The following is part 2 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. In this entry, Mr. Eicher discusses new polices his state is implementing to improve transparency and accountability, moving toward a more effective, evidence-based early intervention system — as well as sharing his thoughts on various policing reforms over time and the need to look at the criminal justice system as a whole.

RH: Tom, let’s continue our discussion on police reform policies being initiated or expanded upon in your state of New Jersey. Your novel concept of tracking and reviewing use-of-force incidents statewide by assigning a county prosecutor to work with every agency is breakthrough. What else are you implementing?

TE: Sure. The other thing we looked at was transparency, and we issued an updated body-worn camera policy that requires disclosure to the public within the completion of the initial investigation, typically 20 days for a police-involved shooting. We have expanded that to not only body-worn cameras, but dash cams and private cameras that might inform the public what really happened during a particular incident.

We issued an amended policy about impeachment material for officers. Even though it’s been the law for a long time, we had not had a statewide policy that really set out in any detail the requirements to track and make available to defense counsel and defendants impeachment material about the officers who were testifying. We put that in place. We, again, pushed that on the county prosecutors a bit to put them at the frontline to gather that information and
make it available.

We thought these two updates were important reforms to strengthen public trust and heighten transparency. We also continued and emphasized our resiliency program where we looked at trying to help officers who needed assistance because of a problem in their life – such as a drug or alcohol issue –making it easier for them to reach out and get help without incurring disciplinary action.

Finally, and this is a work in progress, we are looking at how we can improve the early warning system directive that we have, and move it more towards an early intervention system — improving the capacity, either on a statewide level or within the individual departments, and the ability to implement this updated system in a way that really facilitates training, as opposed to discipline; or interventions early rather than later so that you don’t have to wait until something really goes off the rails. And importantly, using data rather than hunches about what actually is effective — as well as what you should be measuring and looking at.

That’s true for all we’re talking about . . . I think that the focus on using the data that’s available is really key. It’s what makes this multi-dimensional reform effort somewhat different than some of the earlier reforms that didn’t have that ability to gather and analyze the data — and help use that data to inform policies.

RH: You know what’s interesting, Tom? It’s that is precisely what I’ve advocated for in terms of what I’ve seen. In the ’50s we had the professional model policing: 911 came to take everything over, and everyone’s in uniform and random patrol — and it’s really what is even today the bedrock of policing. Through the ’70s, we started to see problem-oriented policing, which was followed by community policing. Community policing was concurrently overlaid with predictive policing,  joined by Compstat policing in the ‘90s, leading us up to this point in time.

What’s different to me at this point in time – and that you’ve articulated as well – is the fact that for the first time in the history of law enforcement, we have data and research to actually say, “We no longer have to rely on the hunch and the goodwill of a street supervisor. We can systematize an understanding of a pattern and practice of problematic behavior in the early stages — before we have horrific incidents that really crush our profession every time they happen.”

Tom, let me just tap into your experience. You were a federal prosecutor for 30 years, with much work in civil rights crimes. Has there been a trend you can identify? Were there things that you were much more likely to prosecute 30 years ago and 20 years ago than today? And more to the point, if you will, what is the nature of problematic conduct in civil rights violations today versus 30 years ago — or is it really the same show?

TE: I think it’s pretty similar, honestly. But there has been a trend. The original cases I was involved with were more corruption cases. Police cases where drugs were stolen, money was stolen, drugs were planted, officers were on the take. Now, that was in Philadelphia; not to give them a bad name, but I was a prosecutor in the city at the time. We also saw that in New Jersey when I moved over here.

And then, whether it was because of focus or difference in conduct, the use of force over the last five to 10 years has become much more of a focal point. I think the public’s understanding of what is reasonable force for police to use has evolved. I think there was an era when the public’s attitude was, “Hey, if they committed a crime, they brought it on themselves and the police should do whatever they need to do to take care of this person.” They really didn’t care what happened to him. I think that’s changed.

I think even people who have committed crimes are being seen more as a person. And even though they deserve whatever punishment the system will result in. It shouldn’t be at the hands of the officers. I think the public’s definition of reasonable force, which is always at the bedrock of even the constitutional law, has changed. I think it’s evolved. I think the public is expecting and asking for more restraint when it can be safely done.

I think that’s a change. I think that’s different. One of the challenges in prosecuting civil rights cases – especially those for people incarcerated and I did a number of those – is that a lot of jurors at that point were like, “Hey, they must’ve done something or they wouldn’t have been in jail in the first place. And so therefore, they don’t have any rights.”

Of course, that’s not the law, but that’s a very difficult climate to bring those cases into. I think the public sentiment has changed, in part maybe, because so many people know someone who’s been incarcerated or know somebody else who knows somebody. It’s not the stigma it used to be. I think there is a more humanizing of people, and an expectation that police will deal with effectively, but fairly, with everyone they interact with.

RH: No, it’s interesting. What do you think has brought the public around? Do you have a sense of why there’s been such a shift in how it’s perceived?

TE: I think it’s an accumulation of the incidents that we’ve seen. And I think it’s the starkness of the George Floyd situation. It’s also a recognition that there is a general perception – and we can argue about whether it’s true or not – but there’s a general public consensus, I would say for the most part, that law enforcement does not always act equally with every citizen. That there is different enforcement based on race — or based on assumptions about people.

I think that the public, for the most part, is sympathetic to that. I believe that’s a big change. And I think it goes beyond the community that’s being most directly affected — and has now broadened to others who were not part of that community, but feel that changes have to be made to make sure it’s not happening. So, I think that’s a big difference. I also believe that police are open — they want to do a good job. My experience has been that police don’t want to be the bad guys.

There are some bad apples, of course, but most police want to do a job effectively, want to do it fairly, and want to see themselves in that light . . .and I think they should. We have to give police the tools, the policies, and the training to do it. I think we didn’t do that.

To just anticipate a little bit of your question or what you mentioned about community policing, I think the Compstat model overran community policing. By focusing on data to see where crime hotspots were, and then deploying resources in that way, what it did is it tended to be almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Less affluent neighborhoods, which in the major cities tended to be more minority, got much more attention from the police. So, then there were more arrests . . . and those arrests lead to more arrests. I think while it suppressed crime, it also created a really negative interaction with the community that I think has to be undone — through the community policing aspects of where you’re interacting, not just in a bad context, but in a normal everyday context.

The data that led the Compstat reform was effective in a way, but it undermined that community relationship in a way as well. I’ll give you an example: I won’t say the name of the case, but it involved the investigation of a fatal police encounter. The citizens that I spoke with about it said, “the police are always here harassing us. They’re in our neighborhood and they’re just always trying to catch us on some little things so they can stop us, try to search us, and see if they can find something.” I said, “All right. I understand that perspective.”

I talked to the police officer and I said, “What were you doing?” “We were on directed patrol”, he replied. “What does that mean?”, I asked. “We were in a neighborhood, a high crime neighborhood trying to catch them doing something like running a stop sign, so we could stop them and try to catch them with something”, he responded. They were both talking about exactly the same thing. The police thought it was highly effective law enforcement, and the neighborhood thought it was a means of oppression and being picked on.

It was interesting to see that the very same description of it almost leading to very different conclusions. I think both of them have some merit, but I believe if you’re only focusing in on one, and not the other, you’re going to lose the big picture. I think that’s what happened with Compstat.

RH: What’s so interesting, in my personal experience when I was a Chicago police officer, CAPS – which was the big Chicago police community initiative in the mid-’90s – was a major focus concurrent with Chicago’s version of Compstat. These initiatives were living concurrently — or trying to live concurrently. I think both had different success outcomes and both negated each other at some level.

What worries me a little bit about the current chapter of police reform, Tom, is the defund the police movement which I’m going to argue is not about funding per se, but just people being punitive by being in support of taking money away from the police. There’s an argument to be made that we should ask the question, “Who is the best person or group to deal with what situation?” I don’t think anyone’s going to pretend a police officer’s mental health training impacts a situation the way a mental health worker’s experience does. But to the degree that we peel the police away from humanizing interactions – giving that job away to other people – and leaving the police only to deal with crimes alone, we’re going to lose a certain humanity in all of this that could cause its own issues.

Tom, I’m going to close up with just a few questions. All of us who care a lot about the profession of policing and want to see it continually professionalized and elevated, we worry about democracy. Stick with me for a minute. There’s a whole body of political science that advises, “To the degree that people have faith in the systems of justice.” It’s not just the police . . . but police, courts, due process, etc. I believe when there’s a high level of public confidence, you see very stable democracies.

When you have a low level of faith in the systems of justice, you tend to see very weak democracies. If you look at South America, where there’s unbelievably low levels of confidence in systems of justice, you see democracies turn all the time. Very unstable governments. Well in the United States, much more so recently, folks’ faith in the systems of justice is deteriorating at a rapid pace. If you believe the work – you could say that’s a proxy to the health of our society, we should all be extremely worried about these reform efforts and building the trust.

Tom, what do you think we need to do to restore faith in policing, make it the honorable profession that it should be, and in many cases is, to the average American?

TE: I think that’s a really interesting question and it’s not one that a lot of people are focusing on right now. Part of it is, we require the police to do everything. We release people from the large mental health institutions and put them on the street — and the police are the first respondents, so that’s one.

Second, police also are saddled in some ways with the overall criminal justice system. Here’s what I mean by that; maybe I shouldn’t say this, but in one of the police departments that I’m involved in looking at, what we found was that African Americans had much more higher rates of arrest than Caucasians — and that’s obviously troubling. When we dug down a little more, what we found was, a lot of that difference can be explained by bench warrants out for individuals. They’re pulled over for speeding and they have a bench warrant. Well, if they have a bench warrant, the officer is going to arrest that person. They can’t ignore that warrant; It’s there, they’ve got to enforce it. What I mean is police are doing their job, but that can result in a lot of negative feelings by the community.

What do we have to do? We have to step back as we’re policing and not just focus on policing, but look at the criminal justice system at large. Is it really appropriate to have so many bench warrants for basically economic failures? You didn’t pay a fine, you didn’t pay the restoration fee on your driver’s license, you committed a crime, and now we’re going to tack financial penalties on top of it. So, a lot of that, as we saw on Ferguson [Missouri], is underlying a lot of the discontent with the police. The police are the face of that system that’s really, at some level, arguably oppressive to the people.

Not that they didn’t incur the fine, not they didn’t double-park or over run their meter — but the cumulative effect of it is, it creates this enormous negative energy between the people and the government. I think we have to step back. There have been those efforts by the Chief Justice in New Jersey and others to look at, “Is this the right way to do it? Should we be arresting somebody for an old parking ticket from a couple of years ago? Are there better ways to resolve that?” So, I think that’s part of what we have to do, is we have to help the police by taking a look at the big picture, at the whole criminal justice system, to see if we can do it in a more efficient and better way — and a more humane way. I think we can.

We’ve seen that in some of the re-entry efforts around the country that – once somebody’s served their time – it’s in everyone’s interest to see them succeed and to knock down barriers to that success. That’s just good common sense, because if you don’t do it, you’re going to end up with another person cycling through the system. I really do think what we have to do is not limit our focus to the police, but broaden it to the criminal justice system as a whole. And that requires some really fundamental discussions about what direction we want to go.

RH: Yes, I know. I’m so glad you brought that up, because I agree. There’s a big picture piece here and the micro-focus on police ultimately will not solve this problem; it’s bigger than that. We’re grateful for your service to our country as a prosecutor within the State of New Jersey — and everything that you do to elevate policing.

This interview from October 2020 has been edited for clarity.

 

The following is part 1 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. In this entry, Mr. Eicher shares his belief in the importance of police chiefs setting the appropriate tone, expectations and sense of professionalism with the officers in their department — including the novel concept of assigning a county prosecutor to work with every agency.

RH: Tom, we’ve been talking to other leaders in the field about a variety of topics related to police reform. Let me start by asking a really broad question: Do you feel, at this moment in police reform in American history, that this is different in terms of the historical reforms that have occurred in policing — is this a pivotal point in time, or is it just another chapter?

TE: I do think it’s pivotal, and I think it’s different because it’s more broad-based. The prior reforms that I’ve been involved with and seen have been in response to specific incidents, and they’ve been top-down. But this one is really from the bottom up. This is really broad-based, involving large segments of the country: young, old, black and white are all engaged — and all want to see a difference. In my discussions with police officers and chiefs, I think they get it. However, police can be defensive – and considering some of the things that are being said – I think police take issue with the criticism . . . and rightly so.

I believe everyone I’ve talked to understands that – right or wrong – police have to respond to the public sentiment, because without public support they’re not going to be able to do their jobs. I think it is a challenging time because I feel some of the rhetoric is really out there. But I think police have to understand that this is their opportunity to be part of that process because change is going to happen. One of the concerns that I have is that as well-meaning as it is, people from the outside who don’t have an in-depth understanding of law enforcement, or background in the field, can try to come up with simple solutions — but the issues are more complicated than that.

RH: I agree. And I certainly worry about some of the past reforms because at times, from my perspective, they have seemed to dehumanize the police. Meaning they have not taken into full account all the day-to-day “stuff” that enable police officers to engage in thoughtful ways. Tom, let’s say that you were to wake up tomorrow, you’re a police chief — and you were giving yourself advice from someone who’s accountable for public integrity in the state of New Jersey: what would be the top thing you would advise a police chief must get right?

TE: I think it’s really not one thing because everything interacts. One thing I would say is, the chief has to set the tone for the department. It’s not a policy, or a practice even, it’s really just that the tone of the department has to be set by the chief, along with the expectations. What I would also say is that police officers need to understand themselves as professionals. They’re there to serve the public — not get down in the fray with the people that are breaking a law, but rise above it.

Obviously, police have to use force at times, they have to use force to do their jobs, but chiefs should be expecting more of the officers under their command. How do you do that? I think you set the tone with it, you be clear about what your expectations are . . . you develop written policies that set forth those expectations, you provide the training to implement the policies, and then you hold people accountable. Not that you’re going to create a sacrificial lamb, but if you intercede early – before things go really off the rails – then you can avoid those really bad incidents.

I think setting the right tone, letting your officers know you appreciate them and you have their back . . . but you’re going to demand and expect a level of professional engagement. It’s little things; like in some of my work, I’ve noticed the officers who are quick to swear or confront a potentially dangerous person are also those who are slipping over the line at times. I think the right tone and approach is part of the professionalism. I believe it goes across the board that the message to the officers has to be — you don’t stoop down to the level of some of the persons who may have committed a crime, but you rise above it and you expect more of yourself. The appropriate tone from the top is really critical.

RH: I’m in total agreement when it comes to early intervention and getting in front of inappropriate behavior. Tom, let’s talk about your role a little and what you see as the role of the state. Certainly, from my perspective as an observer of police policy and reform, the state of New Jersey is in front – almost more than any other state that we’ve seen – as part of the attorney general’s excellence in policing initiative. Can you share the basic framework of that initiative, as well as the logic behind that framework? How did your team come up with it? I think it’s such a compelling story for the country in terms of what you’re doing in New Jersey.

TE: Sure. Not to make it too personal, but I was a federal prosecutor for over 30 years. One of the things I did as a federal prosecutor was investigate and prosecute civil rights violations, including those propagated by police. When the Attorney General asked me to come work with him, I said I would do it as long as I got to be involved in police reform. Because what I realized was trying to change the relationship between the police and the community through occasionally prosecuting a really bad apple, it’s not going to really create the kind of reform that I thought needed to happen.

I agreed to come and set up this unit and run it for the Attorney General — I didn’t have to convince him. He was completely on board and said, “Let’s look at the big picture and see what we need to do.” This was before George Floyd, since I got here in 2018 and worked through the end 2019, we put together a series of reforms. We were convinced – and I am as well today – that it’s not one thing. There’s no silver bullet. It’s a series of things.

What does that include? It includes a functioning Internal Affairs and IA disciplinary process. We issued some new guidance and got the county prosecutors involved. They’re typically called district attorneys in many jurisdictions — more involved in reviewing police departments and what the police departments are doing. It requires more collecting of data about various outcomes, so that the public and county prosecutors in our office can look at data collected and say, “Why is it that nobody’s ever held accountable for a civilian complaint? Why are none of your excessive force complaints ever found to be justified?”

That piece of it – improving the Internal Affairs process – is absolutely critical because you don’t want to wait until something really, really bad happens that requires you to look at a criminal prosecution. Therefore, we also looked at that as well. Every police shooting in New Jersey is investigated — and we have the luxury, unlike most states, that New Jersey’s Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer for the state and can issue directives and policies that apply to every law enforcement officer in the state. That’s a very robust power.

He’s also not elected . . .so that also gives him the freedom, as long as he has the support of the Governor, to institute policies without regard to the election blocks. We looked at that. It’s one of the things we did across the board: we investigate every fatal shooting and review every non-fatal police shooting in the state of New Jersey. Our office does that. It gives us an across-the-board look at what’s happening — it uncovers the circumstances under which things go off the rails and things go bad.

RH: What would you say are the pros and the cons of charging the county prosecutor with reviewing things such as a pattern of IA in a local jurisdiction? It’s certainly not a common model . . . where it’s outside of a specific incident. How are you finding that it’s working? Would you recommend other states consider it?

TE: Because of the COVID-19 crisis, although we issued the policy in December of 2019, it didn’t go into effect until August of this year. Then we had to train up all 21 county prosecutors in New Jersey, so it’s early in the implementation phase. So I can’t really tell you how well it’s working at this point — we have 550 individual police departments in New Jersey. For us, to try to monitor and audit on a large scale would be impossible. It’s even hard for the county prosecutors, some of whom have over 70 municipalities in their jurisdiction. We’ve asked them to at least take a look at it. The idea is if you know somebody’s looking over your shoulder, you’re going to be more likely to take it seriously for fear that you’re going to be called on the carpet.

One of the things we’re looking at doing in our new use of force policy is requiring that every chief sign off on an annual report to the prosecutor’s office about the use of force by their department and requiring them to analyze and sign off on every use of force at some level. By requiring that they focus on it, it hopefully will encourage that the chiefs realize this is important. There are a lot of important things, but this is very important. It’s got to be looked at.

I believe the IA process is challenging, in part, for some reasons that folks have noted recently in the news: that even if the chief imposes discipline, it’s then subject to arbitration as well as appeal to the courts. This process can undermine the certainty of the discipline. We need to find a balance that allows the chief to exercise reasonable discipline, subject to due process, but does so in a way that’s swifter and more predictable. Right now, I think that’s one of the gaps we have in our system.

RH: If I understand it right, you guys [New Jersey] are one of the only five states in the country who don’t have a decertification process today. Is that correct?

TE: That’s correct.

RH: Not saying it’s super effective, but that it is not a tool if someone hops around or if there are other problems. It’s not available as a tool today to try to get in front of some issues.

TE: That’s exactly right. We have a Police Training Commission that does the initial training of officers. One of the things that was part of the excellence in policing was to have them make a decision about whether they recommend a licensing. And earlier this summer, they did come out unanimously in favor of a licensing or certification regime that would involve decertification as well.

What that’s going to do is put a floor on the process, and allow a statewide look at setting minimum standards — not only to become a police officer. In the past, there has not been even psychological testing that was required before somebody could go to the police academy. With this change, minimum standards would be there, which is important.

It would also likely require continuing education and training, keeping up with use of force policies, along with other policies that the Attorney General issues.

It will create a mechanism to weed out the really bad apples. One of the things we did in the Internal Affairs reforms we put in place last December was to require every department that hires a police officer from another department to check the Internal Affairs records for that officer. Now, they’re not required to act on them. They could look at the records and say, “Gee, this person has five sustained uses of force, but I’m going to hire him anyway.” But that’s where the licensing comes in as a backstop if you see a pattern. Once it’s set up, it will enable a really robust licensing or certification regime.

RH: It sounds like we will all be watching how effective it is by having the county prosecutor play that new role, right? It could be a model for the nation. I’m sure we’ll learn the pros and cons to each piece of this reform, but sounds like you’re moving the ball forward.

Let me get a chance, Tom, to share some of those other reforms that you guys are doing at the state level?

TE: Sure. One of the things we’re doing is requiring that every use of force incident is reported in a statewide portal. Every time a police officer uses force in New Jersey, they’re required to fill out a detailed account through an online system. The report is then shared with the attorney general’s office, the chief of the officer’s department, and with the county prosecutor. We will have a system that’s tracking detailed information about all uses of force across the state.

We will learn when are they occurring…what are the circumstances under which they’re occurring? What’s the type of force used? Which force ends up resulting in injuries? What’s the resistance level that the force is being used against? These reports will provide a detailed picture that’s going to allow the chiefs to look at use of force among officers. Importantly, in larger departments, chiefs can look at trends that may not be apparent just from anecdotal review. It also allows the county prosecutors to look at those departments and say, “Why is it that these two similarly situated departments have wildly different amounts of force being used within their jurisdiction?”

All this tracking data will allow the county prosecutor to sit down with each chief and talk about what’s happening in their department: What are the reasons for use of force actions . . . there may be good reasons or there may not be. I think this process is really exciting — it’s going to lead to not only more effective reform, but by the same principle, if you know what you’re doing is going to be reported and reviewed, you’re going to be more careful about it. You’re going to be more thoughtful about actions taken.

Police officers, I hope, will always use force when it’s required and necessary for their protection and for the public’s protection. But I think they’ll be more judicious and conscious about it if they know they have to fill out a detailed report, and someone’s going to be looking at that report to see if it met the policies and procedures set forth by the department.

RH: Yes, that would be very consistent with the work that we’ve seen in the research across the country. Where we can’t speak to whether measurement changes behavior, we can certainly speak to the fact that what you described earlier rings true with national research — which is this confluence of what you brought up about . . . I’m going to call it ‘broken windows theory’. If it’s the officers who are swearing who may also be more likely to be involved in using force earlier than called for, our research shows that if you are struggling in one area, you’re going to be struggling in multiple areas — it’s usually not isolated.

Being able to look at use of force patterns could be part of understanding how all factors work together. It makes tons of sense and congratulations. You guys [New Jersey] are, from our research of all 50 states, the first state to not only require but actually have it executed statewide. Benchmark is lucky to be part of the story and we’re happy to be able to serve where we can.

Don’t miss Part 2 in our post Our Work in Progress and Reflections on Policing in the Past, where Mr. Eicher discusses new polices his state is implementing to improve transparency and accountability, moving toward a more effective, evidence-based early intervention system — as well as sharing his thoughts on various policing reforms over time and the need to look at the criminal justice system as a whole.

This interview from October 2020 has been edited for clarity.

The following is part 2 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). In this entry, Mr. Wexler shares his thoughts on agency culture, reviewing use of force incidents captured on camera from other agencies to collaborate on generating new policies and procedures for desired outcomes . . . as well as the need to invest in the future of policing in meaningful ways rather than defunding the police.

RH: Chuck, I’d like to go a little bit deeper dive on culture…and for those of you who don’t know, Chuck publishes interviews six days a week (through PERF). I would say it’s pretty compelling…and for those who don’t subscribe to that email, I have found it super important as a way to hear the voices of other folks and what they’re struggling with…and I think your decades of experience helps in synthesizing that information.

You had a column that you published in your email, that you said to me got the most response — and I found it very compelling. It was about Monday morning quarterbacking. Can you give us a quick summary, Chuck, of what you advocated for and why it’s such a sea change from what’s occurring today in American policing?

Chuck: Well, the area that I find the most fascinating and has the most opportunity for change and reform is the one that’s least talked about — and that’s culture…the culture of an organization. I’ve gone into literally hundreds of police departments in the country, as you have Ron, and you walk into a department and you can feel what kind of culture it is. And there’s not just one culture in a police department, there’s the 11th District culture…there’s detective culture, and so on. The point is that culture, in so many ways, drives policy and action.

Like you, I think America has been exhausted from the videos that are seen, whether it’s in Kenosha, or it’s Rochester or George Floyd or it’s Ferguson…it’s exhausting. I began to think about this and I began to think about culture. You know, we teach ICAT, which is Integrated Communication Assessment Tactics, which is going to change policing. When we were in that class with people, we would show them videos because my folks view videos every single day. We’ve been doing this for five years on every officer-involved shooting. We have a Google search engine that’s picking them up, looking at them, analyzing them…and that’s how we develop our training. When you show these videos to a class of police, the first thing they do is they fold their arms, they cock their head about 45 degrees, and someone raises their hand and says, “You weren’t there. We shouldn’t be commenting on it.” We all look at him; we know it’s at that moment they’re in charge of the informal culture in that room.

You have to work through that issue with them. For people who are such tough guys, they can be very sensitive about criticism, and so forth. They want to protect each other — understood. However, today, what we know is with 18,000 police departments and all these videos, if you don’t take that video, and you don’t use that video in your own department and say, “What would happen if we had this situation?” You’re wasting an opportunity.

The idea is this terrible thing happened, like Rochester, for example. You look at that situation, and you say to yourself, “Okay, it’s three o’clock in the morning, we get this call, we have this naked person, we think he’s on PCP…how would we handle that in our city?” My point is that we need to be doing Monday morning quarterbacking and policing because that’s the way the field is going to change. It’s not going to change if we say we can’t talk about that because we weren’t there. That’s the old thinking.

The new thinking is, “This is a terrible thing that happened. How can we learn about that so that maybe a terrible thing won’t happen to our community? And it’s okay…maybe we don’t have the answers.” I’ve even said, take that video from Rochester, and go into a community and bring stakeholders together and show them the video and say, “What should we do in our community? Should the police own this or should a social service agency? Are they available at three o’clock in the morning? Would you like to come with us to that call?”

There’s a way to take these tragedies and use them in a way that’s helpful to your own community so that people get a sense, first of all, how your own department would perform. Sometimes you’ll find out it’s almost like how the NTSB does it with airplanes when they crash…they try to figure it out. This is different. This is much lower risk because you’re not doing your own department. I still believe in that. Chris Magnus in Tucson is doing a magnificent good job but this is a way in which every day you can be teaching your department and learning where you have gaps. “Would we do this? Do we have policy on this? No, we don’t. Oh, okay.” So, I think that’s how policing is going to change. That’s all culture. We have to write this policy. We have to train this way, but what happens in the real world, does that make sense?

RH: To me, it makes a ton of sense. The challenge to do that is you have to make it safe for people and it’s a hard thing to do. Chuck, you know them but a lot of people probably don’t — in my many jobs in life, I was the CEO of the Chicago Transit Authority. I had a few derailments while I was the CEO and the NTSB came out, and the train operator was in the room, the Union was in the room, I was in the room, the NTSB was in the room and it was designed in a way that was safe. We were all just trying to figure out what went wrong in the system so that we could ultimately fix it and make it less likely to happen in the future…and it was wildly effective because we would always end up with action items.

CW: It’s interesting because when you are doing it on your own, there are some risks involved. Let’s face it, it’s like, you can uncover, “Oh, my God, we didn’t do this,” but it is what it is because someone’s going to find out so it’s better to find out right away. What I’m talking about in some ways is very low risk because it happened in someone else’s jurisdiction. You’re trying to learn from it. It’s almost like a very low-risk, high-outcome kind of thing where you have the value of sitting around with your colleagues and say, “What if five officers respond to that?” You’ve seen that in Chicago, right? You can have five people respond and one of those officers somehow knows that the other four are doing something wrong, but he or she doesn’t know how to deal with it — “What do I say? What do I do? This doesn’t feel right”.

RH: I think one of the most befuddling, challenging things for folks to wrap their head around, is this idea of de-fund the police. I think that’s the case because no one really understands what it is. It’s more of a response or an outcry. Two questions, Chuck. One is, what do you think de-fund the police actually means? Why do you think this has become a thing in certain cities in the US?

CW: Well, it’s interesting. I’m just going to go back to Ferguson; if you look at that period, what did reform look like? Basically, it was about implicit bias training…and it was about body-worn cameras…it was about de-escalation. It was about those kinds of things…about training…it was about technology. Now with the George Floyd moment, I don’t think anyone expected that the response to this terrible incident would be how do we take resources away from the police department. It was counterintuitive. It almost felt like people were angry that we can’t fix the police, so let’s reduce the police. Let’s have other people do what the police should be doing.

We did a survey and we saw that about 48% of the police departments somehow have reduced their budget. Unfortunately, it had some impact. Now, I don’t know if that’s because of what’s happening with COVID-19, and the economy and taxes. I think some of that is there. I actually think what’s happening now is cooler heads are prevailing in most places, like in New Jersey and places where people say, “You know what, we need good police.”

The reality is, if you want to fix the police, it takes an investment. You have to invest in the police to fix the police. You look at Seattle. Seattle spent $100 million over five years to put in reforms. I think in terms of training, in terms of technology, in terms of technical assistance, those are relatively small pieces of a police department budget — 90% or 95% is personnel. If you have to cut a police department’s budget, you’re going to wind up either having to cut a class or not hire a class. Look, in New York, they went from $6 billion to $5 billion and in LA, they cut a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s huge…and you’re really impacting the future generations of that police department.

If you’re trying to change the culture, a big part of that is bringing new people in. I think that cooler heads are starting to prevail. It just seems to me counterintuitive if you’re trying to fix the police. Because if you’re trying to avoid that George Floyd situation or any of these situations, it means ultimately finding ways to get the police to respond differently. That requires attention, technology, training, hiring new people, and diversifying your workforce.

RH: Chuck, having run many large organizations like yourself, I can tell you, they only win when you invest in people in a meaningful way. When there is a death spiral of budget and cuts, the impact on morale is I think the exact opposite of what folks who are advocating for this would want to see happen. Rather than raising the standard, raising the expectation of conduct, investing in the training and the technology to achieve it, we’re seeing the opposite in some places.

CW: The only thing I have to measure this against was 2007 and 2008, when we had the great recession, and we did all sorts of reports on that period of time. It was really interesting because we run the Senior Management Institute for Police —you’ve been there, you know about it. What I found interesting was that departments, even though they had to cut back on hiring, they were sending people to SMIP. I remember talking to some people like Chuck Ramsey, and so forth, and I said, “You’re having to do this stuff.” And he said, “Well, you know what, we have to invest in the future.”

It was like you have to invest in people. I think those were the really great managers that recognized, I might have to cut here, but I want to make sure I’m sending my people. I want to make sure that we continue to move forward…even if we can’t hire new officers. I want to make sure I invest in my workforce.

RH: Chuck, we’re grateful for what you do. We’re grateful for the Police Executive Research Forum. For those folks who aren’t super familiar with it, it’s policeforum.org. I can tell you certainly as someone who has been involved or watching or participating in this profession for a long time, I’ve always found the work that you and your organization have done have helped lead the way throughout a lot of difficult times. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The following is part 1 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). In this entry, Mr. Wexler shares his thoughts on the role of policing in addressing and adjusting to COVID-19, as well as the importance of building the right team reflective of values committed to honorable police practices.

RH: Chuck, we’re very grateful for the work that you do in policing. Let me start with a very broad question: Can you tell us a little bit about the current chapter of police reform? I don’t think back in February anyone would have predicted the impact of COVID-19 and certainly, I don’t think people would have predicted that police reform would have shot to the very top of what is on the minds of Americans and politicians in cities. What do you make of it?

CW: Well, I think it’s hard to talk about police reform outside of the context of COVID-19. I just think that you’ve had this combustible mixture from March to the period we’re in now in October. I think that’s important because we’re at an incredible point in American history – actually in world history. We wrote a publication back in 2007 on the pandemic and I thought when we were writing it, “Well, this will never happen.” We talked about quarantines…we talked about social distancing…the delivery of vaccines…the role of the police…what if people don’t want to social distance…what if people don’t want a quarantine…how to manage the economy, and all of those things.

Again, we wrote that back in 2007, almost 14 years ago. Then this thing hits and the police have been in the middle, insofar as being that response unit to all things that have happened as a result of the pandemic and the role that they’ve played in terms of social distancing; how they themselves have had to change during the pandemic, in terms of staffing…in terms of delivery of services…in terms of outsourcing things. Some departments have been devastated. Now, the NYPD has had 46 members of the department who have died, thousands who’ve gotten infected…while there are other departments around the country who have hardly been infected.

Then we’re into the second wave now. One of the things – and you would appreciate this – that’s so good about policing is the ability to adapt to any kind of emergency situation. You take the Yonkers Police Department and the police commissioner there — he realized in one of his areas of the city that his officers were getting infected…so he put them in one-officer cars.

People would say, “Why is that so significant?” Well, you have union agreements. You would never be able to put officers in one-response unit cars in any normal service. Everybody understood, like in New York and then Detroit, officers were infecting each other. Then in terms of dispatch and response, like in Detroit, you had

a dispatcher who got sick and actually, I believe, died. They had to close down the dispatch center and open up another just like that.

Policing was just getting into that groove — it’s almost like having a hurricane or 9/11 or Boston bomber situation, which is like a one-day thing. But what happens when that one-day event happens day after day after day. You have 12-hour shifts. And you have police command that are separated, like Dermot Shea, the police commissioner of New York and his first deputy — they’re never in the same room…they’re in different places. And you have mayors and police chiefs both getting it.

RH: If COVID had not occurred, what would have been the fallout from the George Floyd event, and how would that have impacted American policing versus how it actually did?

Chuck: That’s a really good question because COVID had this impact that people really don’t understand yet. Historians are going to look back at this period and try to figure out what was going on. Because you have this dynamic in which people are staying at home quarantining themselves, and we saw some crimes get lower, while other crimes increased. When the George Floyd incident happened, it was horrible. I mean, it was just devastating.

It reminded me to some degree of the Rodney King incident in terms of the visceral image of someone being beaten, or in this case, who subsequently died. But I wonder what happened when the demonstrations occurred across the country — they were demonstrations unlike anything we’ve seen since the ’60s, both in terms of the number, the degree, and so forth — I wonder if, to what degree the pandemic had on people in terms of getting out of their house, finally being outside expressing themselves…because I’ve also seen an increase in shootings and murders across the country.

I’ve been asking people about that, what impact does the pandemic have on relationships in terms of drug dealing, gang activity, and so forth? Some of that is about things that were happening to people, and that small things might lead to larger things very quickly. Gun sales went way up. So, I don’t know. What do you think?

RH: Chuck, it’s hard to say because I think that before George Floyd, there was a cumulative fatigue occurring in the public around police incidents. It was cumulative, Chuck, in my opinion, not because there has been any fundamental shift in policing, but because video cameras are so ubiquitous in every part of society, that events that historically would not have been that visceral video image, now are. I think much like you, Chuck, I think it’s hard to opine on or know the impact of COVID on the public outcry. But I think it’s very safe to say that long before George Floyd, there was a cumulative exhaustion happening, because the images of all police – and it goes to 800,000 police officers in the United States – and one event, ultimately reflected on everyone, over and over again, which is a complicated dynamic.

CW: I think that’s a really good point. I think that – and you know this because you were involved in Chicago at the time when I thought you were crazy when you installed all these cameras in Chicago ­– I thought, “Oh, my God, that will never work”. But it had a dramatic impact on people, neighborhoods, rather than people wanting them taken away and people thinking, “Oh, my God, big brother, this is surveillance.” They had exactly the opposite reaction. They actually felt safer walking around. I know you were really responsible for implementing that.

It’s interesting because we wrote the guidelines of body-worn cameras for the Justice Department. I remember writing the introduction to that, and basically saying that this is going to change things in ways we don’t know. When all these departments started adopting body-worn cameras, say five or six years ago around the time of Ferguson — what people thought was going to happen with body-worn cameras didn’t really happen. They thought body-worn cameras would prevent these incidents from happening. What body-worn cameras have done is actually captured footage and scenes that the American people don’t usually see. And you had all of these other cameras out there from citizens. What hasn’t changed, quite frankly, is the body-worn cameras haven’t changed how you handle some of these situations, they just record them. Now they may have changed or impacted other things – how you treat people – but at the end of the day, unless you change training and policy and culture, all you’re doing is recording it. It’s just a small footnote of how technology can sometimes have an impact but doesn’t always have the impact you expect.

RH: Yes, isn’t that true, Chuck? Let me ask you this, because you just touched on training and policy and culture. Chuck, you wake up tomorrow and you’re no longer the executive director of PERF, but you are a police chief of a major city. You’re putting your game plan together to figure out what would be your pathway. And, I would argue too, Chuck – and I think you’d likely agree – that whether it’s Chicago or Baltimore or New York or LA or Philadelphia…all of the large cities and midsize cities alike are struggling with the same issues of what we like to say is, restoring the honor of the badge, building back public trust and faith in the police. What would be some of the things that would be on the top of your list for your city, as a chief, to think about or implement to begin down that road?

Chuck: It’s a series of things in no particular order. I’m a big proponent, as I know you are, of Good to Great by Jim Collins. He’s someone I have a lot of respect for and I’ve done a lot of work with him. I think part of it is building your own team, getting the right people on the bus…the right people in the right seats. That management team is really important, how that is reflective of your values. When I look at situations police departments get into, I look at how that command staff communicates with each other. If something happens at two o’clock in the morning that’s a bad issue, how long does it take for that police chief to know what actually happened? In really well-run organizations, that can be very quick. In today’s society, communication is so important. You see police chiefs who handle these incidents really well.

In essence, the first part of the answer is, I want to get a command staff that is reflective of my values, which should be their values. Do they have – honesty, transparency, community sensitivity, responsiveness – all of those things. What’s going to be my relationship with the community? How am I going to manage that? Then look at the internal organization — so key indicators. Where do we stand on a whole set of factors? Where do we stand in terms of policy, high-risk situations? How are we going to handle that? What kind of organization, what kind of feedback loop do we have? If we screw up, how are we going to handle screw-ups? We know how to handle success. How do we handle failure?

RH: Let me challenge you on how to handle failure. I’m going to ask you to tell a story, Chuck, that you shared with me that has resonated with me almost more than any other police chief story that I’ve heard. It’s the idea of what do we do when we screw up? I would say, my opinion Chuck, is American policing has gotten dramatically better. We release tape, we call on the family, we get in front of it. We meet with community, we apologize. By the way, those are just dramatic shifts from even a year ago — the idea that a chief prior to a full investigation would say anything other than we need to let the investigation occur, is lost on the public. To those of us who’ve been deeply involved in policing, it’s a massive shift.

The story that I want to ask you about, Chuck, is a story related to not what you do when you mess up, but rather how do you try to limit the mess-ups before they occur? How do you get in front of that deeply problematic use of force event that will always look terrible on TV? When you and I had this conversation a year ago at IACP, we were sitting there in Chicago, not knowing about COVID-19, when you told me a story about John Timoney in Miami and what he did. Do you mind sharing that story of Chief Timoney and the dramatic impact he had on Miami?

CW: John Timoney is one of my heroes…a renaissance man who was also a street cop and very worldly. Any kind of use of force insights I have I owe to him to the greater degree. He came to the United States as an Irish immigrant with his brother. Basically, he worked his way up through the NYPD. He was there in that Camelot period of time when Bill Bratton became police commissioner in the early ’90s. He had a meteoric rise…he was like a one-star and he was made a four-star…a legendary person in the NYPD because he had the big picture. He was very smart. He was very well-regarded by his peers.

Bratton saw this in him and promoted him. He was a major part of the Bratton team. I would say he was one of the three or four key people. So, he does that, and then he becomes Philadelphia Police Commissioner, where he made some major changes. Then he comes to Miami, where he was also president of PERF. He and I really knew each other for 20 years. He’s really good at diagnosing issues. The one thing he understood better than anyone was use of force.

So, Miami had a major Justice Department investigation…a memorandum of agreement or consent decree, basically, because Miami had been involved in a pattern of use of force cases. But he had these good people around him and he had to identify how to deal with use of force.

He did a series of things. He changed the use of force policies, he brought many of the lessons from New York — don’t shoot at cars, firearms discharge review. Then he recognized that a number of officers were involved in a series of use of force incidents. He actually looked at that himself, and he identified the officers that had been involved in these use of force situations. He basically took them off the street and put them in places where they couldn’t cause harm.

In some ways, it was like he had this intuitive early warning system in which basically, using his good judgment, he looked into these situations: “Wait a second, look at these guys. They’ve been involved in a series.” He identified them and took them off the street. Then something unusual happened. Miami went 21 months without an officer-involved shooting. It was remarkable. He used to pride himself on that; he’d say, “Chuck, got another month, another month.” Importantly, crime went down, use of force off the charts. He then went back to the Justice Department and said, “Look what we’ve done.” They sent him a letter saying, “You are now in compliance.” It was really an amazing story.

RH: Chuck, right before he came, there had been a large number of officer-involved shootings.

CW: There had been a series of them. He inherited a department that had a series of abuse instances and the Justice Department investigated and he comes into that and on his own, he does it. But here is the postscript to this story: This is like an experiment, a real experiment. So, then he leaves…another police chief comes in, let’s call him the “un-Timoney”. He comes in, he takes those officers, puts them back on the street, and the shootings start to go way up and the Justice Department comes back. True story.

RH: Chuck, this is what so deeply resonated with me when you and I were meeting and you shared that story with me. What resonated is that that is exactly what Benchmark as a research organization does and sees — is that you have a small group of officers who are repetitively using dramatically higher levels of force more often. And ultimately, the argument that I make over and over again whenever I get the audience of Chiefs, is that it’s a noble thing and that everyone can be Timoney, in my opinion. Because if you do nothing else, but in a non-punitive, non-disciplinary way, find a better fit for those officers where we know they have a pattern of force that gets used over and over again, is just an easy button, if you will, to try to get in front of what are incredibly complicated incidents.

Timoney is now my hero as well. I was lucky enough when I was a young police officer in the Chicago Police to have met him. He was a legend back then and hearing him talk about the profession and about force was super compelling.

Don’t miss Part 2 of this conversation, where Mr. Wexler discusses generating new policies and procedures for desired outcomes and the need to invest in the future of policing.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The following is part 2 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and the legendary Chuck Ramsey, former Chief of Police, Washington, DC; former Police Commissioner of Philadelphia; and Co-Chair of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. In this entry, Mr. Ramsey underscores the importance of knowing one’s community as well as the importance of creating a culture that reflects what is expected and will not be tolerated.

RH: Chuck, let’s say you wake up tomorrow, and you look around and you have a uniform on and you’re a chief again in a major city in America. I think certainly from my dialogue with chiefs across the country – and you talk to chiefs every day – it’s probably never been harder to be a police chief — but here you are. You got a large police force. You have all the challenges that every city has, whether it’s Chicago or Baltimore or Philly or DC or you name it. What do you do? How do you start to lead in the current environment? It might be the same playbook, but what is on your list of  ‘I have got to get these things right from the start’?

CR: First of all, let me just say that I think the tougher job than being a police chief in today’s environment is being a police officer in today’s environment. At least as a police chief, you have some way of influencing the current and the future. Whereas as a police officer, you’re at the whim of whatever it is that’s going on. I just want to just say that because it’s tough, very tough for the men and women that are out there trying to do the job the best they can. I think it starts with communication, both internal and external. I think it starts there.

I think it’s important to have those lines of communication with people, even those people whose opinion and whose views may be totally – in fact, it’s even more important – totally opposite from what you believe and what you feel. You have to at least try to establish lines of communication. Take a serious look at where you are and what it is that you’re doing as an agency, and you might need to have someone from the outside come in and take a critical look because when you’re a part of it, you’re so close to it, you don’t always see it. What are we doing? How are we managing our personnel? Do we really know what’s going on out there? Are we really stepping in?

Let’s take early intervention for an example. If an officer has a history of engaging in certain kind of misconduct…and it may not be use of force. Could be verbal. Could be anything, but it’s not consistent with policy. Do we know who they are? I’ve often said the good news is you can identify them; the bad news is you’ve identified them now you’ve got to do something with it. The key is, now that we know, what do we have in place to change the behavior of the individual? Because police agencies are primarily punishment-driven and giving a person three days off doesn’t necessarily change behavior. What is it that we’re going to do if that’s really the goal?

Early intervention, having an information system or personnel management system that will identify individuals at your earliest possible point…put in place those mechanisms to be able to intervene early on and say, ‘Hey, we just don’t do that’. Do it in a way in which it goes beyond just that one officer but the other officers too — because to me, real change in a police department isn’t going to come from whoever’s sitting on top or a software. It’s going to be when the culture of the organization itself will not tolerate certain behaviors that are out of the norm because that’s not what the agency stands for. It’s not what the culture stands for, but you have to use these tools to get you there. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s the kind of thing I’d be focused on right now.

Learn from those that have experience. Learn from Minneapolis. Learn from these other cities. Even back in the days when we were more concerned with terrorist attacks…if it occurred somewhere else, I would ask my people, ‘Okay, if that happened here, how would we handle it? What are our resources? What are our capabilities? What can we do? Do we actually know what we can do, and more importantly, what we’re incapable of doing’? You have to do that sort of thing. If that officer was a problem, how come they didn’t identify him? If he was a member of our department, would we have identified him? If we had identified him, what we would have done with him?

RH: The one thing that just struck me so much when I came back to Benchmark after running the Chicago Public School System…I spent an inordinate amount of time asking the question, “How do we make our teachers more effective?” We had some phenomenal talent, unbelievably great teachers. We had some teachers who struggled. Ultimately, the idea was never let’s be punitive…let’s go be disciplinary with the teachers who are struggling. The collective question of the organization was, ‘How do we invest in these teachers to become effective’? In the world of policing in the year 2020, in the history of humankind, if you were to say show me an evidence base of interventions that help police be better…that enabled them to do what is an incredibly hard job more effectively — it doesn’t exist. I’m excited to say, we’re trying in partnership with our academic partners and others to develop it, but we’ve got a long way to go in the profession in supporting the frontline in that way. These are super important things you’ve always talked about.

Regarding culture — something that I’ve heard you talk about over and over again with tremendous passion is the role of that frontline supervision…your street sergeants and others. Can you talk about what you did and what you would do as a chief to get that supervision? The command staff is easier. You’re not talking about 500 people. You’re talking about folks you can directly talk to. But when you start getting down to lieutenants and sergeants who are ultimately in charge for all practical purposes more than almost anyone else, how do you win over those ranks in terms of your vision, your values, where you want the culture to go?

CR: There are a couple things. You point out a critical rank in the department. That’s that first line supervisor. That’s that sergeant. Because I remember, when I was a young police officer, I cared more about who my sergeant was than I cared about who the district commander was because I had to deal with the sergeant every day. District commander was pretty much a picture on the wall. If I was unlucky, I’d be walking down the hall at the same time he was, and you turn your head so he didn’t pay any attention to you. We’ve got to invest in our people in terms of their training and education, and there’s just not enough of it.

Some departments have pre-service training, let’s say, for sergeants. They put them through all the things — your roles, your responsibilities, and so forth. Some go so far as to even have an FTO system for new sergeants where they match them up with veteran sergeants for a period of time to learn what’s going on. I think all those things are important, but there’s a basic flaw in the system of policing in our promotional system.

The only way you can make more money in the average police agency is through the promotional process, which means that you’ve got people who are smart enough to pass a multiple-choice exam, but they have no interest in leading others. They have no interest in supervising, but they need more money. How do you carve out those folks and have people that truly are committed to leadership, truly are committed to that? You mentioned that at the top it’s easier – maybe in some ways but in other ways not so much – because we don’t do anything in policing to develop the next generation of leaders, or at least not enough. We have 18,000 police departments. Do you honestly think you’ve got 18,000 good police chiefs and sheriffs? I know we don’t. Until we really address the issue of really grooming people and preparing them, not only for the current role that they’re going to be in but get them ready for the next step.

When I went to DC, and I’ve seen it in other agencies, they didn’t even have a good job description for any rank above police officer, entry-level. We had to create one for sergeant, create one for lieutenant, create one for captain. In the Washington DC police department, they did not have it. What was the knowledge, skills, and ability needed for this rank, assuming that you have all that when you make the new rank, but what’s different? What is it that you need? How do we prepare you in advance? Not wait until you get there and then find out you can’t handle it. Now we got to try to bury you somewhere. What do we do in order to try to prepare you? It’s complicated. It’s complex, but it’s fixable. It’s going to really take an effort to really get serious about leadership development in police agencies, and don’t wait until somebody makes sergeant. From the time a person comes in and you know this person has their eye on not staying at that level forever, what are we doing to enhance their abilities?

RH: One of the things I think we make very hard on ourselves is we let the lawyers have too much of a voice because ultimately, what has happened is promotional exams in too many places have been reduced to what you said, which is a multiple-choice exam. A multiple-choice exam doesn’t identify ethics. It doesn’t identify leadership. You can usually answer policy right. You might be able to answer situational awareness questions right, but test taking and leadership are two completely different pieces. If you don’t make sergeant, you’re not going to make chief.

One of the research projects that we have going on at Benchmark with our partners is this — because we have people’s performance data, how do they actually do as the police. Can they navigate with good de-escalation skills? Can they navigate where they have good activity? Do they navigate in a way where there is powerful community engagement and the like? Can we use that data where the baseline for promotion becomes your performance on the job where there’s never a promotional exam? Because we have everything we need to know who’s the leader today, and let’s use that information as a way to understand promotion versus a one-time high stakes exam that ultimately may or may not pay off for folks.

CR: The other thing, if I could just add one thing. Most systems are geared toward identifying people who aren’t doing things right as opposed to identifying people who are doing things right and then going back and digging a little deeper to find out what are those characteristics…what are those traits…what are those things about people who are able to successfully de-escalate situations? People who really show good leadership — what is it about them that distinguishes them from the person who’s one of our frequent fliers, who’s always into something that they got no business being in?

You could say some of this is recruitment and hiring and all that, but it’s more than that once you’re on the job, I think. I think if we focus more on that and at least make that a big part of the picture…because when you really stop and think about it, what would a good 21st-century police officer look like? What are those skills and abilities? What are those talents that they need to bring to the table? We need to be building that image, and I think if we did that and if we had a system that could actually help us do that, that would be absolutely remarkable.

RH: Here’s what I would tell you, Chuck. This is my thesis on it. I can tell you as a research organization – and for those who don’t know, we were born out of research done at the University of Chicago – is I would argue we know that today, meaning we have ways that we can assess what is the community’s perception, community engagement for someone. We know their activity level. We know how they use force. We know whether they get citizen complaints. We know if they’re effective depending on the job they’re in, if they’re effective preliminary investigators. We see it because we can baseline.

We know, here’s what the average officer does. Here’s what someone does, and if they do it in a way where folks don’t get hurt and they’re able to still be an effective police officer, there is a pathway to say we can find the best and brightest among us and find a way that we put them on a trajectory to great leadership. Because ultimately, I’m agreeing with you, Chuck, every time you said it. Today is Chuck Ramsey’s greatest hits that I’ve heard over many, many years of being someone who has followed you, is we can change the equation. Because, as you’ve said, those frontline supervisors, if we pick the right ones, every officer in their command is ultimately going to get to the right place because ultimately, it’s their watch. Everyone else is a picture on the wall.

CR: That opens the door for better education of police chiefs to know what that 21st-century cop should look like. What are the skills and abilities? Because that drives your recruiting…because if you know that, then that’s who you go after. If you look at many police departments, we say we want people who are community-oriented. We want people who have good de-escalation skills. We want diversity. We list all this stuff. Play the recruitment video of that same department. What are they showing? SWAT knocking down the door…helicopters…boats going down the river or lake. It’s all the Type A personality stuff. Who do you think you’re going to get to apply?

It’s not that you don’t need some people who can do that stuff because you do, but is that what an average police officer does on a regular basis? No. We have that information. We know it, but we got to share it and make sure that everybody is aware because that drives so much if we really want to change. Because who you hire today is who you’re stuck with for the next 30 years. You better make a good decision upfront because if all you’re relying on is being able to fire somebody or discipline him for the next 30 years, is that really what you want to do? I don’t think so.

RH: We are grateful for your service to our nation. We’re grateful for what you’ve done for policing. We’re certainly grateful for your role here at Benchmark. We appreciate your time and your ability to share all that great expertise and experience you built over all those years. Thank you, Chuck.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The following is part 1 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and the legendary Chuck Ramsey, former Chief of Police, Washington, DC; former Police Commissioner of Philadelphia; and Co-Chair of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. In this entry, Mr. Ramsey expands on his belief in a holistic approach to police training, education, management and accountability…and stresses the need for officers having an understanding of the history of policing in America.

RH: Chuck, it’s 2020. We’re in a global pandemic. Back in March, I think folks would’ve said, ‘Wait, there’s going to be a global pandemic? I’m finding that hard to believe.’ But once they would wrap their head around that…I think if we would have told them that ultimately we would have a summer of civil unrest, and it would be tied to police misconduct in terms of the perception of police misconduct, the perception of brutality. What happened? What in your perspective, Chuck, made this moment or this summer what it was?

CR: There were a series of very high-profile events that took place, captured on video. George Floyd obviously is one, but there were several others as well that really put police use of force on trial. We live in a world now where we are so connected that it doesn’t matter where something occurs. We saw that really with Ferguson and Michael Brown. It affects us all across the country.

And so, an event can happen, let’s say, in Ferguson, Missouri or Minneapolis, Minnesota…you could be in Austin, Texas, you’re going to have fallout from it. You’re going to have something happen in terms of demonstrations or what have you because people get upset and understandably so. No question about it. Which really makes the need for police leaders to be more proactive in terms of having a holistic approach in dealing with management and early intervention — and to do it in a way that really saves time, saves resources…and understanding that that’s not only a benefit to you as a police chief, it’s a benefit to the community as well. The faster you can identify issues and problems in your department, the better off you’re going to be, both short-term and long-term, which is why I’m so enthusiastic about Benchmark and what you bring to the table.

RH: Chuck, you said police use of force was on trial, right? What have we gotten right over the last few police reforms? You’ve been through all of them, Chuck. We had the professional model, problem-oriented policing, community policing… CompStat was in that mix…up to today. What would you give a high-letter grade for on the police, and what would you say, ‘Hey, folks, we just got to get better at’?

CR: I think we’re bringing better people into policing than we did before for the most part. Again, nothing’s absolute. There are 18,000 police departments in the United States…but just in general and from my experience having worked in Chicago, DC, and Philadelphia, I think the quality of individuals we’re bringing into our ranks are a lot better. I also think that unlike it was when I started, we see the community differently than we used to.

When I first started, at best you refer to community as just the eyes and ears. They had absolutely no voice, no role on anything, but through problem-oriented policing, community-oriented policing, that changed. Now, here’s where we didn’t get it quite right…because we started to build relationships, especially in some of our more challenged communities, but I think we underestimated how fragile those relationships really are.

There was a period of time when we moved away from community-oriented policing, that was the dominant policing philosophy. And because of the tremendous success – this isn’t a knock on New York – but it certainly was something that really changed thinking in policing. They had such tremendous success in lowering their crime through CompStat, through a data-driven approach, that many departments started to then try to copy that. But what they lost sight of is the human part of policing. It’s more than just dots on a map. It’s about human beings — and so you can’t lose those relationships. I think in many instances, and I was guilty of it myself, you become so focused on just putting cops on the dots and so forth that you lose sight of those relationships that really need a lot of care. As a result, when controversy started to surface, those relationships that you would’ve normally relied on weren’t there or at least they weren’t as strong as they could have been.

RH: Chuck, what is it about those relationships that made them so tenuous and that they weren’t robust? What’s the history of it? What is it? Then how do we fix that? Is it fixable?

CR: It’s fixable. I think everything is fixable, but it’s not going to be an easy fix. I think a few things have to happen. One, from a policing side, I think one of the things we don’t do well in most police academies – not necessarily all, but certainly in the ones I’ve been exposed to – we don’t spend a lot of time educating our officers on the history of policing in the United States. The history of policing, especially in challenged communities, communities of color, has not always been positive. We haven’t been seen as being protectors and guardians. In fact, we’ve been seen as part of the problem…not just historically, but even in some instances today, which was illustrated in some of the high-profile events I mentioned earlier.

I think the people that are being hired today, they don’t have any sense of that history. They weren’t alive, or they were so young. They certainly don’t remember it. They need to be reminded as to why people look at police differently in different communities depending on that history and trying to get officers to understand it. In fact, I’ve often said, if we can get police officers to see policing through the eyes of those being policed, that would be a major hurdle that we will have overcome. In other words, empathize with what some people are going through.

The second part of that on the community side, where’s your crime taking place? For the most part it’s confined to areas with high concentrations of poverty, lack of educational opportunities, job opportunities, lapidated housing, you name it. If it’s bad, it probably exists in that particular community. Where do you put your police officers when you’re deploying? You put most of your resources where you have most of your crime, particularly violent crime, and then that sets up a clash if you’re not careful.

One of the things that I thought was important that we were able to do in Philadelphia was to introduce foot patrol, which is an old concept, but we lost sight of that along the way in policing. All new recruits coming out of the Philadelphia Police Department start on foot patrol in some of our most challenged communities, not along commercial corridors, but right in the neighborhoods where you have crime committed in open space. What does that do?

One, there is a study that showed it had a direct impact on crime – 22% reduction – but even more important than that, officers learned very early on that even in the most challenged communities, there are more decent law-abiding people living there than there are criminals. You don’t know that when you’re driving down the street at 40 miles an hour in a Crown Vic with your windows up. You know it if you’re out there on foot walking up and down the street, and you see people sitting on the front porch. You engage in casual conversation. You meet young people who want the same things you want and the same thing your kids want. They’re just trapped in an environment that may not necessarily be conducive to a positive outcome.

Understanding that from an early part of your career I think will pay huge dividends in the future as we start to really understand from both sides what it is that’s going on and what’s really needed in order to make our community safe. We need to be able to respect and understand different points of view. Even if we don’t agree with it, at least understand where someone is coming from. If you can do that, then you go a long way toward trying to bridge that gap, strengthen relationships. Think about it, Ron. Let’s take the George Floyd incident.What if people in your city looked at that and said, ‘Oh my God, that’s terrible, but our cops would never do anything like that’? Because that’s the level of confidence and trust they have in your department. We’re a heck of a long way from that, but that’s what you have to strive for.

RH: For sure. Chuck, speaking of foot patrols in Philadelphia, when you were the chief in DC, you did things as well that I remember at the time struck me as very powerful. You used a resource right in your community, the Holocaust Museum. Can you share a little bit about that for the folks who don’t know what you did?

CR: When I was a brand, new police chief in 1998, when I left Chicago PD to take over as chief in DC…and anyone who’s ever taken over a police department – especially if you’re an outsider – everybody’s trying to get to know you. ‘I want you to come to different meetings’, and so forth. I got a letter from an individual who I did not know but has since become a very close personal friend, David Friedman, who at the time was executive director of ADL in Washington, DC. He sent me a letter inviting me to visit the museum at the invitation of course of the museum, and I accepted.

I was visiting the Smithsonian and trying to really learn a little bit about Washington anyway, and so I said okay, and it was on my schedule. It was the most powerful experience that I had to that date. I had the honor of actually walking through the museum with an actual survivor, Irene Weiss, who told me her personal story as we were walking through the museum. And, to make a long story short, it was a haunting experience. When I left, something was eating away at me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I flew to Chicago to visit family and when I came back, I went back to the museum unannounced. When I went back through, right at the beginning of the experience, I saw a picture, and it was a picture of a German police officer with a soldier, a member of the SA. They had this dog, German shepherd on a leash with a muzzle, and he had this crazed look in his eye. What struck me was, ‘Wait a minute. I always thought the Holocaust was just involving Nazis and German soldiers’. I didn’t realize police played a role. As I went through, I kept looking for that, and it made me think — what is the role of police in a democratic society, and what happens when you lose sight of those responsibilities and constitutional obligations? Because Germany had been a democratic society prior to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

I thought that was an approach – not to call cops Nazis let’s make that clear – but to understand the important role that police play in a democratic society and how we actually help hold together the very fabric of democracy. When we lose sight of that, then the ultimate horror can take place. It was a backdoor way of getting at those critical issues: stop and frisk, biased policing, all those things. If you start taking rights away from one group of people, who’s next?

RH: When I first heard that, it was many years ago, Chuck. It always, always stayed with me what you did and the fact that you had police go through there. You sent recruits through or did you send everyone through?

CR: Everybody, it started with the command staff, then we sent recruits. Then we sent veteran officers, and since then now, all the federal agencies sent people through. Members of the military go through. Teachers go through. There have been almost 200,000 law enforcement people alone that have gone through that program.

RH: It struck me, Chuck, for a lot of reasons. It’s also very personal. I lost my grandfather in the Holocaust…never met him. Just a family history there and the fact that you would think of that way as trying to build in police an additional piece of consciousness from knowing history, our own nation’s history as well as others — super powerful.

CR: We did something else in Philadelphia, where we have the National Constitution Center. We visited there and learned they have a course where they teach the evolution of democracy from 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence up till today. I asked if they could trace the history of policing in America during that same period of time and even though early on there were no formal police departments…but you may have been, let’s say, catching slaves on a plantation if you were in the South — a police-like function. If you fast forward to the civil rights movement, who was waiting on the other side of the Pettus Bridge when civil rights marchers walked across? It was police. Understanding our own history here in the United States is important. This is the baggage we carry as a profession, and we need to acknowledge it and do things to make sure that that’s not our future. Maybe our past. We can’t change the past, but we can influence the future. The future begins now today, not tomorrow, but today.

RH: It speaks to why I think the trust issue is so hard, because it’s not just getting someone to trust you as the chief or your officers. They need to trust the institution. The institution has a lot of work to do, and I think it’s what is so – from my observation, Chuck – so hard today is you’re not just building trust from here forward, which you have to do…or the trust that’s been built which so many people work so hard on building that trust in the proper way. But you also need to do it in a profound enough way where the institution now rises and people look up to them.

CR: This kind of gets to the whole idea of what is legacy. Legacy isn’t about what you do as an individual; it’s what you leave behind in others. If you want something to survive long-term, it can’t be just built around an individual…because we come and go. It’s what happens after you go when nobody even remembers how you got there — but just what you do because it’s part of the culture now. That’s part of it. That’s a big part of it, and that’s how it lasts.

Don’t miss Part 2 in our post Investing in a Police Force that’s Poised for Leadership, where Mr. Ramsey discusses community engagement, cultural norms within a department and investing in the development of promotional systems.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Law enforcement software has changed immensely over the past decade. We have seen software innovations that help improve administrative workflows, such as use of force or internal affairs reports, as well as software that captures and utilizes data to help police chiefs make decisions on how to best serve their communities. More often than not, these innovations are presented as single-point solutions — versus as part of an integrated, holistic suite of offerings.

These standalone software applications are designed to address one specific agency need, such as training management, performance evaluations, or Covid-19 personnel tracking. While these systems capture and track information for the task they were built for, in the end they are disparate cogs in a machine that requires seamless integration and connectivity.

The Complexities of Standalone Software Applications
Until recently, the market has driven how agencies are able to purchase software solutions for their myriad of needs. And by that we mean, one by one: one platform for early warning and intervention . . . one platform for training . . . one for Covid-19 tracking . . . and so on and so on. And while these single-point purchases solve individual challenges in the short-term, over time they can lead to increased complexities within the agency and its administrative process.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite

For example, agencies that utilize multiple software applications can experience integration challenges and find it difficult to compare and correlate data across applications. As a result, many administrative hours are spent on manual processes or even spreadsheets, in order to link information together from these different standalone systems. This takes valuable team time away from conducting more important core duties. And on top of all that, by the time all the information is integrated as needed, it may already be outdated and inaccurate. The unintended consequences? Agencies possibly making critical decisions based on inaccurate information . . . or making a hasty and potentially risky decision without benefit of the full information picture . . . OR, in lieu of that complete picture, taking no action at all.

Additionally, IT departments spend time and money maintaining, upgrading or acquiring new versions of each standalone application. When one application has a new version, it may require additional integration and maintenance with the other standalone systems in order for it to work, which in the end leads to an increase in hours and costs to maintain. All this, and we still see some agencies “make do” with multiple software applications, even if that strategy may not serve their various stakeholders in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite
A single-provider software suite is a collection of software applications that have correlative features and functionality for law enforcement agencies. These suites also share a similar user interface and have the ability to easily exchange data with each other. Agencies who utilize a single-provider software suite experience numerous benefits. Here are a few below:

  • Data in one place.
    The key to avoiding manual work and time-consuming tasks is to ensure your agency has the ability to create, update, or modify data all in one place. For example, with standalone systems, personnel may need to log into several different applications to complete functions. With a single-provider software suite, individuals can utilize any portion of the system and input data that can be easily shared across other portions of the suite — saving valuable administration time. The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software SuiteAdditionally, the right software suite can seamlessly integrate all data, automate data processes and update information in real-time —  making it is easy to generate reports and compare data. Automating such processes also allows agencies to minimize personnel time spent on data-mining activities.
  • Decreased redundant IT tasks.
    Agencies with several standalone systems consume valuable IT time managing, maintaining and upgrading each individual system. A single, holistic software suite streamlines efficiency and minimizes redundancy in IT tasks.
  • Consistent experience.
    Standalone systems will have their own unique user interface designs. With a single-provider software suite, agencies get a consistent UX, which can minimize confusion, reduce learning time and increase overall usability.

Ultimately, with a single-provider software suite, agencies achieve transparency, streamline data, and manage department functions in one place. For these and other reasons, leading agencies are turning to Benchmark Analytics and its suite of personnel management software, which includes the Benchmark Management System® (BMS), First Sign® Early Intervention and Case Action Response Engine® (C.AR.E.).

BMS is a comprehensive software suite that features seven analytics-driven modules, which include: 1) Training 2) Use of Force 3) Internal Affairs 4) Activity 5) Officer Profile 6) Performance Evaluation and 7) Community Engagement. These seven integrated modules capture critical data and departmental reports that are easy to view in the BMS dashboard.

First Sign then leverages the data in BMS and analyzes it to identify officers who are exhibiting both on-track and off-track behavior. Once off-track behavior has been identified in First Sign, Benchmark expedites thoughtful and effective early intervention with C.A.R.E. — a proactive, targeted support program that features research-based case management modules for officer-specific interventions.

To learn more about the Benchmark Analytics Software Suite, visit: https://www.benchmarkanalytics.com/police-force-management-blueprint/

Or, contact us today at https://www.benchmarkanalytics.com/public-safety-demo/

Every day we witness extraordinary acts of bravery from those sworn to serve and protect — and who are deserving of our respect and appreciation. But we’ve also witnessed firsthand the impact even a single, negative incident can have on an entire organization. And while that dynamic is not exclusive to policing – and almost certainly exists within most any workplace environment – the consequences can be just so much deeper and more tragic.

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) aptly stated, “the vast majority of this country’s law enforcement officers are principled men and women who provide professional service to the communities they serve. Their responsibilities are great, and the expectations from their communities are high. Unfortunately, there are times when officers’ performance fall short of agency expectations for any number of reasons.”

Police ReformNever before have we as a country had such a sustained national dialogue on police transparency, accountability and yes, reform. While police reform is complex, the idea’s essence is that policing requires transformation in order for today’s agencies to continue to meet the challenges of their profession and better serve their communities. Such transformation requires a vested commitment from police departments for sure, but also from community leaders and elected officials. And the burden is on all to understand what can be done to pre-empt and prevent one more incident from happening in their neighborhoods and on their streets.

Meaningful police reform should include early intervention and warning systems
A law enforcement early intervention and warning system is a police force management tool designed to identify officers whose behavior is concerning, or problematic, at the earliest possible stage so that intervention and support can be offered in an effort to re-direct performance and behaviors toward agency goals.

(Source: Best Practices in Early Intervention System Implementation and Use in Law Enforcement Agencies)

According to an article in Police Chief Magazine, “EISs are a staple in U.S. police departments—a 2007 survey showed that 65 percent of surveyed police departments with 250 or more officers had an EIS. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Police Foundation have all recommended departments use these systems. Most federal consent decrees require a department to use an EIS.”

With that said, there are different types of EI systems to consider. The most common are threshold-based systems, that are reliant on fairly simple triggers. For example, if an officer has had three use-of-force incidents in the last six months . . . or if they’ve taken more than 10 days of sick leave in the last two months . . . a flag gets raised. And the problem with that simple system is that it’s almost always inaccurate. It also creates two types of critical errors — false positives and false negatives.

A research-based system evaluates total behavior patterns including context of activity and peer group, by utilizing algorithms to provide risk scores for officers across the department. This predictive model not only identifies patterns of police officer conduct that lead to problematic behavior, but also identifies patterns of behavior that lead to exceptional conduct. Further, it evolves and gets smarter over time as new insights, lessons learned, innovative practices and technical advancements are uncovered.

The impact of a research-based EIS
As part of an agency’s larger effort to support and improve officer performance and identify and address officers before a serious problem occurs, a research-based system – such as Benchmark’s First Sign® Early Intervention – can enhance accountability and transparency as well as the overall integrity of the agency’s performance.Research EIS

Powered by evidence-based research and analytics, First Sign is preventative by design to notify you at the ‘first sign’ of a real need to intervene. First Sign leverages data captured on officer performance and behaviors and allows supervisors and commanders to review and compare data for individual officers, units and watches. Supervisors can assign intervention actions early on for potentially problematic behavior in need of correction, as well as make recommendations for exceptional performance deserving recognition.

Agencies across the U.S. continue to choose First Sign as part of their police reform strategy, because its data-driven system proactively and pre-emptively identifies potentially problematic officer behavior so supervisors can take corrective action. Ron Huberman, CEO of Benchmark Analytics, stated in a recent article “The whole idea behind what we do is to allow police leaders to get in-front of problematic situations before they occur. What makes it predictable is that officers who are engaged in problematic conduct rarely ever do we see it occur from a single incident, where they had one problematic incident. Typically, it’s a cluster or pattern of problems.”

To learn more about First Sign, visit our page at https://www.benchmarkanalytics.com/first-sign-early-intervention/

To learn more about why your agency should consider an early intervention system, download our Must-Have Checklist for Meaningful Reform: 6 Critical Criteria of an Early Intervention System.

In recent weeks, conversations on law enforcement accreditation have increased among municipal and state law enforcement leaders. For example, Massachusetts is promoting a bill that develops a Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee that will create unified requirements on officer certification and misconduct. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine is encouraging more agencies to pursue law enforcement accreditation, and in Virginia, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police outlined positive reforms for police departments which includes Virginia agencies to achieve either state or national accreditation.

But what is law enforcement accreditation?
In our post, Accreditation 101: The Benefits of State and National Police Accreditation, we shared that law enforcement accreditation is a self-initiated, voluntary process and is based on standards which are reflective of best practices in law enforcement.

Agencies can become nationally accredited through The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc (CALEA), or receive accreditation through a state program. Whether an agency becomes accredited through CALEA or a state program, the accreditation process requires an in-depth review of an agency’s organization, management, operations and administration – often known as standards.

What are accreditation standards?
Accreditation standards increase an agency’s credibility and provide performance norms against agency processes and procedures.  These standards cover roles and responsibilities; relationships with other agencies; organization, management and administration; law enforcement operations, operational support and traffic law enforcement; detainee and court-related services; and auxiliary and technical services.

What is an early intervention system’s role in law enforcement accreditation?
CALEA Standards Chapter 35 emphasizes that a law enforcement agency must be able to depend on the satisfactory work performance of each employee, and this includes having a standardized performance evaluation as well as a personnel early intervention system.

EIS Research

CALEA Standard 31.1.9 specifically states “If an agency has an EIS, a written directive establishes a Personnel Early Intervention System to identify agency employees who may require agency intervention efforts. The directive shall include: a. definitions of employee behaviors or actions to be included for review; b. threshold or trigger levels to initiate a review of employee actions or behavior; c. a review of identified employees, based on current patterns of collected material, that is approved by the agency CEO or designee; d. agency reporting requirements of conduct and behavior; e. documented annual evaluation of the system; f. the responsibility of supervisors; g. remedial action; and h. some type of employee assistance such as a formal employee assistance Program, peer counseling, etc.”

Additionally, as part of CALEA’s standard on EIS, the National Police Foundation shares that “the failure of the agency to develop a comprehensive system can lead to the erosion of public confidence in the agency’s ability to investigate itself, while putting the public and agency employees in greater risk of danger.”

State accreditation programs design standards that capture both CALEA-recognized and state-specific best practices for law enforcement agencies. For example, The Arizona Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ALEAP) Chapter 16 contains standards on performance evaluations and includes standards on annual performance evaluations, as well as probationary employees. The Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ILEAP) has two accreditation tiers for departments, but both contain standards regarding officer performance. Therefore, whether a department is seeking national or state accreditation, it is important for agencies to have an EIS in place that provides a framework for establishing review processes, as well as delivers accurate officer data, in order to meet performance accreditation standards.

What early intervention system (EIS) is required to meet accreditation standards?
Not all EIS are the same.

Early Intervention SystemFor example, threshold-based EIS systems rely on basic activity thresholds, so that when an officer reaches an arbitrary threshold, the officer is flagged for an investigation. The problem with these types of systems is that they aren’t reliable for identifying a real problem that requires intervention; in fact, based on academic research, threshold-based systems result in:

As a result, a threshold system does not necessarily help agencies accurately review officer performance, in order to meet accreditation standards, and provide them the intervention and training plans when needed. Instead, a data-driven early intervention system, like First Sign® Early Intervention, analyzes cumulative officer data on an ongoing basis and allows supervisors to review and compare data for individual officers, units and even watches. This allows supervisors to make recommendations for exceptional performance deserving of recognition or assign intervention actions for concerning behavior.

Research shows there are over 25 indicators that impact an officer’s performance, and fall in four conceptual groups: Event, Organization, Officer, and External/Wellness. As an example, Event information includes: missed court appearances; officer-involved injuries; commendations received; officer training; and community engagement work. Agencies using First Sign work with Benchmark’s data science team to conduct a detailed data exercise which allows each agency to identify the most valuable, accessible, and relevant indicators for their department. Each indicator is then broken into subdomains and analyzed.

The result is having a data-driven EIS in place that serves as a predictive model that identifies patterns of problematic behavior and patterns of exceptional conduct — thus, providing the information agencies need to successfully meet officer performance accreditation standards.

What are next steps?
To learn more about the importance of a data-driven early intervention system, watch our presentation from the 2019 International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference on “What Every Police Chief Needs to Understand about Early Intervention/Warning Systems.”

To learn more about First Sign from a Benchmark representative, fill out the form here.

Note: The following article is reprinted by permission of POLITICO LLC, and originally appeared on June 2, 2020.

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I Was the Mayor of Minneapolis and I Know Our Cops Have a Problem

Racism permeated the culture of the department. But there are ways to change that culture that other cities can copy.

By R.T. Rybak

The searing images from the past several nights of anger and violence in dozens of cities across the country have shocked and horrified the nation. But there is one image that we need to keep fixed in our minds, the one that started it all:

A human being, staring calmly off into the middle distance, while his knee slowly suffocates another human being.

Our repulsion should boil over as we realize that the white police officer, who took an oath to protect and serve that person on the ground, who is black, would not have acted so brutally if the man he was restraining were white. Until every one of us can see that image for what it is—an example of a two-tiered justice system that treats black and white people differently—we cannot move another inch forward. We need to acknowledge that on some level, every one of us had a role in keeping this inequity in place.

I’ll go first, because after living in Minneapolis all my life, covering the Minneapolis Police Department as a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter and, more directly, serving 12 years as mayor of this city, I should.

My own efforts to change a police department and its culture failed badly. That starts with appointing three different police chiefs who all made change but not enough. It includes attempts to diversify the force, to change practices in mental health and numerous efforts to work with individual officers on softening their approach so they could empathize more deeply with community. These failures will haunt me for the rest of my life, and it should. As each of us sees and acknowledges our own part it can be paralyzing. It was for me.

But I was heartened by something a colleague at the Minneapolis Foundation said to me the other day. Chanda Smith Baker grew up and raised a family as an African American in north Minneapolis, and for years has lead the Pillsbury United Communities. She has seen so many more of the consequences of our deep, endemic racism than I ever will. But as we surveyed the damage and pain in our community she said simply: “We have no choice but to act.”

So we are acting. Our foundation, which has been centered on racial equity for decades, is granting $1 million in the next few weeks to community-based solutions that strive for justice and healing in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody. Knowing we need to have tough conversations about race and culture, we launched our “Conversations with Chanda” podcast that will give our community, which has avoided those tough conversations for too long, the space to “go there.”

Like everyone in this city, we know that is still not enough. A very well-intentioned friend asked me what one thing he could do to make this situation better. I had to say, “There’s no one thing.” You can’t fully stop racism in policing without understanding the racism in the laws we ask our police to enforce, the racism in a criminal justice system that over-incarcerates black men, the racism in how we white Americans perceive a threat when we see someone who is black. An unjust economic system matters, and so does the issue where I focus most these days: the intolerable racial inequities in education. So does the classism that allows so many of us with privilege to have someone else’s child put on a police uniform and walk into tough situations so we can safely, mindlessly go about our lives.

But, right now, nothing matters more in Minneapolis than reforming the city’s police. An obvious first step would be to demilitarize the department. As a mayor who took office right after 9/11, I quickly saw that the community-based preventive programs like Bill Clinton’s “cops on the streets” initiative lost funding while we seemingly had a blank check for equipment and weapon systems that too often have the officers we want to “protect and serve” separated from their communities by shields and armored turtle suits.

Fortunately, we don’t need to invent a solution from scratch. We already have the Obama administration’s “21st Century Policing Plan,” which lays out in detail how our country’s police departments can be rebuilt around six pillars: building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer safety and wellness.

One of the most important values I took from that plan is something I learned on a deeply personal level as a mayor: Police officers are human beings. We then train them, put them with others we have trained into cultures that develop around the job and expect them to perform in the most high-stress situations imaginable.

We also know a lot about what makes that human being performing as a police officer thrive in the job or become a headline from a searing incident we could have prevented. The Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago has studied officer conduct over time in major departments and analyzed what actions signal when behavior starts to go off track. This helps us act more quickly when we need to intervene so that officers can be retrained or treated, and get back on track.

When I first saw this research, I realized that if, as mayor, the police chief and I, and the department’s supervisors, had known early when our officers needed our help and attention, we could have saved tens of millions in settlements costs and scores of lives. The problem was we never had the technology or tools to connect in real time what was happening with each officer and we didn’t have access to what we now know about how to step in.

That’s why I joined the founding board of Benchmark Analytics, which is now using that work in 60 cities and the state of New Jersey to connect department internal personnel systems to that deep research so mayors and chiefs can do what I never could to prevent the next tragic incident.

There are many more specific actions that can be taken but above all we need to address police culture. I have never been a police officer, so my experience is limited to what I have seen as a reporter and mayor. But I have come to know so many officers and continue to struggle with how I can know so many truly committed people whose collective actions I don’t recognize. In my city, at least, we have a majority of officers who let a minority of officers create an us-vs.-them culture that over time dehumanizes the people and neighborhoods the officers are supposed to protect and serve. Throw race into this toxic mix and you end up with behavior that often has to be named for what it is: racism. It plays itself out when a knee stays on the neck of a human being treated like he’s not human.

Much has been written by people who know more than I about police culture, but I do know it can be reformed only from within. That means the majority of officers need to rise up and take control of their culture. To the many good officers I know exist, I say this: I know the consequences of being shunned by your co-workers, but I also know you know in your heart that George Floyd should not be dead. Your silence is deafening and this city, and this country, cannot move forward until we hear your voices.

There is good news. We have stood at this place before, in Minneapolis and across the country. Yes, this might seem like the beginning of a familiar and dispiriting cycle: a terrible incident, a few days of promises and then, as the attention fades, so does the hope of change. But I also know that this is not a predestined conclusion. Change is possible. I know because I have seen it before in this very city.

Forty-one years ago, I was a young crime reporter. Night after night, I covered a police department that had deep issues of trust with two communities: residents who were black, and residents who were gay.

All these years later, one of those groups has seen enormous change. The Minneapolis police, which back then routinely beat and humiliated gay residents, is now one of the most gay-friendly departments in the country with openly gay officers serving in every part of the force, including at one point, the role of chief. There was no one action that made that possible, instead, in thousands of interactions, that wall creating an us vs. them turned into a we because each group recognized we are human beings on the other side.

The fact that we have seen so much progress with gay residents and almost none with black residents says a lot about the perniciousness of racism. We need to own that. But it does also say that change is possible, and now we have to prove that is true.

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