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Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities (2018)

Chapter: Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

Appendix A

Perspectives from the Field

During the course of this study, the committee gathered information through public information-gathering roundtables and webinars. The purpose of these activities was to explore topics and issues relevant to the study charge from the perspective of the police carrying out proactive policing and the perspective of the communities that experience proactive policing. These sessions informed the committee’s deliberations and served as a valuable complement to the committee’s other information-gathering activities and approaches.

The Police Practitioner Roundtable and the Community Perspective Roundtable were held during the open session of the committee meeting April 4–5, 2016, in Washington, DC. The webinars with Alicia Garza and Brittany N. Packnett were held June 22 and June 24, 2016, respectively.

POLICE PRACTITIONER ROUNDTABLE

Participants: Chief Art Acevado (Austin, TX)
Chief Debora Black (Glendale, AZ)
Chief Jane Castor (retired) (Tampa, FL)
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (Pinellas County, FL)
Commissioner Robert Haas (Cambridge, MA)
Superintendent Ronal Serpas (retired) (New Orleans, LA)
Moderator: Jim Bueermann (Police Foundation), committee member
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

The roundtable began by noting that police officers today are better trained, better equipped, better educated, and more professional than they have ever been before. According to Sheriff Gualtieri, law enforcement has undergone enormous changes in his 35-year career. Law enforcement officers and departments have not been afraid to accept change or adopt new, innovative styles of policing. Among these innovations are proactive policing strategies, which Chief Black described as becoming more prominent within the past 10 years.

In defining proactive policing, the police practitioners agreed that, to them, proactive policing aims to prevent crime as opposed to responding to crime after the fact. In this way, proactive policing is everything that is not reactive policing and includes problem-oriented policing, predictive policing, and community outreach and engagement. Proactive policing reflects an expansion from the traditional bounds of policing, according to Commissioner Haas, and because of this expansion, it necessarily relies on community support for its success.

Given the nature of proactive policing strategies, the police practitioners agreed that controlling crime while also enhancing community trust and confidence was a key goal and that the activities undertaken as part of a proactive policing strategy should be guided by community concerns. To this end, Chief Castor noted that the mission of her department is to reduce crime and improve quality of life through partnerships with all citizens. This mission prioritizes cooperation with the community and guides the actions of all her officers. Similarly, proactive policing, according to Superintendent Serpas, has been “a way of increasing our savings account of citizens’ support and trust because we were actively finding out what they wanted us to fix.”

Community trust and support is also built through accountability. Should mistakes happen, Sheriff Gualtieri said, the community has to know that law enforcement leadership is going to do the right thing and hold people accountable. Part of proactive policing, then, is not only to know what the limits of the law and the police department’s policies are but also to exercise independent judgment and discretion within those limits in ways that are mindful of the department’s mission and in accord with the desires of the community.

Another aspect of building community trust and support, according to the police practitioners, was having an open and honest conversation with communities about the police department’s activities and priorities. The police practitioners noted that sometimes this means having difficult conversations and telling communities things they do not want to hear. Chief Acevado noted that many of his resources are distributed to low-income and predominately Black neighborhoods. The department’s annual racial profiling report typically says that they disproportionately stop Blacks

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

as compared to Whites. However, Chief Acevado said, “We put officers where they are needed. I will not apologize because I make it a priority for young boys and girls of color. . . . I believe they should have the same right to go to the neighborhood park, to their grandma’s house, or to the little market on the corner.” The police practitioners agreed that opening lines of communication enables the police and communities to have a better understanding of where each is coming from, resulting in better outcomes and better use of resources.

When choosing to implement a particular proactive policing strategy, the police practitioners noted that a number of considerations influence their decision. For instance, Chief Black noted that an ideal strategy would be fact based and data driven and capitalize on partnerships with the community and other governmental and nongovernmental partners. The strategy should also include evaluable measures of success, such as declining crime rates or neighborhood satisfaction. The police practitioners also agreed that any proactive strategy that they consider implementing has to be in line with their organizational values. According to Chief Black, “[If] it doesn’t adhere to the very high standards and expectations that we have of our officers and how they will perform, not only within the law, but with issues of respect, compassion, and absolute full regard for human dignity, then it never gets off the ground.” Chief Acevedo expanded on this point, using stop, question, and frisk (SQF) programs as an example: “Most communities and most Americans are not going to support or tolerate that kind of tactic. For me, part of being proactive means understanding the collective mind-set of values, the expectations, and the strategies that the folks we serve expect from us.”

The police practitioners also discussed how, after a proactive policing strategy is implemented, law enforcement agencies typically measure its effectiveness. They all agreed that reduction in crime is a readily available and important metric. However, the participants also noted that community satisfaction is an important measure of effectiveness and can be assessed through citizen satisfaction surveys or other methods. Chief Black suggested that policing has further room to evolve in this area, saying that crime rates do not always tell the whole picture and that it is necessary to look at the conditions and impressions of neighborhoods to understand the department’s effectiveness. Commissioner Haas reiterated this notion and challenged his colleagues in the field to think beyond the traditional measures.

In their concluding remarks, the police practitioners stressed that, in the end, what matters most is not what they are doing, but how they are doing it. Law enforcement will be judged by whether they are being professional, respectful, and granting people their dignity and whether, in doing so, they are following the Constitution, state laws, and departmental policies.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES ROUNDTABLE

Participants: John DeTaeye, Collaborative Solutions for Communities
Jin Hee Lee, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Joseph Lipari, Citizen Review Board, Syracuse, NY
Julia Ryan, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Moderator: Phillip Atiba Goff (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Center for Policing Equity), committee member

As in the Police Practitioner Roundtable, the community perspectives roundtable participants began by defining proactive policing. According to the community representatives, proactive policing encompasses everything that is not reactive, and it comes in two distinct forms: those strategies that are community-focused, and those that are more aggressive and enforcement-based. The representatives agreed that the second type is more problematic and more likely to lead to complaints and constitutional violations. For example, Ms. Lee noted that proactive policing strategies that attempt to predict criminal behavior may easily lead to stereotyping of groups or neighborhoods, and Mr. Lipari pointed out that most of the complaints that he sees at the Citizen Review Board in Syracuse, New York, come from incidents arising from a proactive policing interaction.

The community representatives also discussed the impact of proactive policing on police-community relations. They agreed that proactive policing can, at times, lead to a deterioration of trust between the community and police. Ms. Lee noted that some strategies create hostility with people in the community who are not engaged in criminal activity but are nonetheless targeted and presumed to be criminals.

This distrust is often deeply rooted. Referring to Black communities in particular, Ms. Lee discussed the history of discrimination against Blacks by law enforcement. This history leads to skepticism of how police as an institution treat certain communities, and when incidents of misconduct occur, they are not seen by many in the community as aberrations but rather as another example in a long history of mistreatment. This mistrust is further amplified when individual officers are seen as not being held accountable for their actions, thereby delegitimizing the system. Although in some cases individual officers are held accountable and face repercussions, for many in the community there is little hope that any larger reform measure in the police agency will be undertaken.

The roundtable also discussed whether proactive policing has been successful. They agreed that police should not be judged solely on crime statistics. Mr. DeTaeye indicated that, for many people in the neighborhoods where he works, their assessment of proactive policing has been that

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

it “is not helping us” and in some places “is hurting us and killing us.” However, this does not mean that communities do not want police presence and protection. According to Mr. Lipari, “I wouldn’t say that people in these communities don’t want that service. . . . They want effective, Constitutional policing that doesn’t infringe on their liberty.” The roundtable participants also agreed that there is often dissatisfaction with the services that the police offer, as well as a disconnect between what the police officers provide and what the community wants from the police.

Policing operates within a broader social context, and the community representatives stressed that in many of the neighborhoods in which they work there is no access to jobs, education, or affordable housing. They said that the communities where the questions about policing are most fraught are the same communities that have been failed by every other system in government and that these communities lack capacity, adequate resources, and support. Mr. De Taeye noted that, to the people with whom he works, it seems that the only response from the government to these issues is to send the police. He said communities often ask, “Why is it that the police are the only government entity that we see when we are asking for help?” Ms. Ryan, discussing the mission of policing, said that though these other social issues are not the sole responsibility of the police, the police can do more than make arrests and undertake enforcement activities. The police play an important role in many cross-sector efforts and should be guided by a mission to make neighborhoods safe, high-quality places to live, whether that is through partnerships with the housing, small business, education, or health sectors. Mr. Lipari agreed, stressing that the police cannot be the only ones to address these larger problems and must work in concert with other agencies and stakeholders. Emphasizing the distinction between the police and other social service agencies, Ms. Lee noted that law enforcement has the power and authority to enforce laws. It is very different for a police officer as opposed to a social worker to be involved in something—because the police have the power to arrest, there are risks for those with whom they engage.

The community representatives also discussed their assessment of police-community relations currently and whether they have seen a change since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. Ms. Ryan noted that her organization, Local Initiative Support Corporation, has been working in this field for more than 35 years, and many issues are the same. However, whereas one used to be able to resolve issues and break down barriers of distrust through conversations between the police and community members, those conversations have been tenser since August 2014. The community leaders who fostered these relationships in the past are “tired” and find it more and more difficult to build bridges between a distrustful community and law enforcement. Mr. Lipari said that

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

he believed there were more complaints now arising from incidents in which a citizen took a more confrontational attitude toward an officer. He noted that educating citizens about their rights and how to interact with officers is important in this new environment. Ms. Lee said that post-Ferguson activism has largely been driven by a need or demand for dignity. She noted that many Black people experience proactive policing as an affront to dignity and as a loss of liberty. That is, they do not “feel comfortable moving around, whether it’s to and from your neighborhood or going to see friends, because you are afraid that you might have this kind of interaction with a police officer.”

The roundtable participants concluded by stressing the diversity of the communities they represent. They agreed that the term “community” should be used loosely and to encompass a diversity of groups and diversity within groups, who have a variety of needs. Ms. Lee challenged the group to “talk about the people, the members of the community who have been the most victimized by whatever aggressive policing has existed in whatever jurisdiction.”

COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES—BLACK LIVES MATTER (PART I)

Participant: Alicia Garza, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Moderator: Phillip Atiba Goff (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Center for Policing Equity), committee member

Ms. Garza, a co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, spoke about a “re-imagined” vision of policing. Such a vision would, she said, empower people to solve problems and limit the distance between the police and the community. She noted the need for officers to live in the communities they serve. For example, she said, most of the officers in Oakland, California, do not live in the city. As a result, they are predisposed to the idea that Oakland is a dangerous community, and this bias affects the way officers police the community. Ms. Garza also emphasized that police reforms should establish practices for taking into account existing biases and for collecting data on racial and ethnic disparities in police contact. Mechanisms for accountability, oversight, and transparency, as well as improved training and mental health services and support for police officers, are also critical.

Ms. Garza said this “new vision” of policing was necessary because of the many harms that policing has inflicted on communities. One harm, she noted, was the discrepancy in responses between affluent and poor communities. This inconsistency—more aggressive enforcement in poor communities—further exacerbates the existing problem of Blacks and Hispanics having greater contact with the criminal justice system. With regard to pro-

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

active policing generally, Ms. Garza described the consequences as varying by place. In New York City, for example, she said, the SQF program was implemented to promote redevelopment in neighborhoods to “make space” for new people of higher socioeconomic status. Ms. Garza explained that the individuals who live in these communities have been harmed by such aggressive police tactics in which “people of color are labeled as problems.” She questioned the wisdom of such strategies and urged the police to consider the real problems that need to be addressed in these communities.

Discussing changes in the dynamics between the police and communities in the past 5 years, Ms. Garza said that she has seen an uptick in advocacy that demands quality of life for communities. This advocacy has seen fruitful gains. For example, there have been a number of criminal justice reforms passed in state legislatures, and some localities have seen policing reforms implemented. However, she has also witnessed worsened relationships between the police and communities, and she noted that there has been an increase in surveillance of community activists. With growing distrust on both sides, she said, there needs to “be a real reckoning before we can transform the police.” Despite this growing distrust, Ms. Garza was optimistic that both the police and community want reforms and can work together to achieve changes. She said that key questions to keep in mind during such a process are “How do we properly train police officers to solve problems in communities without criminalizing the people in those communities?” and “What are the tools of policing, and are they appropriate to solve the present problems?”

COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES—BLACK LIVES MATTER (PART II)

Participant: Brittany N. Packnett, Teach for America
Moderator: Phillip Atiba Goff (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Center for Policing Equity), committee member

According to Ms. Packnett, police-community interactions tend to happen either through an incident that mobilizes activists and communities or through interactions between activists and police after such incidents have occurred. She said the former tend to occur as a result of unlawful stops or disproportionate responses from the police during lawful stops, with the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice falling into the latter category. Ms. Packnett regarded these interactions as “attempts to control young people in certain environments” and noted a troubling trend toward increasingly aggressive interactions between the police and young people in spaces where young people are supposed to feel safe, such as schools. Ms. Packnett said that, in response to incidents that galvanize

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×

a community response, she has witnessed a militarization of the police and use of proactive policing to surveil activists and community members, noting that proactive policing is “just another lever for the police to control the community.”

Describing the experiences of individuals targeted by proactive policing, Ms. Packnett said that it is important to remember that policing does not exist in a vacuum. She said that, for many individuals in Black communities, proactive policing tactics like SQF do not feel neutral, considering the disparities that exist throughout the broader criminal justice system. Individuals feel targeted because they are poor or because they live in certain neighborhoods, and to their dismay the government (as represented by the police) seems to be doing little to address the root causes of the societal ills that plague their neighborhoods. To them, Ms. Packnett said, the government, through proactive policing, is privileging a criminal justice response over addressing the real problems facing their communities. She asked, “Why not proactive jobs, or proactive education?” Ms. Packnett also discussed how individuals in Black communities internalize the effects of proactive policing and racism and, in doing so, internalize their oppression. This process, she said, makes it seem normal that young children are placed in handcuffs or that police officers are in schools. According to Ms. Packnett, it “deprives individuals of the ability to dream and imagine a different way.”

Similarly, Ms. Packnett said, efforts to build trust between the police and communities alone are not enough. Before trust can be built, she said, communities need to experience justice first. Procedural justice policing, for example, is worthwhile in that it promotes professional decorum, but if the stop itself was suspect, then to many in the community it does not matter how procedurally just the interaction was. In this way, according to Ms. Packnett, procedural justice policing is simply transactional and is not a substitute for social justice.

Describing her vision of policing, Ms. Packnett said that police are public servants and that the most important proactive tactic they could undertake would be to listen. She said that listening would require the police to recognize the validity of the distrust and trauma that has affected communities and to pay attention to the voices of marginalized people.

Ms. Packnett also emphasized that there are deep divisions within Black communities. This diversity within communities leads to various needs and desires, and because of this, she said, the police need to make deliberate efforts to interact not only with older members of communities but also with the young people who are most directly affected by proactive policing tactics. In conclusion, Ms. Packnett emphasized the need to validate people’s lived experiences as real data and to empower people on the ground to keep using their voices.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 377
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 378
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 379
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 380
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 381
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Perspectives from the Field." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24928.
×
Page 382
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Proactive policing, as a strategic approach used by police agencies to prevent crime, is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. It developed from a crisis in confidence in policing that began to emerge in the 1960s because of social unrest, rising crime rates, and growing skepticism regarding the effectiveness of standard approaches to policing. In response, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, innovative police practices and policies that took a more proactive approach began to develop. This report uses the term “proactive policing” to refer to all policing strategies that have as one of their goals the prevention or reduction of crime and disorder and that are not reactive in terms of focusing primarily on uncovering ongoing crime or on investigating or responding to crimes once they have occurred.

Proactive policing is distinguished from the everyday decisions of police officers to be proactive in specific situations and instead refers to a strategic decision by police agencies to use proactive police responses in a programmatic way to reduce crime. Today, proactive policing strategies are used widely in the United States. They are not isolated programs used by a select group of agencies but rather a set of ideas that have spread across the landscape of policing.

Proactive Policing reviews the evidence and discusses the data and methodological gaps on: (1) the effects of different forms of proactive policing on crime; (2) whether they are applied in a discriminatory manner; (3) whether they are being used in a legal fashion; and (4) community reaction. This report offers a comprehensive evaluation of proactive policing that includes not only its crime prevention impacts but also its broader implications for justice and U.S. communities.

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