Chapter 11: Policy Prescriptions

As previously stated, officers are role models in the community, or at least they should be. Ethics should guide every aspect of departmental operations. This principle should begin with recruit selection and include a careful vetting process to determine the ethical nature of the recruit. Simple criminal history checks are insufficient. Thorough background investigations should be conducted on all police recruits.

Ethics must become a shared cultural value of policing and not be limited to a few hours of academy training. At all levels of government, serious ethical misconduct should result in the decertification of police officers such that they are no longer allowed to serve as officers in any agency within the United States. We laud the President’s Task Force (2015) recommendation to establish a National Register of Decertified Officers, with the goal of covering all agencies within the United States and its territories.

There are other principles which, while not widely acknowledged as moral principles per se, are nevertheless necessary to a successful transformation of a police department from the traditional model to a true community policing model. As the President’s task force (2015) suggests, transformation within a police department is developed by “establish[ing] a culture of transparency and accountability to build public trust and legitimacy” (p.1). The underlying logic is that trust develops when community members understand the purpose of police policies, procedures, and actions, and judge them to be legitimate.

There will be no respect for police authority as long as disenfranchised sectors of American society are mistrustful and fearful of what is perceived to be illegitimate power. This mistrust and fear have spawned anger and outrage in many communities. In a time of heightened racial tensions, it is common to frame police problems with equity and equality in terms of race. There are some shameful examples of all-white police departments serving communities of color, but these are becoming rare. The most prominent problem with diversity in American policing is the gender gap. Women are underrepresented in nearly every police department in the United States today. According to FBI (2013) statistics, women make up only about 12% of American police officers. We speculate that women are at once the victims of and the solution to the problematic machismo character of the traditional police culture. Most police departments are genuinely concerned with achieving ethnic diversity; we call upon all American police departments to demonstrate the same level of dedication to gender equality.

The Big List

The list below contains policy prescriptions that can logically be drawn from the material presented in this book.  It is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it will serve as a starting point for conversations about what a New Community Policing should look like.

      1. Provide state oversight of serious officer misconduct
      1. Require state investigation of all deadly force incidents
      1. Provide state oversight of deadly force data reporting
      1. Provide state oversight of SWAT units
      1. Get local police out of the War on Drugs
      1. Get local police out of the revenue business
      1. Reform civil asset forfeiture
      1. Develop a culture of radical transparency within police departments
      1. Require higher education among police officers
      1. Diversify police departments along racial lines
      1. Diversify police departments along gender lines
      1. Diversify police departments along college major lines
      1. Require that command staff have criminal justice (social science) graduate degrees
      1. Civilianize as many positions within police departments as possible
      1. Centralize as much of American policing as is constitutionally possible
      1. Lock in officer shifts and beasts, changing them only when absolutely necessary
      1. Curtail qualified immunity
      1. Explicitly define post-reform roles of police for all stakeholders, including the police.
      1. Install LCSWs in every department for many tasks
      1. Align performance metrics with desired behaviors
      2. deemphasize citation and arrest
      1. Detach citation and arrest from performance evaluation
      1. Develop national standards for mental health evaluations in officer selection
      1. Develop national standards for fit for duty mental health evaluations
      1. Severely curtail the power of police unions through federal legislation
      1. Establish functional civilian review (e.g., an ombudsman) with real authority
      1. Provide consequences for willful and reckless misbehavior through federal legislation
      1. Require policies not to interfere with the exercise of First Amendment rights (DOJ).
      1. Place respectful limits on crowd control techniques
      1. Submit policies to an independent monitor for review/approval
      1. Review policies on a regular basis
      1. Make all policies available for comment to the public (including officers)
      1. Submitting training plans or curricula to an independent monitor for review and approval
      1. Maintain records of training provided to all officers
      1. Require policies that officers respect the First Amendment right of the public to witness, observe, record, comment on, or object to police activity
      1. Create or maintain teams and officers specifically dedicated to handling mental health crisis or a crisis related to the influence of alcohol or drugs
      1. Require training for all officers regarding crisis intervention and behavioral management
      1. Create partnerships with community mental health services providers
      1. Adopt and adhere to general policies for bias-free policing
      1. Require policies and training that addressed evidence standards for investigatory stops, searches, and arrests
      1. Required reporting and maintaining data about stops, searches, and arrests made by officers
      1. Require use of force reporting systems and data collection
      1. Require a supervisory review of all use of force incidents
      1. Required policies or training so that officers make efforts to de-escalate force and

appropriately de-escalate force as resistance decreases

      1. Require officers to intervene in order to stop the unreasonable use of force by other officers
      1. Required specific limitations on the use of retaliatory force by officers
      1. Prohibit the use of chokeholds and neck holds, except when deadly force is authorized
      1. Limit pointing firearms to circumstances where there is an objective, imminent threat
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of electronic controlled weapons
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of OC (pepper spray)
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of canines (police dogs)
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of head strikes with hard objects
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of force against suspects in handcuffs
      1. Require specific limitations on vehicle pursuits
      1. Require specific limitations on the use of specialized tactical units or SWAT teams, including provisions governing the operations and management of such units
      1. Require specific policies and procedures regarding the duty to give necessary medical assistance following the use of force
      1. Ensure access to policing services by persons with limited or no English proficiency
      1. Collect and analyze data in order to identify patterns of potentially problematic behavior among officers
      1. Require the use of body-worn cameras, and maintaining the resulting data
      1. Require the use of dash cameras, and maintaining the resulting data
      1. Take steps to recruit, hire, and promote officers who police effectively, lawfully, and ethically
      1. Required policing agencies to create or improve their system for handling civilian or internal complaints about officer conduct
      1. Required policing agencies to create a system-independent civilian oversight with real power to effect change
      1. Required law enforcement agencies to create policies and procedures covering officer discipline for misconduct.
      1. Conduct regular audits or reviews of data to identify problematic trends, and take action
      1. Required law enforcement agencies to maintain data about police operations and make that data available to the public
      1. Required support for the physical and mental health of officers
      1. Train officers in community policing with an emphasis on problem-solving
      1. Adjust staffing and deployment practices consistent with community policing
      1. Require policing agencies to conduct a survey of community members to gain

an understanding of the community’s perspectives and perceptions

      1. Implement neighborhood-based mediation programs to help resolve community disputes outside the traditional criminal justice system
      1. Require equitable treatment of LGBTQ persons by police
      1. Get police out of the immigration enforcement business
      1. View other “policing” styles as potential tools that fit within the community policing context, not as a replacement
      1.   Seek accreditation
      1. Eliminate the police focus on “catching bad guys”
      1. Seek to maintain a community where property and people are safe by design
      1. Seek to reduce the fear of crime for all people
      1. Stop calling the police “law enforcement”
      1. Devalue the authority to enforce criminal codes
      1. Add statutory punishments for officers that violate civil rights
      1. Strive to frequently make positive contacts with citizens
      1. Seek to participate in community meetings
      1. Provide a prosocial, visible presence in all neighborhoods
      1. Seek to reduce disorder in communities in prosocial ways
      1. Develop call screening protocols to free up more time for non-emergency work
      1. Educate the public on alternatives to 911
      1. Add criminal justice to high school curriculums
      1. Change the structure of departments to reflect the community policing values
      1. Change management styles to reflect community policing values
      1. Change the philosophy of the department to reflect the community policing values
      1. Change the culture of the department to reflect the partnership paradigm
      1. Reject the domination paradigm
      1. Expand the mission of the department to include disorder
      1. Expand the mission of the department to focus on residents’ quality of life
      1. Make all officers accountable to the public
      1. Make all police objectives measurable, and measure them
      1. Root out and deal with the abuse of police powers
      1. Create a culture that views force as the “last refuge of the incompetent”
      1. Adopt more flexible management styles
      1. Give neighborhood officers unprecedented discretion to solve problems
      1. Create a culture where managers facilitate line officers
      1. Create a culture where “top brass” doesn’t establish priorities
      1. Seek to empower the community
      1. Seek to empower street-level officers
      1. Measure what matters
      1. Promote trust in the community
      1. Seek to build authentic partnerships with all community stakeholders
      1. Nurture a sense of police legitimacy within communities
      1. Create a culture that treats all people with respect and dignity
      1. Include the community in equal partnerships for crime control
      1. Create a culture that values communication over coercion
      1. Select and train officers for conflict resolution and mediation skills
      1. Make a concentrated effort to include marginalized communities
      1. Seek to deeply integrate the community into all aspects of policing
      1. Prohibit officers from displaying disinterest
      1. Prohibit officers from displaying discourtesy
      1. Select and train officers for becoming change catalysts
      1. Select and train officers for becoming change facilitators
      1. Focus on proactive prevention of crime and disorder
      1. Make all city resources available to police
      1. Form partnerships with private service organizations
      1. Create a new, unified outlook within departments
      1. End “crackdowns” and other “aggressive” enforcement strategies
      1. Recognize that unfair outcomes matter to people
      1. Adopt a proactive, problem-solving focus for the department
      1. Deemphasize rapid response
      1. Relegate the hunt for predatory criminals to specialized units
      1. Ignore outside priority setting for police priorities
      1. Maximize officer time to interact with community members
      1. Prefer nonconfrontational methods to confrontational ones
      1. learn to nudge appropriate behavior, don’t coerce it
      1. Tailor very specific solutions to community problems of crime and disorder
      1. Select and train officers for a service orientation
      1. Give all people a voice
      1. Require officers to help people understand what is going on in a police encounter
      1. Humanize police-citizen encounters
      1. Select officers for empathy
      1. Allow people to be heard during police contacts
      1. Eliminate nighttime and no-knock warrants without clear and convincing evidence of danger
      1. Train School Resource Officers to avoid formal solutions to non-dangerous problems
      1. Carefully craft the department’s mission statement to reflect new values
      1. Let communities set police goals
      1. Carefully craft police objectives to meet goals by legitimate and just means

Final Thoughts

Community Policing is a philosophy that appeals to the American ethos of democracy, equity, and justice. The success of community policing has been limited by police cultural values that do not fully align with the values that underlie the community policing philosophy. Many of the problems with community policing have to do with vagueness, lack of specificity, and lack of widespread police support. My purpose in writing this little book was not to denigrate the community policing philosophy but rather to expand and clarify its basic tenets. Most of these values were always there, implicit in the spirit of the philosophy. My purpose was to systematize and organize these ideas into a theoretical framework that makes them explicit. Volumes have been written about issues among ranks of police officers that block the implementation of police reforms. Solutions to those problems will be highly political and will take both community and political action to eliminate.

Because communities differ significantly from one another, the political contours of those communities will also vary substantially. Universal prescriptions for the transformation of police culture are thus very difficult, and many of the ideas I presented herein are along the lines of “something to consider.” We developed the 8 Pillars of the New Community Policing to guide communities in the implementation of the model in our original paper. We acknowledged then, and I now reaffirm,  that this is merely a starting point and much theoretical work remains to be done.

If police-community relations are to improve, police culture must undergo dramatic change. Disenfranchised communities are jaded, and mistrust runs deep. A skeptical public will quickly and summarily dismiss a whitewashing of the traditional paradigm with flashy new programs and media spin. Ultimately, real and enduring change requires that America’s police forces redefine the police culture as one of partnership rather than domination: a culture that inspires and supports communities.

A basic premise of this book is that the fundamental, structural problems with American policing have known solutions.  These solutions have been spread across decades of policing literature and seem to lack an evidence-based organizational framework to assist in the implementation and maintenance of progressive policing systems.   Such a framework is offered by this book (and the previous paper that this book is based on), but that is no panacea.  We have known enough to fix policing for a long time.  We didn’t do it in a systematic way that changed the cultures of our many thousands of police departments around the country.

Innovating within American police departments is challenging work.  Young officers who are driven to make communities safer places live in fear of being fired during their probationary periods.   Young idealistic officers tend to find that they are no longer officers.  The first cultural norm that officers learn is, “Don’t upset the apple cart.”  The potential for positive change to come from higher education tends to be dampened by this mechanism.  This is a central element of the police culture of fear that must be dismantled.

Young offices that desire change are further hampered in effecting that change by the tendency of senior officers, unions, and politicians to “stand behind the blue line,” even when officers’ behavior is obviously in bad faith or even criminal.   This disheartens good officers, and bad ones are emboldened.  No one stands up for citizens who have legitimated fears and complaints against bad officers.  Most often, these marginalized citizens are poor minorities, and no system of redress is available to them.  This is a stark example of white privilege, yet the people who have it seldom realize that they have it.  White people with means have a political voice and thus a system of redress.  Systematic harassment by police doesn’t happen in their neighborhoods because, for the most part, the various systems of redress work for white middle-class and wealthy people.  When police officers are evaluated by bad metrics, they need to seek out vulnerable populations to make the numbers look good.

The importance of bad metrics in the staying power of bad police systems cannot be stressed enough.  Most police officers know that they should have positive interactions with the public, but they also know that they cannot realize this critical factor of community policing because the reward systems of American police departments don’t allow for that.  As long as officers have their performance evaluated based on citation and arrest statistics, that is the behavior that they will be driven to do.    Every hour an officer spends engaging with citizens and working on problem solutions is an hour they are not “getting statistics.”   Urban policing tends to revolve around drugs, guns, and felony crimes.  That is what is measured, and that is how the police culture defines “real police work.”

The role of fear in police culture is another factor change advocates systematically ignore.  Officers are driven to “keep out of trouble.”   Many officers have no fear of the streets, but they fear other officers, especially command staff.  Still, some officers fear personal injury to the point that they are not willing to do their jobs properly.  Some experience this fear to the degree that it causes them to lash out at citizens and frequently use a disproportionate amount of force.

It is important to realize that bullying behavior by officers is most often driven by fear, not by malice.  Implicit bias often enhances that fear and helps explain why minorities are at much greater risk of becoming the victims of excessive force by police.  Fear is a dominant characteristic of police culture.  Often the public doesn’t realize this because it is so contrary to the machismo of that culture.  Officers tend to ostracize other “scared” officers, and there is a strong drive to hide this fear by presenting themselves as a “badass.”  Remaining cool, calm, and collected in dangerous situations is not the human norm.  We need to find a way to steer fearful officers into roles where that fear doesn’t present a danger to the public, such as civilian support roles.

A part of the reason that so many officers are so fearful is that they are trained to be fearful.  This training is well-intentioned.  Officers being killed or wounded in the line of duty is obviously a tragedy that society has a vested interest in preventing.  For that reason, officers are shown videos over and over again of officers being shot, stabbed, and beaten.   Officers should be trained to be aware of their environment and vigilant in using the best safety practices.  However, police training often crosses the line between vigilance and paranoia.   Officers who are so empathetic that they cannot respond with deadly force when fired upon have no place in policing.  Likewise, officers that fire on citizens out of fear with no real objective justification cannot be tolerated.  Police officers must then be very special people who can make cool, rational decisions about the use of force when confronted with situations that would invoke a strong fear response in the vast majority of people.

Psychologically, protracted fear on the job manifests as constant low-level anger toward the source of that fear, which in the policing context means anger toward Americans going about their daily lives.  To combat this, we need to devise solutions on two fronts.  We need to select police officers from a very special pool of people who have lower levels of fear than normal (yet who are not reckless).   Additionally, we need to develop strategies that lower levels of fear.  Community policing offers some hope on this latter front.  There is truth in the old adage that we fear the unknown.   When officers actually know the citizens in their area of responsibility, they will generally experience less fear, and what fear they still have will rationally be based on the past behaviors of particular people.  Fear is actually healthy when it is a rational response to danger in the environment.  Fear becomes unhealthy when it is enduring and not particularized.

Never-ending low-level anxiety results in anger because anger is the only acceptable manifestation of emotion in macho cultures.  Unchecked, that anger leads to bitterness and frustration.  This tends to manifest as officers retreating into their “us versus them” mentality.  All of this, taken together over long periods of time, results in very high levels of stress.   These stresses amount to a mental health crisis across the profession, and the officers and our society would be far better if we did something about it.

On the opposite side of that equation is the fear citizens feel toward the police.   Citizens rightly fear that officers can get away with whatever they choose to get away with.  The American legal system provides such a wide array of “offenses” that anybody can be locked up at any time.  I guarantee you that you cannot drive from your place of residence to your place of work without providing probable cause for an officer to arrest you.  The traffic code is so complex that no one can drive a car legally.    If my paycheck depends on the number of arrests that I make, then I am inclined to take advantage of this fact and arrest lots of people that most Americans would say don’t deserve to be arrested.  Our police performance metrics don’t measure what we want to reward.  Politicians and command staff must fix this glaring error if policing is to change.  When the driving goal of policing is to deprive Americans of their liberty, there is no escape from the perception of the police as the enemy of the people.  The “us versus them” mentality is structurally reinforced in our current system of policing.

Ultimately, we must conclude that our current system of policing is broken.  The best fix that we have is to install true community policing in its place.  In the past, this has failed because police culture in concert with broader political forces has proven to be an impenetrable barrier.  The political will of the electorate is such that we must revisit these ideas and separate the myriad elements into that which works and that which doesn’t work.  I hope this book is a small step in that direction and provides a scaffold on which to build that conversation.

At the most fundamental level, that conversation must begin with reaching a consensus about what it is precisely that we want policing in America to accomplish.  Once we have done that, we can proceed to determine what it is precisely we must incentivize officers to do on our streets.  As Wesley Skogan noted, “Police reform is risky and hard, and efforts to innovate in policing often fall short of expectations.”  What we are currently telling police officers to do is generate high levels of citations and arrests.  If our sole goal is to make crime statistics spike and remain elevated, then we are on the right path.  If we really do value things like inclusion and justice, then we are on the wrong path and must chart a new one.  Until the police focus more on improving the quality of life in neighborhoods as opposed to making them harder, more traumatic, and less free, there will be no end to calls to defund the police and civil unrest.


Normally, a book like this would end with a list of references.  I have decided to make that list both dynamic and annotated.  If you want to share your thoughts on this book or find the sources I’ve cited as well as other resources, please visit my website:

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License

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