ASSESSING THE EVIDENCE
The Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing is charged with assessing commonly proposed policy reforms for their potential to prevent police excessive force, enhance transparency and accountability, strengthen community trust, reduce racial biases, and promote public safety. Each reform will be evaluated through the lens of existing empirical research and policy evidence as well as the knowledge born of Task Force members’ professional expertise and lived experience.
While each reform measure will be assessed individually, the Task Force recognizes that policies do not exist in isolation from the larger context of policing and community safety. With that in mind, the Task Force developed eight foundational principles that police departments should follow to ensure that reform measures yield their intended outcomes.
Follow the Evidence
Many areas of policing, and particularly those regarding police use of force, are under-researched. Agencies should, however, consult the best available data, support improvements to data collection and transparency, and follow the research evidence to guide investments in programs, training, technology, and the development and implementation of policies and practices. Evidence can be in the form of quantitative data and qualitative data, such as public perceptions and priorities as well as lived experiences. Data should guide efforts to understand persistent crime and public safety problems and identify solutions to those challenges. Data should also be used to measure outcomes resulting from changes to policies and practices. Civilian and sworn staff at all levels should be well versed in the research process and the value of partnering with researchers in problem identification and response, as well as evaluation efforts. Agencies should aspire to promote and sustain a culture that embraces learning from science and following the evidence.
Acknowledge and Address History
Police must learn about and openly share with the public the histories of racial and other biases and injustice within their departments and law enforcement more generally. This process of acknowledgment should be part of a series of reconciliation efforts that includes empathic listening to community perspectives on police and their role in the nation’s race relations—both past and present. A commitment to eliminating racial and other biases in policing, accompanied by public accountability to make good on that commitment, should follow. This public acknowledgment is particularly important to communities of color and all heavily policed communities, including immigrant and undocumented communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and people with disabilities and mental health challenges.
Do No Harm
Police officers should be trained in—and held accountable for—using a continuum of methods that begins with and prioritizes those that do not use physical restraints, technologies, or weapons designed to immobilize or incapacitate, or responses that could prove lethal. Officers must recognize that pedestrian and traffic stops, in and of themselves, can cause harm and erode trust. Following the “do-no-harm” principle also includes a commitment to avoid responses to resistance and unlawful or disruptive behavior that may yield unintended, potentially lethal consequences.
Hire and Train for the Job
Recruitment of police officers should be guided by the priorities, needs, and composition of the communities served. Recruits should possess the skills and personality traits that will enable them to interact with the public respectfully and empathetically. They should meet educational standards and be trained and routinely recertified in accordance with statewide or national standards and the scientific evidence on criminal justice. Routine supervision, monitoring, and supervisory feedback should discern the degree to which officer behaviors are aligned with a department’s values and the principles and content of its training curriculum. Frequent refresher and remedial training should be required, and, when indicated, corrective actions should be taken early and often.
Foster an Equitable Culture
Like all organizations, police agencies are defined by their culture and values. Efforts to promote sustainable change in officer behaviors start with clearly defined and universally understood departmental values, policies, procedures, incentives, and responses to noncompliance and misconduct that are adhered to with consistency and applied uniformly and equitably. This approach should include the promotion of respectful and procedurally just practices within police agencies and should govern officer interactions with members of the public.
Solutions to community safety and disorder problems should be developed collaboratively with residents. When defining safety specific to a community, police should proactively seek input and learn from the people who live, work, and maintain businesses there. Communities should work in partnership with police to identify their needs and express their desires and expectations of law enforcement while acknowledging that community perspectives are not monolithic. Public safety should be defined broadly to include the absence of all types of victimization, including safety from harm by police officers.
Be Accountable and Transparent
Public trust in the police rests largely upon a department’s degree of transparency and the presence of procedurally just mechanisms that hold line officers, supervisors, and agency leadership accountable for complying with sanctioned policies, procedures, and practices. Transparency is enhanced when information and data, including video footage, are consistently collected and shared publicly and in a timely manner. Credible accountability requires the routine documentation and public dissemination of officer and agency actions and outcomes, including fair and thorough investigation and resolution of public complaints and use-of-force incidents, open and honest communications with victims of both community and police violence, and transparency surrounding corrective and punitive responses to cases of officer misconduct and excessive use of force.
Promote Community Wellness
Community wellness requires agencies to address the trauma experienced by people who are subject to excessive force or biased policing and by families who lose loved ones to community violence or police use of force. Such trauma should be acknowledged and respectfully addressed by law enforcement and through victim services and victim fund compensation. Officers should also be trained to recognize the mental health needs of community members with whom they engage. Recognizing that officers are community members too, and that their behaviors and interactions are influenced by the quality of their own mental health, agencies should offer comprehensive officer wellness resources and promote a culture that engenders self-awareness of stress, trauma, and mental illness, and destigmatizes help-seeking.