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Friday, August 1, 2014

What's the Future?

When I first entered policing at age 20, I had many preconceived ideas on how I would handle various situations. As I gained more and more experience, I learned it was always easier to be the one critiquing the situation than the one who had to make the split-second decisions, often under significant stress.
I was na├»ve and remember being surprised and slightly disillusioned at the dissatisfaction, distrust and contempt for police that existed more than I had initially thought.  Almost 21 years to the day later, we are still talking about the same things: trust and building relationships. We continue to see incidents of police use of force highlighted in the news. With the proliferation of cameras in the private sector and now the use of body cameras by our officers, we know the number of videos associated with police conduct will take center stage.

So where are we going from here, and what is my vision for the next decade to help us continue to build trust and support for our dedicated police officers?

We need the right people.

I see us continuing to fine-tune the way we hire police officers, but first in Minnesota we must change Minnesota’s archaic Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) system that severely limits our candidate pool. Once we get beyond this broken funnel, departments across this state can hire from a larger pool representing more of the candidates we need: those with maturity, excellent communication skills, compassion, diverse life experience and background and a college education.

Additionally, we need people who desire to make our neighborhoods better, not someone who sees their job as an occupying force, but a dedicated relationship-builder who has a stake in our community’s success.

We need the right training.

 Training of our officers continues to improve. Whether it is crisis intervention training for dealing with those who are mentally ill, de-escalation training or verbal skill enhancement, our officers have never been better trained.
But we can do better. Recently I heard of a study that found for every hour of extra in-service training an officer receives, their use-of-force incidents drop four percent. That is a good return on your investment.

Police-involved shootings and improper use of force garner the most attention from our community, so we will continue to train on innovative practices to ensure our officers are trained well above national standards. We will work with all those we serve to build understanding and support for those rare instances when, despite officers doing the right things for the right reasons, things go wrong.

We need technology.

Innovative technology will also help us reduce prevent and reduce crime as well as the need for police to use force. While privacy advocates and I share the same concerns about big government watching our citizen’s activities, there are occasions where emerging technology will prevent a police officer, innocent people or even a dangerous suspect from getting hurt. Innovations are occurring rapidly, so we must begin talking about technology and policing now, because technology is often developing faster than good policies can be established. Technology used in policing must be shared openly with the public and vetted properly so there is a clear and legal understand of when and how it can be used to keep our community safe.

Community policing needs support.

We must continue to embrace and build on community policing. My own career experience with community policing guides me today because I know how well it works. To do community policing right requires putting the right people in the right places and having sufficient staffing, funding and training. When police build relationships with community members, community groups and our business community, we solve problems and reduce crime, as well as improve our neighborhoods. I want our officers to know the business owners and employees as well as the residents in their beats.

We have enjoyed great community support and it happened as a direct result of the relationships our officers have built with community members. This is what community policing is all about and it is what we will continue to build on in the years ahead.

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