Last month I wrote about the President's Task Force on Policing in the 21st Century, released this spring, and its first group of recommendations, on the need for police to build trust and legitimacy in their communities. I was pleased to know Duluth Police Department is already doing almost all of the recommendations, in many cases for decades.
This month I'm writing on the second set of recommendations, "Policy and Oversight." Again, the Duluth PD is already doing almost all of them.
Recommendation 2.1 encourages police "to collaborate with communities and strategies in communities disproportionately affected by crime for deploying resources that aim to reduce crime by improving relationships, greater community engagement and cooperation." In Duluth this is evident by strong community police efforts. Having done this in Central Hillside in the '90s, I can attest to the importance of building relationships with those you serve.
I've written a lot about how we collaborated with community members and criminal justice partners to be open and transparent. We are determined to do what we can so that citizens have faith in our department.
Part 2 of the task force report also encourages departments to have external and independent investigations in police shootings, in-custody deaths and use of force resulting in death. Again, Duluth PD protocol matches the recommendations. There are some police chiefs who are adamantly opposed to outside investigations. Their reasoning is usually driven by expertise, ego or resources.
Civilian oversight of some form is recommended. For almost seven years now, retired Deputy Chief John Beyer and I worked with community members to establish a civilian review board (CRB). Our efforts were praised by two national experts in civilian oversight of police because we worked proactively to build what would work for Duluth, at a time that was absent from any controversy. The idea of a CRB concerned a lot of our police officers, but Duluth's was designed as an advisory body to foster trust and communication with those we serve.
While the task force report is a good reminder and framework for policing in today's world, I am surprised at the lack of focus on education. If policing is to improve, education requirements must increase. With one exception, all officers in our department have associate degrees. About 65-70 percent have a bachelor's degree or greater. Many departments across the country only require a high school diploma. New Orleans recently reduced their educational requirement from two years of college to a high school diploma.
Like the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. The task force report does not properly address compensation for police officers. If you want college education and the best and the brightest serving as police officers, they must be paid appropriately. Too many places, such as Ferguson, MO are paying $13 an hour. Are we going to get the best and brightest police officers at that wage? I think not.