships of neighborhood patrol officers with patrol officers resulted in the most impressive reduction in murder in the country among adolescents.
“Cop of the block” experiments in the NYPD, involving all patrol officers in community policing as “urban village police chiefs.” Five hundred residents with an individual officer of their own make for a really friendly partnership. Micro-managing crime prevention and social control, and observing with the extra eyes, ears, information and influence of the people is the “policing by consent” that Robert Peel had in mind in 1829.
The late Chief George Hansen’s (Lincoln and Fresno PD’s) mission statement is about as good as they come.
The Darker Moments? The Rodney King incident — President Bush said it sickened him. The Louima and Diallo incidents — the still-hard-to-believe Louima episode could go down in history as the most disgusting police misconduct of the century. Supervision and management had to be incompetent when it failed to detect a burned-out cop unraveling before he went over the edge. And last, the LAPD falling apart as a result of leadership failures.
PATRICK V. MURPHY
Executive Director, American Police Association
Former President, The Police Foundation
Good from bad
When examining the negative and positive factors that have affected law enforcement during the past 25 years, you find that many of the negatives have brought about positive change.
Negative: The slow pace at which local law enforcement agencies integrated technology into their operations. For example, Richmond placed computers in its trash trucks before the city ever considered its police vehicles. Positive: Departments have recognized the need for technology and how it can improve the effectiveness of policing. For example, with the placement of mobile data terminals in police vehicles, officers are able to quickly obtain information about vehicles that they pull over. Warrants also may be pulled up quickly on the computers. In addition, information can be shared more readily with other agencies.
Negative: Police departments during the civil rights movement aligned themselves with government institutions that repressed African-Americans and other minorities. Little thought was given to the rights of these groups; the only direction followed was to disperse the groups and prevent them from meeting or protesting. The existence of these values led to national problems involving racial profiling and negative attitudes about law enforcement in minority communities. Positive: Without this history, law enforcement would not have some of the formal procedural laws in place to protect the rights of citizens (i.e., Miranda, Escobedo, Terry). Another result is that police departments have recognized the value of female and minority officers. They are valued for their skills and experience, not for their gender or race.
Negative: Failure of law enforcement agencies to work directly with the communities in which they serve. Positive: Today’s philosophy of community policing embraces the community as a crime-fighting partner. Police departments have moved from an attitude of protect and serve to one of engaging the community and problem-solving.
Negative: Police officers were hired with little or no formal education requirements. They were perceived as needing brawn not brains. Positive: Policing is now a multi-faceted career that requires formal education, physical fitness, street knowledge and ethics. The challenge is to pay police professionals commensurate with these requirements.
JERRY A. OLIVER
Chief of Police, Richmond, Va.
Try talking negatively about C-OP
The problem-oriented policing initiative in Newport News, Va., along with the writings of George Kelling and Herman Goldstein, provided the catalyst for the national acceptance of the community-oriented policing philosophy. At a conference in 1983, only a few chiefs were talking about the concept, and the resistance was so heavy. Try talking about it negatively today.
I would be remiss not to also mention the leadership of Pat Murphy of the Police Foundation and the establishment of the Police Executive Research Forum. PERF has become a leader in research and police innovation and a major influence on police professionalism.
Having lived through many federal law enforcement initiatives, none has made a more positive impact on policing than the establishment of the COPS office and the federal hiring grants. This initiative enticed normally tight-budgeted municipalities to take the risk of hiring additional officers so that police departments could make a difference through problem-solving community policing. Through these resources, policing in this country made a significant paradigm shift from just reporting crime to being proactive crime preventers. Putting demographics and other issues aside, it was the proactive use of these additional resources that drove the crime rate down.
Tied to that is the shifting of technological advances, particularly from previously defense-related initiatives, into police service. These technologies have combined with the new paradigm to make law enforcement more efficient and effective than ever.
On the darker side, several major scandals have focused negativity on the otherwise superlative performance of law enforcement. The police have become more visible to the community, including their faults, as typified by the videotaping of the arrest of Rodney King and other incidents that severely damaged the positive perception most citizens have of their local police. When all of these misconduct cases are stacked up against the millions of citizen contacts police make each year, it is a very tiny anecdotal percentage of cases that continue to drive a wedge between the police and the citizens they serve.
Even though we are hiring a better caliber of candidates and are instituting reforms in our internal audit systems, scandals continue to occur. They are more likely to be detected today and are more widely reported, hence the greater impact on law enforcement’s professional image.
ROBERT K. OLSON
Chief of Police, Minneapolis, Minn.
President, Police Executive Research Forum
Life-altering experiences for the LAPD
On the positive side, we have the evolution of community policing, which is the new model of policing that can no longer be ignored. Creative, problem-oriented community policing is the philosophy that Los Angeles police officers now employ, taking a more holistic approach to serving our communities. Although tradition holds a high place in the law enforcement culture, we must also be aware of our responsibility to adapt to the changing demands of a diverse society. Community policing is the key to these changes.
Technology and the transition in the use of force. Law enforcement has been altered tremendously by new technologies. Examples include latent fingerprint identification (that helped identify the notorious “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez in 1985 in Los Angeles), computerized identification systems, the DNA process, blood and urine testing and more. Less-than-lethal weaponry such as Tasers, rubber bullets and chemical shields also provide alternatives to the use of deadly force.
The Violent Crime Control Act. The law allocated very substantial funding to support the development and expansion of community policing through additional personnel and improved technology. In addition, the legislation authorized funding for programs to prevent violence against women. The monetary infusion helped start the Los Angeles Police Department’s technological modernization.
The introduction of the DARE program. The LAPD authored and implemented the nation’s first law enforcement-based drug resistance program aimed at elementary school children. Launched modestly in 1983, the DARE program today benefits 35 million school children, teaching them personal safety, self-esteem, respect for law and the skills to say “no” to drugs, gangs and violence.
Crime fluctuation. The past nine years have marked the longest running crime reduction on record. The decline can be attributed to aggressive anti-crime efforts, computer-tracking crime systems, the constant police force build-up, a crackdown on gangs, innovative community policing programs, the “three strikes law” in California, the strong economy and lower unemployment.
Police officer and management accountability. At the forefront of the new philosophy of law enforcement in the LAPD is the comprehensive FASTRAC program, which is geared toward building effective performance and accountability into all the LAPD’s systems. The record-setting low crime rates in the 1990s suggest that accountability among law enforcement personnel is having a positive impact.
Then, of course, there are the negatives:
The proliferation of guns, gangs and drugs. During the 1980s and 1990s, stories of violence and gang warfare were daily headline news. Although police departments have developed sophisticated ways to fight powerful gangs and drug cartels, the fight for our children’s safe future continues. Combined with the presence of gangs, guns and drugs on our streets is the failure of many parents and institutional support mechanisms, including schools, to influence the lives of our children. By simply being more involved in the daily lives of our nation’s youth, we can lead them to more productive paths.
The 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles. The verdict that acquitted four white police officers of beating Rodney King, a black male, became a pivotal point in the history of the LAPD. Riots erupted hours after the acquittal, and when it was over, 2,500 people were injured and an estimated $1 billion in property had been damaged. Nationwide, debates on race relations, urban decay and the role and actions of police continued for months. The impact of the riots remains today as departments strive to strengthen community-based policing and diversity programs and to restore and maintain public confidence in the police.
The Rampart area corruption incident/Board of Inquiry. Just as certain events indelibly alter human lives, whether we realize it at the time or not, organizations also have defining moments, and the Rampart episode will and should be a life-altering experience for the LAPD. Our failure to provide effective oversight and auditing created the opportunity for these events to occur. We must never forget that this occurred and be ever vigilant that we never allow the opportunity for this to occur again.
BERNARD C. PARKS
Chief of Police, Los Angeles, Calif.
Starting with the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment, I have had the good fortune to work with some of the best police scholars and practitioners, and to conduct research in some of the most progressive agencies. In that time, policing has experienced four interrelated “revolutions.”
First, there has been the “demographic revolution,” with policing going from a largely white, male, blue-collar occupation to one with many African-Americans, Latinos and females, many of whom have college educations. The salaries we pay our officers, although still too meager, are substantially higher than when I first rode patrol in Kansas City.
American policing has also experienced a “technological revolution,” benefiting from such new tools as laptop computers, DNA analysis, mapping software, sophisticated surveillance equipment and other wonders undreamed of 25 years ago. To take full advantage of these tools required the presence of the new college-educated officers.
An “organizational revolution” has also occurred among our law enforcement agencies. Many departments have become much more decentralized, devolving decision-making authority to districts, units or even individual officers. They have begun to reduce the boundaries both within their own structures and between themselves and the rest of the world.
Finally, there has been an “accountability revolution” within America’s police departments. My first encounters with police officers revealed their commitment to a time-honored process of “random preventive patrol,” with little concern or expectation that this activity would or should bring about measurable results. This resembled Einstein’s famous definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Such thinking is alien in contemporary policing. Problem-oriented policing has made law enforcement aware of its responsibility for identifying and solving real-world concerns. Compstat and its derivatives have made accountability for crime an intrinsic part of police culture. This data-driven concern for measurable results has been linked with an understanding that disproportionate effects can be achieved by focusing on a limited number of places and persons.
The effect of these “revolutions” has been to produce a law enforcement profession vastly different from the one that existed when Law Enforcement News first began to cover this beat. This is not to say that American policing has rid itself of the small minority of corrupt, violent, racist and incompetent officers who have plagued it throughout its history. But the arc of that history, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, appears to bend, however gradually, in the direction of effective professionalism.
Senior Research Associate, COSMOS Corporation
Big Easy turnaround wasn’t easy
In 1994, the city of New Orleans ranked first in the United States in violent crime. With 421 murders, New Orleans had the nation’s highest per capita murder rate. The police department also suffered a critical morale problem stemming from low pay, poor to obsolete equipment and, most notably, internal corruption within the ranks.
Six years later, there has been a complete reformation in the New Orleans Police Department. Re-energized and refocused, the men and women of this department have reduced violent crime and murders by more than 50 percent. The department aggressively recruited and hired over 400 qualified new officers with an emphasis on restoring integrity, ethics and confidence back into the organization.
In my close to 30 years in law enforcement, I have seen officers return to school to enhance their education through higher learning. Today, as Chief of Police in New Orleans, education is a top priority for all our officers to advance within the agency. Technology has revolutionized how we address crime issues and present our image to the public we serve. In my experience, an educated officer generally is more professional, and my goal in New Orleans is to have highly qualified, well trained and professional police officers serving the public. Anything less will not be accepted.
The NOPD’s transformation was not easy. Looking back, the turn-around occurred because of committed and dedicated police managers who also wanted change.
As we enter the new millennium, many of the initiatives we now take for granted — such as community policing and Compstat — have been institutionalized and currently serve as a solid foundation for the New Orleans Police Department to build upon for generations to come.
RICHARD J. PENNINGTON
Superintendent of Police, New Orleans, La.
Brother, can you paradigm?
I see as positive developments the shift to community policing as the new paradigm of policing in the United States; the diversification of police departments (especially new opportunities for women); the explosion of new technology to support policing (forensics, records management, communications, etc., and nearly a decade of declining crime rates in the United States in the 1990s — a reduction led by large cities.
Troubling developments, meanwhile, include the extent of racial profiling; continued problems with police use of excessive force, and continued problems with police corruption.
The last 25 years have been a time of tremendous growth and progress in American policing. Perhaps most significant has been the evolution of community policing and its establishment as the policing paradigm in our country. Police-community partnerships and problem solving have become industry standards in our profession, and there is no turning back.
Community policing has coincided with two other significant developments: the diversification of police departments and the explosion of new technology. Especially significant has been the tremendous growth in the number of women police officers, at all ranks and in all parts of the country. They have brought new perspectives and approaches to policing that have made our departments more effective. At the same time, the introduction of DNA analysis, automated fingerprint identification systems, computer-aided dispatch, crime analysis and automated records management systems have made us more efficient. Together, these trends have contributed to the steady and significant reduction in crime during the 1990s.
Regrettably, these positive trends have been offset to some extent by continuing problems with police brutality, corruption and tensions with the community, especially communities of color that tend to need our services the most. While the problem of racial profiling has existed for decades, the statistical documentation of the problem has revealed its extent. In addition, every major city (and even smaller jurisdictions) have endured high-profile cases of brutality and corruption over the past 25 years. These incidents demonstrate that, even with the continued progress and professionalism of policing, we still have a long way to go.
CHARLES H. RAMSEY
Chief of Police, Washington, D.C.
A more level playing field
In September 1968, Indianapolis policewomen Betty Blankenship and Elizabeth Coffal changed the role of women in policing, leaving behind the history of women as police social workers to assume the role of crimefighters with their male colleagues. Today, women are slowly increasing their numbers in policing and even rising to the tops of a small but growing number of agencies.
Some argue that progress has been too slow and that police departments continue to adhere to recruitment, training and assignment patterns that discriminate against women. Others argue that the playing field has been leveled but that women are not as attracted to policing careers as men. Some advocates of community policing have raised the challenge of whether women are actually better than their male colleagues at cooling down the often incendiary relationship between police and minority communities.
In the U.S. today, women make up about 14 percent of federal law enforcement personnel. In municipal policing, women’s percentages have reached as high as 25 percent in a very few departments and remain at zero in some small agencies. The national average hovers at about 14.5 percent.
Cracks in the brass ceiling are rare. Penny Harrington, a 20-year veteran of the Portland, Ore., Police Department, was chief from January 1984 to June 1986, the first woman to head a major-city police department. By 1999, only two other women had reached the top of large municipal departments: Elizabeth Watson in Houston (and later Austin, Tex.) and Beverly Harvard, Atlanta’s chief since 1994. Harvard, the first female African American chief of a major department, is one of about 125 female chiefs, mostly in agencies of under 100 officers. There are also two women who head state police agencies, about 25 elected female sheriffs, and a handful of women special agents in charge of federal bureaus.
Yet for some, women in policing continues to be controversial. Can they do the job? Do they do it differently? Do they do it better? Perhaps the greatest change is that after a generation of unisex hiring, many today believe these questions to be irrelevant as they simply take for granted the presence of women in this traditionally male occupation.
DOROTHY MOSES SCHULZ
Associate Professor, Department of Law, Police Science
and Criminal Justice Administration,
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Going to the polls
March 3, 1991, was a watershed date in recent policing history. That was the day that a video camera captured the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. There have been few more widely shared American experiences — surveys indicate that within 10 days, 88 percent of adults had seen the tape, and within a year 96 percent had seen it. Opinion polls indicate that some things changed as a result. There was a national “leftward lurch” in white attitudes by about 10 percentage points. This move in public opinion pushed whites still further down a path that they had already been moving, toward greater skepticism about the fairness of policing. What didn’t change was the gap between white and black perceptions of the fairness of policing. Post-King, African Americans also grew more skeptical by a new margin, so the gap between the races did not narrow. In 1967, blacks were more critical than whites by a ratio of about 2-to-1, and in 1992 the gap was still 2-to-1.
We cannot judge the magnitude of earlier trends, for there were no opinion polls about the police during the bad old days of Prohibition and its attendant corruption scandals. By the 1950s, when surveys came into vogue, police were among the most trusted public servants, and they held their support during the “professionalizing” decade that followed. Racial minorities were always more dubious, but their numbers were smaller and their voices drowned in the reservoir of good will that buffered police from their critics.
But those days are gone. Opinion polls do not have to dig very deeply before they uncover admissions in virtually every social grouping that policemen are not always everyone’s friends. We are still racially polarized, but the white majority is assuming a more skeptical stance than ever before, and their numbers are shrinking as the country’s demography shifts. Police need to think hard about the implications of their declining legitimacy, and what they might do to reclaim it in this increasingly hostile environment.
WESLEY G. SKOGAN
Professor, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Building a bridge
Of the “highs” and “lows” of the American policing scene during the last 25 years, these were the most significant to me:
The Low: The overriding issue for the last quarter-century of American policing has been a so-called “drug war” that is never won, and that has piled up many casualties on both sides. It has led to the adoption of military tactics and equipment that can only serve to alienate citizens in a democratic society. That trend can, has and will continue to escalate, with police officers reacting to their legitimate concerns for officer safety and citizens expressing their legitimate concerns for civil rights.
The High: The contrasting issue, however, has been the more recent shift toward the concept of community policing and, hopefully, this will be the police priority for the first 25 years of the new millennium. The United States needs law enforcement officers acting like community partners and helpers more than SWAT-geared troopers bursting into neighborhoods with automatic weapons and shouting, “Get on the ground!” If we are ever going to bridge the cultural divides in this nation, community policing is that bridge.
The Low: More than any other single event of the last 25 years, the video of the Rodney King beating will remain an image that needs no further comment.
The High: The continuing development of non-lethal weaponry can prevent the need for deadly force. Aerosol pepper spray, the Taser electronic stun gun, beanbag rounds and other projectile impact weapons are alternatives that save lives. When the police need not take a life, both they and the person saved are far better off — too many police careers can be ruined in “suicide by cop” scenarios. The need for a viable alternative to vehicular pursuits, however, remains elusive and, perhaps, the next 25 years will see a solution to that cause of many innocent deaths as well.
D.P. VAN BLARICOM
Police Practices Expert; former Chief of Police, Bellevue, Wash.
Success No. 1: Law enforcement’s openness to experimentation, evaluation and testing.
In the past 25-30 years, policing has changed more fundamentally and more dramatically than at any time in its history. A primary reason for these changes has been the willingness of the law enforcement profession to rethink traditional assumptions, and to experiment and ask questions. Police leaders are now open to ideas, ready to take chances, and eager to work with researchers in search of new ways to face new challenges. This openness has led to better educated and more professional police, increased representation of women and minorities in the police ranks, the recognition that citizen trust and support are essential for police effectiveness, and improved strategies for dealing with troubling issues. We now accept that the police can be catalysts for change in their communities.
Success No. 2: Technology.
Technology has greatly enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of police. Computer-aided dispatch, mobile data terminals, crime mapping, less-than-lethal weaponry, DNA analysis and accountability systems are examples of technologies that have become indispensable tools in modern police practice.
Challenge No. 1: Race, class and the “war on drugs.”
A fundamental police role is to enforce and uphold the rule of law, and to do so equitably without regard to race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Sadly, for much of the nation’s history the legal order not only countenanced but sustained slavery, segregation and discrimination. The fact that the police were bound to uphold that order set a pattern for police behavior and attitudes toward poor and minority communities that has persisted to this day.
In no arena is this continued discrimination more apparent than in America’s “war on drugs.” Police chiefs have enough problems dealing with misconduct and abuse of authority by some officers without the added burden of having to enforce laws that are themselves mechanisms for discrimination. Obligating the police to enforce unjust laws, most often in minority communities, perpetuates a legacy of fear and mistrust, and further erodes relations between the police and the community.
Challenge No. 2: Quality service, accountability and community confidence.
Virtually every police department has policies prescribing officer conduct and regulating use of force. While there is accountability for acts of corruption and other forms of wrongdoing in most departments, there is little or no accountability for those who allow an environment that tolerates corruption.
Where police misconduct occurs, it is likely the result of two fundamental failures of police management: a failure to clearly and strongly articulate policies, and to hold all personnel accountable for adherence to those policies, and an inability to effectively track indicators of performance that contradict official policy and the rule of law. Values in police agencies come not just from documents that describe them but also from traditional police cultures. Too often, there is a disconnect between policies and practices, a failure of management to monitor behavior and to intervene before a crisis occurs.
President, The Police Foundation
Former Police Director, Newark, N.J.