At the beginning of August, the COPS Office brought together more than 1100 law enforcement professionals, practitioners, researchers, and community members from jurisdictions across the country, as well as across the globe for a two-day conference on Advancing Public Safety in a New Economy. Four enthusiastic plenary speakers presented varying lights of community policing: Sheriff Susan L. Rahr of King County (WA) Sheriff’s Office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Father Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., Founder and Chief Executive Officer Homeboy Industries, and Kenneth R. Feinberg, Administrator, Gulf Coast Claims Facility, and Special Master, September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. To view these engaging plenary sessions, please visit http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2595. There were 42 workshops broken into multiple tracks: data, analysis, and technology; community engagement; leveraging resources; new approaches in policing; operations and personnel; youth safety; and grant management.
Two very popular tracks at the conference were community engagement and youth safety.
The community engagement track provided practical advice on how to successfully engage diverse groups, establish and maintain trust, and promote collaboration through the community policing process. These workshops offered insight into successful work with disenfranchised populations and immigrant groups across the country. A highly attended session, “Building Trust between Law Enforcement and Arab and Muslim Americans,” highlighted the effective work that Los Angeles County (California) Sheriff’s Department is doing with its Muslim Community Affairs Unit and Muslim American Homeland Security Congress, and showcased how the FBI expanded on their outreach efforts in the Detroit area. Another session focused on the different challenges that Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations face when dealing with law enforcement. The diverse session included the executive director of Not In Our Town, which is a series of documentaries that focus on hate and bias crimes. Additionally, Chief Bowman of Arlington (Texas) Police Department and the staff attorney from Asian Law Caucus discussed their work with the AAPI community. Other sessions in the community engagement track included:
To view the PowerPoint presentations for all the tracks and more, please visit:
The youth safety track provided promising programs, tools, and national initiatives for improving the safety and well-being of youth through effective community policing strategies and partnership-building efforts. One session focused on the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which is an interagency initiative to address children exposed to violence. The workshop speakers discussed how their sites are addressing the exposure of America’s children to violence as victims and as witnesses. Another session focused on the work that the Federal Interagency Drug Endangered Children Task Force has done to provide states and localities with identifying tools and promising practices to assist drug-endangered children. The session also introduced the work of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children and a state alliance, Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. Other sessions in the youth safety track included:
Two of this year’s conference tracks also focused on maximizing resources and using data and technology to help law enforcement organizations manage through budget cuts.
Participants in the workshops of the maximizing resources track learned how to supplement or save resources through a number of strategies: cultivating a volunteer or reserve corps program, partnering with private corporations and the private security industry, using regional partnerships to share resources, forming a police foundation, consolidating police services, and setting up sound and ethical asset forfeiture programs. Workshop panelists and attendees engaged in debate over challenging topics and gave examples of successful regionalization and consolidation efforts. In her plenary speech, Sheriff Sue Rahr of King County (Washington) gave an example of how contract cities in her jurisdiction have been able to take advantage of the economies of scale that are associated with contracting with a large organization, while simultaneously maintaining local control and identify. A video of Sheriff Rahr’s speech is available for download at the COPS website: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2595.
An additional conference track focused on using data and analysis to help law enforcement managers and practitioners make smart and cost-effective decisions about crime interventions. Panelists provided the latest information on technological advances in the field, such as broadband communications, public surveillance systems, and 311/citizen relationship management systems, which can expand opportunities for data sharing and analysis in both day-to-day and emergency situations. Experts and practitioners also spoke on situational policing, fusion centers, and public health partnerships for law enforcement. Dr. Anthony Iton, Senior Vice President of the California Endowment, gave a compelling presentation on how public health data can reveal a significant decrease in life expectancy for citizens living in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods. Click here to listen to a recent podcast with Dr. Iton.
Two other well attended tracks focused more on policing practices and service delivery.
The new approaches in policing track provided the field with insights into the latest effective and progressive practices in the law enforcement field both nationally and internationally. From the technology perspective, “Using Social Media to Investigate Crime” discussed the investigative and crime prevention value for law enforcement, as well as the practical, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues related to the use of social networking.
In the “Teaching Rounds in Police Departments: Using Medical Models for 21st-Century Police Leadership,” the panelists describe an innovative training approach being developed by the Justice System Training and Research Institute at Roger Williams University and the Providence Police Department. They are adapting selected elements of the medical education model into law enforcement leadership training such as, residency programs, the concept of lifelong learning and the use of evidence based practices.
Another innovative approach to training and creating organizational change to enhance community policing was presented at the “Changing One’s Mind-Set: Procedural Justice and Law.” Procedural Justice is changing how officers choose to interact with the community and exercise their authority by approaching situations differently from one of “Can I do this” to one of “Should I do this.”
Two sessions at the COPS Conference took a look at how law enforcement agencies are dealing with shrinking budgets—one from the perspective of two agencies who had to develop a new service delivery model due to budget cuts in the “Data-Drive Decision-Making: Reducing Operating Costs while Maintaining Mission Excellence” to the other spectrum of consolidating law enforcement services for cost savings benefits in “Successes and Challenges to Policing Consolidation.”
The “International Perspectives in Community Policing” panel discussed community policing in a global economy. Diverse perspectives were provided to include describing the hurdles of implementing community policing overseas and successful implantation strategies within the context of their countries’ economic challenges. Panelists provided great insight into how these strategies could be transferrable to agencies in the United States.
The operations and personneltrack addressed critical areas of improving service delivery and covered areas such as, maintaining the safety and well-being of officers in light of fiscal constraints; training; maintaining officer safety, health and wellness; crisis management; and perception of the militarization of the police.
Often pressures of diminishing resources impact an officer’s ability to provide a broad range of services. In “Reducing Your Force Due to Shrinking Budgets,” panelists discussed how their agencies responded to cuts within their budgets, diminishing force levels, and the impact on their community policing strategies to maintain public safety.
Training is always a concern for agencies when budgets are tight. Two sessions addressed different aspects of the importance of training. The first session, “Fair and Impartial Policing,” discussed how training officers can be aware of unconscious bias when interacting with the community and how they can improve community relationships. In the second session, great insights were provided in “How to Train Officers a Police Chief Wants and Citizens Deserve” on how to develop rookies through the philosophy and components of the Police Training Officers (PTO) program. The PTO becomes a critical player in institutionalizing community policing and problem solving strategies in an agency—which further builds community partnerships and support.
Just as important in maintaining training is assuring the physical, mental, emotional, and mental well-being of an officer. The economic climate may be creating greater demands on officers than ever before while on the job. In the “Officer Safety, Health, and Wellness” session, panelists described the importance if this issue and how these issues if left unchecked can lead to job related stress and health concerns. Panelists described initiatives and programs that can support an agency in taking care of their force.