The Police Department here will take major steps over the next three years to implement guidelines recommended by President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, amid calls for transparency and accountability of police departments nationwide.
The department will focus on 17 action items, including nine police Chief Brandon Zuidema wants to maintain, though he believes his department already meets.
“It’s important that we recognize there is a police-citizen divide in the country to some extent,” Zuidema said. “Not necessarily to our community, but what happens in other communities impacts us every day.”
The department’s command staff compared its policies and operations to the six pillars outlined in the president’s task force report earlier this year. Zuidema presented their findings to the council last month. The department plans to implement strategies where they saw shortfalls, and continue where they saw strengths.
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In December 2014, Obama issued an executive order appointing a task force on 21st century policing, that would make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.
The task force, made up of law enforcement, civil rights organizations, police unions, community leaders and academics, facilitated hearings with the public, organizing them around six basic tenets law enforcement should focus on:
▪ Building trust and legitimacy
▪ Policy and oversight
▪ Technology and social media
▪ Community policing and crime reduction
▪ Training and education
▪ Officer wellness and safety
They then came up with 59 recommendations and 92 action items. The final report creates a road map for future policing and provides direction on how to build public trust.
Zuidema said the department has many strengths among those six broad categories, including investigating complaints thoroughly, officer health and safety, reaching out to the community and being involved in civic organizations.
But there are also areas department leaders think need work, Zuidema said. For instance, forming working relationships with special interest groups, educating staff on LGBT encounters and diversifying the department.
“We are not representative of the community we serve,” he said. “We are proactively working to make sure we enhance our candidate pool so that we are still picking the best candidates, but we’re picking from a better pool.”
Zuidema said the department has recently implemented “implicit bias training.”
He said that relates to making sure officers understand that how they behave can sometimes be based on their own implicit bias.
“We do not have explicit bias,” he said. “I do not believe we have an officer that is going to be intentionally biased against someone based on anything. But we’ve all grown up different ways and around different people, so we have those implicit biases that we can’t really get rid of. But if you understand and recognized them you can be better prepared to not let them impact your work.”
The department implement 17 action items. Among them are putting department policies online, completing CIT training for first responders, creating alternative schedules for officers, revising employee business cards to provide feedback to the police, conducting an evaluation process for body cameras, hosting community meetings with faith-based leaders and updating search and seizure policies.
“I must say that I have been impressed with the level of training and the response that this police department gives to this community and I believe the positive respect and impact that you have,” council member Ken Marshburn told Zuidema at the meeting. “I think the things you have listed here will even go further in enhancing that relationship.”
Council member Gra Singleton agreed.
“It’s a shame that many police departments, sheriff’s departments across the country are not proactive,” he said. “But one of my concerns when I talked about body cameras is that we should take that body camera money and develop national standards at every single law enforcement agency. And we’re implementing a lot that came from that President’s council.
“A lot never will. They can’t or can’t afford to. Or just refuse to. And that will continue to be a concern.”
Response to the President’s 21st century Task Force on Police
To read the Garner Police Department’s full response visit http://bit.ly/2ayRODU