Calls for policing reform, the adoption of new law enforcement technologies, and changing community needs all require high standards in officer training and education. Put simply, as citizens and policy makers ask more of law enforcement agencies, additional training and greater education for officers is required. This is nothing new in the world of law enforcement. Since the professionalization of policing nearly 200 years ago, training and ongoing education have been one of the defining features of law enforcement and have generally been a marker of its progression as a profession over the years.

Now two decades into the 21st century, the way law enforcement training is thought of has advanced past simply academy and field training. Mirroring the rest of the country, experience in higher education, whether it is a two- or four-year degree, is increasingly seen as a valuable qualification. This is especially true in law enforcement in which, during any given shift, an officer may be required to draw on skills from the fields of psychology, sociology, social work, criminology, law, and much more. Higher education gives an officer a broader selection of not only tools but experiences to draw on to better equip themselves for this reality.

Looking Back

As explained in detail in a 2020 IACP Leadership Series conversation between Bill Bratton and Benchmark Analytics CEO Ron Huberman, policing in the United States has constantly evolved to better suit the needs of the society it serves. As the country grew in the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution took hold in American cities, a population shift occurred along with a shift from a largely agrarian society to a more industrialized one. Driven by new technology and a changing economy, people sought newly created jobs near urban centers. With many American cities seeing rapid growth, a need for law and order surpassed what volunteer constables and night watchmen could reasonably provide.

These societal changes spurred by the Industrial Revolution occurred on the same scale but earlier in the United Kingdom. Recognizing the need to rethink the role and scope of policing, Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, now widely thought of as the father of modern policing, established the Metropolitan Police Force in London in 1829. Most notably, this moved policing away from informal, volunteer units to a trained and professional force. These ideas spread quickly to the United States and in the following years with most major cities professionalizing their departments in the next two decades.

Reform as a Constant

“The Reform Era” of policing is generally thought to have started in the 1930s when both internal and external factors led to another major shift in how departments functioned. The Evolving Strategy of Policing, a landmark study jointly published by Harvard University and several federal law enforcement agencies, describes this era as when police departments became “law enforcement agencies” — in that the training, services, and operational scope once again moved further towards uniform standards. This era continued through the 1970s. During this time, things like emergency medical transport and social services, once provided in one way or another by police departments, were delegated to more specialized professionals (EMTs, social workers). Advances in technology, most notably 911 dispatch, changed not only the public perception of police capabilities, but also the demands on officers and their departments.

From the 1980s onward, efforts have been made to develop a more holistic view of crime and how policing addresses it. CompStat brought in a new, analytical frame for viewing and responding to statistics, and researchers used this new wealth of data to understand policing on a more rigorous academic level than had even been pursued before. With the events of September 11, policing once again shifted from a predominantly community-based focus to one incorporating international intelligence-sharing and data gathering.

A Culture of Self-Improvement

What these leaps forward in policing scope, technology, and philosophy all have in common is that they involve greater demands placed on the officers, leaders, and departments charged with enacting them. At the intersection of all of this is an emerging consensus on the benefits for formal education among officers. Additionally, police officers – like social workers and medical professionals – also have a long history of continuing education and training requirements that reflect the profession’s commitment to continual self-improvement. Education and Law Enforcement

Beyond simply upholding a tradition of ongoing education and training there is an increasing body of evidence that shows higher educational attainment produces all manner of positive outcomes for police officers, their departments, and, most importantly, the communities they serve. Research over the last two decades, compiled in an article appearing in the October 2020 issue of Police Chief published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), has shown that a correlation exists between officers with two- or four-year degrees and “…avoidance of situations that have recently brought so much public criticism of policing, such as the use of force, miscommunication, and accountability”. Further studies add to the body of evidence that officers tend to receive fewer citizen complaints overall, fewer policy violations, and are less likely to be involved with “severe or career-ending” misconduct.

On the more subjective side, it is well-understood higher education plays an important role in exposing students to points of view and experiences unlike their own. It has long been held in the world of higher education that this exposure to different ideas plays a vital role in increasing one’s ability to empathize as well (more on this in a future article). Furthermore, college or university experience is generally thought to improve the critical thinking skills of those who have completed even some curriculum. Studies show as many as 92% of students at large intuitions reporting they’ve made some gains in critical thinking which, in turn, is linked with “higher levels of self-control, analytical thinking, and reduced impulsivity”.

As demands on law enforcement continue to be a part of an ongoing evolution reflecting the changing needs of the communities they serve, officers with a broad scope of knowledge derived from formal educational experience will likely find themselves better positioned to manage these expectations. In conjunction with tactical, hands-on training as well as new approaches to community relations, higher educational attainment has been shown to generally improve law enforcement interactions and outcomes. Though the job of policing has changed dramatically since its professionalization, the need for more rigorous training and higher educational standards is certain to remain a constant.

Look for our next article focusing on new training methodologies focusing on interpersonal relationships and de-escalation.

 

A crucial element of the police reform discourse is the rising cost of police misconduct settlements and the impact they have on municipal budgets. Elected and agency officials must contend with these costs though taxpayers in most instances are subsidizing the funding used in settlements. There is ample reason for law enforcement personnel, lawmakers, and taxpayers to all be keenly interested in the cost of these settlements. What do misconduct settlements look like? What is being done to mitigate the costs of misconduct settlements? These are questions this article endeavors to answer.

Misconduct Settlements: A Nationwide Concern

Even tracking the overall costs of police misconduct settlements has proven a significant challenge for researchers. There is currently no national reporting database and municipalities’ approach to record-keeping can vary widely. On a national level, the data just doesn’t exist to present a broader picture of how much misconduct settlements cost taxpayers. In an effort to address this lack of data, in March of 2021, the Cost of Police Misconduct Act was introduced into Congress, which seeks to compel reporting to federal authorities. Whether or not this bill will be passed into law is presently unclear, but it does represent one of the most high-profile efforts to explicitly tie the costs of settlements with the pushes for reform.

Despite the lack of specific data, it is well-understood that the costs of misconduct settlements are quite substantial and create strain on city budgets. In a recent survey of 31 of the 50 cities with the highest police-to-civilian ratios in the country, available data shows settlements cost these municipalities more than $3 billion over the last decade. Though the dataset is incomplete, it illustrates the substantial figures municipalities are contending with in settling misconduct allegations. Until recently, these costs were not typically figured into municipal budgets for policing and related costs.

City Budgets Misconduct SettlementsFurther complicating matters is how municipalities pay for misconduct settlements. In general, many small to medium-sized cities carry some form of liability insurance or risk-pool while the largest cities are either self-insured or will issue bonds to cover settlements and their related costs. Both approaches have their drawbacks. Bonds accumulate interest and servicing fees while insurance typically is funded via property taxes or other public user fees. In either model, it is once again taxpayers that ultimately bear the cost.

These settlement costs appear to be trending upwards too. In a survey of ten cities, the Wall Street Journal found misconduct settlement amounts rose from $1 billion between 2010 and 2014 to $1.6 billion from 2015 to 2019. There is no one reason for this rise but it is generally thought that things like increasing public pressure in favor of reform efforts and the widespread use of smart phone cameras have contributed to this rise. Additionally, some agencies and municipal governments look towards a settlement as a way to avoid a drawn out and expensive court battle.

Agencies Respond

Law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and taxpayers all have an obvious interest in controlling misconduct settlement costs. These unplanned expenses can significantly impact municipal budgets and can force unexpected reallocation of funds. Agencies and municipal governments are employing a number of different methods to control these costs. Here are some of the most common and effective examples:

  • Additional training is a strategy agencies and municipalities are using to reduce the likelihood of an adverse event leading to a settlement. Training requirements are frequently a component of new reform legislation being passed at the state level. De-escalation training and coursework related to identifying and responding to mental health crises are becoming more prevalent as are new standards in use-of-force training. Effectively managing and tracking officer training is seen as a proactive tool aimed at preventing law enforcement encounters that end up in settlements.
  • In recent years, the companies that insure small to medium municipalities are responding to the growing cost of settlements by exerting more control over agencies’ operations. This insurance risk management oversight takes on many forms such as policy audits, use-of-force simulators, and even ride-alongs to observe officer behavior. In some cases, insurers can even influence staffing decisions. Other municipalities participate in risk pools in which they “share” risk. The Association of Government Risk Pools connects member cities and facilitates collaboration while providing best standards and education.
  • Improvements to data collection are furthering policymakers’ and agency leadership’s ability to base decisions on rigorous analysis of data. This encompasses everything from body-worn cameras and audio recording devices to Internal Affairs and Use-of-Force metrics that are tracked and monitored via software. With more comprehensive and smarter data collection, policymakers and agency heads can be more confident in their decision-making, knowing it is based on a holistic view of performance and personnel data.
  • Early Intervention Systems (EIS), are software suites designed to help agency leaders monitor officer behavior and, ideally, intervene before any issues arise. Benchmark Analytics’ First Sign® Early Intervention System is preventative by design and more sophisticated than other, trigger or threshold-based systems, allowing leaders to identify off-track officer behavior before it rises to a level of seriousness that could involve an out-of-policy incident.
  • Once an EIS has alerted an agency’s leadership to the potential for performance issues, it is up to them to implement corrective measures to get that officer back on track. This often involves additional support like further training and mentorship. Benchmark’s Case Action Response Engine® (C.A.R.E.) helps track not only that assigned interventions are being completed but that officer performance is in fact on a path to improvement.

Elected officials, taxpayers, and agency leaders all have a vested interest in seeing the costs of misconduct settlements minimized. Data collection and analysis pertaining to officer performance are vital parts of the conversation around reducing the overall costs of misconduct settlements. By using new research-based software tools to better understand this wealth of data, agency leaders are empowering themselves to make the decisions necessary to ensure police funding is wisely spent on things like agency growth and training — and ultimately reducing the likelihood of problematic behavior that can potentially contribute to the rising cost of misconduct.

In our previous article we examined the brisk pace in the passage of new state-level reform legislation and how it’s impacting law enforcement agencies. Often driven by high-profile law enforcement incidents, these new mandates frequently result in agencies updating their training, certification, and data-gathering capabilities. At the intersection of these new laws and the agencies they impact are POST organizations.

What are state POST organizations?

Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) organizations are tasked with implementing elements of new legislation, especially as it relates to tracking data involving training and certification of officers based on these new requirements. POSTs operate at the state level, administering training and officer certification. These organizations are not exclusively known as POSTs either. For example, in Tennessee the equivalent certifying body is known at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy; in Illinois there is the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board; and in Texas the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement manages training and certification. Despite the varying nomenclature, the scope of these organizations is roughly the same – to administer and certify the training of officers, provide guidance on best practices to agencies, and, increasingly, to collect large sets of data on police interactions.

Reform State POSTIn the last 12 months alone, the National Conference of State Legislatures has tracked approximately 3,000 bills at introduced or passed at the state level related to police reform. Many of these bills recognize a shortfall in centralized data reporting encompassing everything from training certifications to officer interactions in the field. As a result, demands on state POSTs and their data collection capabilities are expanding, requiring them to modernize the ways in which they deal with this data.

On the national level, The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) is an organization of POST directors and leaders in law enforcement training from all 50 states. IADLEST does not govern training standards, however, they do certify courses through the National Certification Program which ensures coursework is accepted by most state POSTs and is transferrable if an officer joins a new agency. They also maintain several resource databases like the National Law Enforcement Academy Recourse Network, a center for training materials, best practices, and discussion among public safety trainers and officials.

New State Legislation and POSTs

Many of these new laws seek to standardize certification and training at the state, rather than local level. How POST organizations meet the challenge of new statewide requirements is going to be a key factor in determining the overall success of new law enforcement legislation. Here is a look at several prominent examples of the role state POSTs will play in enacting new laws.

  • Beginning in 2022, Colorado POST will, among other things, create and maintain a statewide database of information related to an officer’s “untruthfulness, repeated failure to follow POST training requirements, decertification, or termination for cause”. This new mandate is part of broad news efforts contained in SB20-217, signed into law by Governor Polis. (In 2019 Benchmark Analytics was selected as the provider of record for Colorado POST’s training and certification management system and is responsible for the implementation of a new Learning Management System designed to track the training, employment status, and certification of approximately 40,000 personnel statewide.)
  • This year, Utah’s state legislature passed a pair of POST-related bills that became law in May. SB106 mandates that the POST council create statewide minimum use of force policies while SB13 calls on agencies to provide information about certain internal investigations of officers to the state POST. Both bills were constructed to more thoroughly establish statewide standards administered by POST.
  • In New Hampshire, Governor Sununu signed an Executive Order on Law Enforcement, Accountability, Community, and Transparency. As a result of this executive order, Benchmark Analytics was selected by the New Hampshire POST to head up a statewide capture of employment, training, and certification data across the state’s more than 200 law enforcement agencies.
  • As a part of a larger law enforcement bill signed by Governor Baker, Massachusetts established, for the first time, a statewide POST commission. The nine-member commission will be charged with creating certification standards for officers as well as investigating misconduct allegations.
  • SB2 was recently approved by the California state senate, establishing the state’s POST commission as the authority for certifying peace officers. The bill also mandates the creation of a nine-member Peace Officer Standards Accountability Advisory. This board will be responsible for reviewing findings of POST investigations and making recommendations on de-certification. Furthermore, the POST Commission voted in February to add a new four-hour use of force training requirement for officers.
  • New training mandates in Missouri, passed into law by the state legislature, were approved by the state’s POST commission. The mandates require that officers complete two separate one-hour classes covering de-escalation techniques and coursework on recognizing implicit bias. These two new hours of instruction are included in the 24 hours of annual training officers must complete on an annual basis. Additionally, the POST commission has established a committee to study pre-employment background checks and to make recommendations on their statewide implementation.
  • Signed into law in July of 2020, the Minnesota Police Accountability Act contained several provisions aimed at providing the state POST with the financial resources and leadership needed to enact new legislation. The bill called for the expansion of the POST board to 17 members to be appointed by the governor. The legislation also provided nearly $4 million in funding to POST for the expansion of its data collection efforts, training, and associated operational costs.

With these new resources, the Minnesota POST undertook a comprehensive audit led by IADLEST. The purpose of this audit was to modernize POST business processes, provide data for strategic planning, and to clarify procedures surround training and certification. As a part of these efforts, Minnesota POST partnered with

More data collection, greater uniformity in training, and the monitoring of officer certification status have been, and likely will continue to be, key provisions of law enforcement bills being passed throughout the country. Much of this legislation requires state POSTs to enhance their abilities to not only track both training and officer certification but create new systems and procedures for capturing and reporting data. As more of these bills become laws, POST organizations will likely continue to see their roles grow even further in enacting these changes.

 

 

 

It would be an understatement to say that in the last 12 months the world has changed in ways no one could have predicted. A global pandemic disrupted social norms, healthcare infrastructure and economic stability. Add to that a series of high-profile law enforcement incidents that ultimately resulted in renewed calls for police reform — and it’s easy to see how historians will look back at this year as a pivotal moment for change in the face of challenge and adversity.

One of the outcomes was an unusually active legislative environment, with states from coast to coast focused on enhanced as well as new police reform legislation. During this tenure of rapid change that continues today, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture in state-level policing reforms — to more thoroughly understand them in a broader context. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post more than 2,000 policing-related bills have been introduced across the country since June of 2020. By unpacking and understanding the broad aims of these bills, departments and their leaders can better anticipate potential reform efforts that affect them and implement more effective change management strategies in response.

state-driven police reformTypically, most states have a pre-determined legislative period, with some not even meeting on an annual basis. In the last 12 months, 23 of them held special legislative sessions outside of their normal legislative periods. While many of these sessions were called to tackle the impacts of the pandemic and provide special funding for first responders, it also gave lawmakers the opportunity to address urgent calls for police reform specific to use of force as well as accountability and transparency.

Newly compiled numbers from the National Conference of State Legislatures show that almost half of the states enacted some form of legislation that changed the way police operate. These reform efforts covered everything from physical interactions during arrests to record-keeping and compliance. In addition to these 24, several more states passed oversight reforms, calling for commissions or other groups to study ways to improve standards and transparency.

Two of the most common types of reform have been those addressing the use of neck-restraints, or chokeholds, and those mandating an officer’s duty to report or intervene. 18 states and the District of Columbia passed laws limiting the use of neck restraints with ten states banning them outright. Other legislation passed in 12 states requires officers to report and, in many cases, attempt to intervene to prevent out-of-policy instances of force by a fellow officer. Further, some states have enacted broader, more comprehensive reform measures — for example:

  • Colorado Governor Polis signed into law a broad accountability bill titled Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, where agencies will be required – among other things – to report all details of all use of force incidents that result in death or serious bodily injury; track all instances when a peace officer resigned under investigation for violation of policy; and maintain a database on officer de-certifications
  • Governor Sununu of New Hampshire signed an executive order establishing the state’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency. Benchmark Analytics was selected to develop and implement a state capture of employment, training, and disciplinary history as well as certification across 200+ statewide law enforcement agencies.
  • Washington state Governor Inslee recently signed a dozen police accountability bills into law, notably including the creation of a statewide database of police use of force incidents, through the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
  • New York, where Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that every law enforcement agency in the state adopt a reform plan by April 1, 2021. Titled New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, the order requires that agencies develop clear policies specific to Use of Force and Early Intervention.
  • In Virginia, Governor Northam signed sweeping legislation comprised of a dozen bills covering everything from use of force and tactics to crisis intervention protocol, all areas requiring additional training and certification for officers.
  • The state of Utah passed several law enforcement bills signed into law by Governor Cox, including requiring Utah agencies to meet the FBI’s standards for reporting use of force — as well as setting up a panel to consider and make recommendations on data collection.
  • After the passage and signing of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020, Benchmark Analytics partnered with Minnesota POST to implement a statewide portal to capture internal affairs misconduct complaints across 400+ of the state’s law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, some states are mandating the reporting of incident data to both state and federal agencies. These reporting requirements as part of oversight trends are generally aimed at increasing the dataset available to the communities that agencies serve — as well as policymakers, researchers and data scientists. One of the thoughts behind these new requirements is that, with a larger dataset to study, it will better enable evidence-based decision-making at multiple levels of government and law enforcement.

Most observers see these legislative actions as the beginning, rather than conclusion of a process towards meaningful change in the way law enforcement agencies track and manage their forces. Comprehensive personnel management systems can make a substantial difference in the ease of which this data is monitored internally and reported out to various agencies and oversight bodies.

The Benchmark Management System (BMS), for example, features reporting tools designed to simplify data retrieval and review, putting incident-based data for individual officers, comparative stats for units, and a host of other data analysis features in one, simple-to-implement tool. This not only allows leaders to ensure accurate and timely milestone reporting to satisfy the requirements of any new legislation mandates, but day in and day out it empowers them to monitor performance data in real time, giving them an up-to-the-minute picture of the officers under their command. BMS also includes a next-generation Training Management System to help agencies track and manage any additional requirements and certifications as a result of new reform standards.

Law enforcement agencies are experiencing a time of rapid change in the way they do their work. New legislation will undoubtedly continue to shape not only law enforcement practices, but also training and the way data is managed and reported. By having a deeper understanding of not just the mandates of new legislation but the trends they represent, law enforcement agencies and their leaders can better rise to the occasion, ensuring their officers are well-equipped to navigate these changes.

Our next article will be looking at the role that state POST organizations are expected to play in these latest reform efforts.

The following is part 2 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and John Rappaport, Professor of Law, Ludwig and Hilde Wolf Research Scholar, University of Chicago. In this entry, Mr. Rappaport shares his thoughts on where policing fits in dealing with today’s broad societal issues and needs. He also weighs in on the growing importance of data collection and in-depth research to drive and direct applied science for developing more effective reform and police support measures.

RH: John, as we continue our discussion on police reform, I’d like to talk about the fundamentally broader societal pictures that relate to both police and race which have all come together, in many ways, with the police in the middle.

From my experience, a critical part of the equity conversation has to be K-12 spending for schools. It has to be housing. And the discrimination therein. There’s a very long list of things, yet from my vantage point, we are months and months into this dialogue . . . and it has not grown any broader than police. it’s still very narrow. First, do you agree?  And secondly, what do you make of that? What do you make of something, where historically there are people who say, “Hey, yes, we need to reform police”? There’s a real issue there. I hope no one’s denying that reform needs to occur, but why is it not broadened?

JR: I think that a lot of people who are active in policing issues right now would say that’s the backdrop for all of this. They would say that’s exactly what defunding is about. It’s about freeing up funds to be spent on K-12 education or low-income housing or other things. And sometimes you hear variations of the phrase — like divest-invest, right? It’s divest money from the police and invest it elsewhere, or defund and reallocate, or things like this. I agree that the messaging tends to focus exclusively on the policing part. I’m just speculating here, but it could be because there’s more consensus about where the money should come from . . . than what it should go to.

So, it may be that if you walked around and say, “Well, what should we do with this money that we’re going to gain from defunding the police?” You’d probably get a wide variety of opinions. People haven’t coalesced around whether it should be spent on K-12 or housing or what it is. But I do believe that’s on people’s minds. And I do think that’s sort of implicit – though I can understand from the perspective of the police – why it might feel like why are you only talking about us — as though we’re all the good and all the bad that society could be? There’s a lot more going on here. I think that’s right. And I believe it’s probably something that the movement should look to improve about its messaging.

RH: I asked it because I often feel like I hear disconnected conversations. So what are the conversations that happen in close police circles, and what are conversations when the police aren’t there, right? One of the common things that I hear among police – and I think it’s less defensive than it’s likely going to sound from talking to police leaders and others – is that folks are let out of mental institutions with no backup, and ultimately, fall on the police. Schools are failing in many communities, and fundamentally, the police are called in to assist.

These are super problematic, deep issues. And the police very often say, “Well, we’re doing what we can, but we need help from others.” Oddly, I think there’s agreement in many places, but there are different conversations. Of course, it gets harder when they say, “I want to take it out of your budget.”

Moving on with the idea here, I’d like you to give some grades. What do you think the police are doing really well – or have done well, let’s say, over the last 20 years – and where would you say they’re falling down? What does that look like to you, John?

JR: Wow, no one’s ever asked me this question before. First, I think that it’s just essential to acknowledge the variation; there are all sorts of different law enforcement agencies out there. Some are making really serious efforts to improve, and some are not for whatever reasons — lack of will, lack of resources, lack of personnel, whatever it is. Relating back to something you said earlier, I do think the police have become more professional over time. And I think that has had a lot of advantages . . . it’s gotten rid of some of the police corruption that we saw in earlier decades.

But I think some would say that it has had the downside of being accompanied by a sort of almost military-type mindset, chain of command. And there’s a lot to be said for chain of command. The fear is that it makes people feel too much like they’re in the military – and when we civilians see police – it’s almost like seeing a soldier. I don’t know that that’s the way we want to go about things. I think it does feel like the police don’t have the trust of a lot of poorer, marginalized communities – especially communities of color – and I think that’s a problem.

I think that’s a problem for relations. It’s a problem for sentiment. It’s also, frankly, a problem for fighting crime. The clearance rates in some big cities of homicides are awful — and they’re more awful when victims are black or Hispanic. And, of course, there’s multiple causes here. Some of it may be attributed to not taking black lives seriously enough, but another reason might be that you’re not getting a lot of cooperation from people in the community because there’s not a relationship of trust there. And so, I think that it really harms both sides.

I have appreciated the willingness of at least some police departments to collect better data, think more carefully about data, try to learn from data and recognize patterns. Sometimes this is about fighting crime better – understanding predictive policing and things like that – but at other times it’s really about fighting police misconduct better or identifying patterns of bad behavior.

RH: We at Benchmark are not going to disagree with that, John.

JR: Yes, exactly. And I think there’s a lot more to be done in this direction, but better data will allow everyone to understand this institution better. This includes the police, the public, the academics who study it, and the people who work in the space — I think that it’s going to help everyone. And, I believe that the police have been going in the right direction . . . but it needs to go faster, and it needs to become more widespread.

RH: For sure. As someone who’s been in the profession and out of the profession supporting the profession, I feel like there’s been a lot of well-meaning police reform — but there’s so much ahead of us, right? There’s so much to do.

You know John, from a historical context one of the things that – again from conversations that I get to have with police chiefs and others – I don’t often share the fact that, in this moment, there is an airing of historical racial wrongs that come with this, which means it’s not just about fixing the moment.

It’s also about an acknowledgment — where you have generational stories; there’s a story of someone’s great-grandfather and grandfather and father who were mistreated by the police. And it was deeply racial . . . and it was wrong. Now, there’s never been a moment to grieve or a time of sharing the grief. All of a sudden, there’s this profound societal opportunity that’s opened to us — where all of these grievances that have lived there forever – and didn’t have a broader audience – now have an audience. And people are finally paying attention.

To me, that’s at least a piece of it — this generational rage that never got to be spoken outside of the communities that were most impacted. And that brings a huge challenge to police and police leaders, because not only do they have to show good faith efforts, but they need to show that they are systemically changing their institutions. Because even if you win the trust for the moment, the institution is not trusted — so it doesn’t allow for a lot of missteps.

Given that, what does it look like historically from your perspective? You mentioned that you took a look following the incidents in the summer of 2014,

and noted the search increases in Google Trends. Headlines and stories all skyrocketed as it related to police misconduct — and since then, it’s not increased. That is, the actual activity is flat. What does it look like historically to today? Overall, if you were to look at the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, even further back, is there any good data to tell us that story?

JR: There’s not. We have really very little idea of how many people were, say, killed by the police annually before maybe 2013. There were datasets: the FBI had a dataset and the CDC had a dataset — but basically, everyone who’s ever looked at them has concluded that they’re grossly incomplete. The first time we ever had anything close to comprehensive data was actually in 2013. And that was put together by activists.

Then there’ve been some newspapers, the Washington Post has a database as well. But it’s actually very hard to say what the trend has been over a longer period of time — to the extent that I’m uncomfortable even speculating.

RH: It’s really interesting because you would think something as societally important as the number of people who are shot by the police would be recorded. From my historical perspective, and from what I know, it’s not been a huge number . . . but not being able to provide a trend line in 2020, over the last 20 years, is kind of remarkable.

John, I want to finish up on the same issue of data. We’re very grateful that you chair the National Police Early Intervention and Outcome Research Consortium that’s partnered with Benchmark.

You guys are an independent research consortium who operate independently, but we’re in a lucky position being able to share anonymized data with you, in order to help you ask interesting research questions and make all of us smarter. Can you talk a little bit about the consortium and what you hope to accomplish with it — along with the kinds of questions that you ultimately think the data will be able to tell us?

JR: Yes. Well, I’m grateful to be in this position. I’m excited to get my hands into the data and start working. We have a great group of people working with this consortium — criminologists, sociologists, economists, law professors. I think the overarching question that everyone wants to answer is, how do we reduce this problem? How do we make it so that people don’t need to be out on the streets? How do we have it work so that fewer people are hurt or killed by the police? I think it’ll make the police happier — and I think it’ll make the public happier. How do we do this?

I think the way I conceive the research path is it consists of two directions; what we would call basic science and applied science. Sometimes we’re still going to be studying what seem like very basic questions — what are the career trajectories of successful officers, and the path of officers who end up getting fired?  Likewise, learn more about the circumstances under which officers use force, and possibly, whether there are particular patterns of escalation that we can see in large-scale data that might help us point the way towards solutions.

Furthermore, how do officers behave under different kinds of circumstances — whether it’s the number of hours they’re working in a week, or the weather, or all sorts of other considerations like that? Those are basic science questions. They’re not going to be something that you can immediately cash out as a tool to improve police behavior. But nevertheless, advancing our understanding of police behavior is always going to take us in that direction.

And then I think there are the applied questions — and I think it’s a chance to try to learn more about interventions. Obviously, one of the things Benchmark does with its software is predict – with a greater accuracy than prior tools – what officers are at the highest risk of having an adverse incident. What we don’t know enough about yet is what to do then? I think there’s a sense of actions like recommend retraining, or counseling of some sort. But I think those are somewhat empty concepts. We actually know very little about what kinds of trainings work and don’t work — and what kinds of interventions, that might be very different from retraining somebody, that might actually work more effectively to help prevent the problem.

Maybe an early intervention system and red flag is the sign that you need a day off — you’re fatigued, you’re stressed, you’re worn out, or maybe you need a new setting, right? Maybe it’s not always about retraining. And then can we tell the difference between officers who maybe do need some counseling or training, and the ones who just need a change of scenery or a break? These are the questions that, I think, this unique source of data will hopefully allow us to get traction on.

RH: For sure. The answer to that critical intervention question; how do you support officers to be better at the craft of policing? What’s interesting, having been in the education world and coming back to policing, is that in education for K-12 specifically, there’s just a huge amount of research around what professional development is effective — in terms of the quantity, the type, the application . . . even how does professional development impact student achievement. Research has really helped provide a guide of how teachers can just become better teachers. In policing, as important a profession as it is and critically important to society, there’s nothing.

You can’t find any evidence-based research to say, “Wow, these types of interventions help the police to be better police, right? It makes them better at their job.” We’ve given the police very difficult challenges, but yet haven’t pulled in the support or just the humanity to help them be great cops, the kinds of police that society is yearning for — gifted at de-escalation and interact in a way that’s trusted and well-received. By the way, I’ve worked with tons of cops who do that incredibly well every single day. The goal is for the ones who don’t do it so well, how do we help them be as effective as the others?

With that, John, I am grateful for your participation in our 2020 IACP Leadership Series. Thank you so much — we’re all looking forward to learning more about the work your consortium is conducting.

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 John Rappaport, Professor of Law, Ludwig and Hilde Wolf Research Scholar, University of Chicago. In this entry, Mr. Rappaport discusses the evolving role of insurance in police reform.

He also shares his thoughts on this important moment in time, which has created such an outcry for reform, as well as different perspectives on funding options proposed to help balance a variety of societal needs.

RH: We’re really excited to have John Rappaport take part in our leadership series. John comes to us as a professor from the University of Chicago Law School. And we’re pleased to report that he chairs a research consortium associated with Benchmark, known as the National Police Early Intervention and Outcome Research Consortium — a group focused on a variety of compelling, contemporary issues in the policing world.

John, you’ve written a ton of really interesting pieces on the role of insurance and police reform. When I first heard about that I was like that seems a little odd to me. It was insurance, right? Can you tell us a little bit about the insurance landscape — and why you see that, or what the research has shown that to be, in terms of a driver for police reform?

JR: Sure. I think it may be more appropriate to characterize it as a potential driver of police reform. It’s an important lever. I think the insurance companies are an important player in this arena, and they can play in one direction or they can play in another . . . or they can play very, very passively. Basically, I think a lot of people haven’t known about this for very long because we tend to focus on our conversations about policing on the same few cities over and over. We’re always talking about New York, Chicago, where we both live, or LA.

And these big cities – along with a handful of the biggest of cities in any given state – are usually self-insured, which is a fancy way of saying they’re mostly not insured. Or, they maybe have some kind of excess insurance that kicks in when there’s a really, really serious and costly incident. But for the most part, they’re paying the judgments and settlements for any police-related liability out of the city’s budget.

Most law enforcement agencies in this country – there are 18,000 of them – most of them are not in places like Chicago, New York or LA. They’re in much smaller places where they don’t have the tax base that big cities have . . . and if they get hit with a million-dollar or two- million-dollar settlement — that is an enormous deal for them. They don’t have that kind of excess money lying around, so they go out in the market and they buy insurance. And what happens then is that you’ve got an insurance company that is promising to pay out any money that this city might owe in the future in a judgement or settlement for some police liability-related issue.

And so, the insurance company doesn’t really want to pay out. It’s in the insurance company’s interest to reduce the amount of payouts. Just like your property insurer wants you to install sprinklers and have fire extinguishers because they don’t want to pay out. If there is a fire, they want to keep it small. It’s the same kind of relationship. So, insurance companies find themselves in a place where they have a financial incentive to try to reduce police misconduct. They do this through various kinds of loss prevention. Just as in the property context where they might recommend sprinklers and fire extinguishers, insurers in the policing context will recommend certain kinds of training, certain equipment, certain policies about use of force — and things like that.

RH: But today my understanding is that it’s not commonplace, but it’s a potential. What are your thoughts, John?

JR: Well, I think it’s actually fairly common. In some of my work I’ve written about some extreme examples where insurers have said, “We’ve really had it.” This may be a tiny department – let’s say four officers – and there’s one guy who gets sued 10 times a year, and at some point, the insurer says, “We’ve had it. You get rid of this guy or we’re not going to cover you anymore.” I have found some examples like that. Those I think are the exception.

But I think that some are more mundane, but still very important types of loss prevention that I mentioned — like weighing in on policies and education on legal developments. For a lot of small departments, they don’t have a legal staff, they don’t have a city attorney with a lot of extra bandwidth. So, staying abreast of the latest developments in Fourth Amendment law, let’s say, is really challenging. The insurers play a role in that and in doing online education or classroom education.

They play a role sometimes in subsidizing expensive kinds of training — like there are these prequel virtual reality simulators that you can use to train officers on how to resolve difficult situations without using force; but they’re really, really expensive. And so sometimes an insurer – basically using pooled money from lots of different departments – can buy one and make it available to all the departments.

So, I think things like that are happening right now, but there’s a lot of variation.

The reason I started by saying this is the story about the potential for reform is that there’s a lot of variation among insurers. And the insurers don’t necessarily feel completely comfortable thinking of themselves this way. They think of themselves as partners – here to support the agencies and help them
do their jobs better – but not here to tell them what to do.

That said, I think depending on who you ask – and what their motives are – they might characterize what’s going on a little bit differently.

RH: Understood. Super interesting and I think it’s going to change. You talked about police reform. And, and you know, we’ve had many chapters of police reform. There was the professional model. Then there was problem-oriented policing, followed by community policing. Compstat was in the middle of community policing as well, which had a big impact on crime. I’ll give you a minute warning here, before asking you about what the next chapter of police reform might look like?

Let’s back up, first. Because I think back in March, when the pandemic first hit, to say that we are going to have broad civil unrest associated primarily with police reform — I certainly wasn’t predicting it, and I’m not sure a lot of other people were. Can you give us a sense of what changed; what was it about the George Floyd event . . . or the pandemic . . . or this moment in American history that caused this outcry?

JR: It’s a good question. I have to say as a responsible academic that these things always have multiple causes. Just as crime rates have multiple causes. Things like social movements, and why this moment rather than that moment — there’s always a lot of different causes. And I can’t claim to know . . . but let me give you my take. I’ve done some research that suggests that things really changed in the public’s eyes in the summer of 2014, when Michael Brown and Eric Garner were killed. You can just look at objective data sources like Google Trends, and look at how often people search in Google for the words “police brutality” or “police misconduct”. Before the summer of 2014, it was basically flat and then it spikes up after these events.

Also, press coverage about police misconduct and police brutality also spikes up in the summer of 2014 if you just count the number of stories using these terms. In some of my research, I actually say – and this was written before George Floyd was killed – what’s going on in policing? It seems like everyone is so worked up about policing, everyone is talking about policing. Are the police sort of spiraling out of control, or is it actually reflective of a change in public attitudes?

My co-author and I, we looked at all the evidence we had – using insurance claims data, actually – and we found really no evidence that the police were getting any worse, or behaving any worse. You can also just see this in some sort of topline measures of number of people killed by the police per year. Not saying it’s low enough, but it hasn’t been getting higher. It’s basically been flat, yet it feels in the air like things are really changing, right? And I think that’s reflective of changing public attitudes. So, I think that the public is becoming increasingly sensitized to policing issues since 2014.

The movement has been growing, but clearly what happened with George Floyd was a tipping point. I think sometimes the simplest explanation is the best. That video is really, really harrowing to watch. Whatever happened with Michael Brown is not on video. And I think the video of Eric Garner being killed shook a lot of people, but there you can see some struggle — and different people can look at it in different ways. I have my view about it, but I understand that people watch the video and see different things. It was pretty hard in my opinion to watch the George Floyd video and not be disturbed by that.

And you put the COVID-related shutdown on top of that — when people are feeling on edge, they’re irritable. They’re also upset with the presidential administration. I think it just exploded. But I think that it’s really the culmination of years and years in the making. So, it’s just the right set of conditions . . . and the right match dropped into the fuel. From my perspective, that’s the explosion that we’ve seen.

RH: John, you said something that I really firmly believe in. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a police officer on the street. I was policing the streets of Chicago in the mid-’90s. And if I look at what I see as police conduct today versus then and early 2000’s, I think it’s actually much better. And it seems to me one of the big changes is video. It’s one thing to hear about an incident. It’s another to see that visceral humanity of when you actually see police conduct like in the George Floyd incident versus it being read in the paper . . . or it’s just reported as an allegation.

I think video in our society is consumed all the time, distributed in every way.

And it’s just been a big game-changer. So given that, I think everyone agrees that we are at a really important moment of police change. There are calls to re-imagine the police, there are calls to defund the police. There are tons of lessons learned through the last few cycles of police reform. What does this next chapter look like to you, John? What do you think needs to happen, and what do you think might happen? 

JR: From where I see it, and of course I’m informed not only by what we’re seeing in the news but what I’m also reading among policing academics, I actually see something of a split. I think a huge part of what I’ll call the movement – where I’m lumping in academics, people actually protesting out on the streets, and just concerned citizens – is the desire to push things in what you might call a democratizing direction where the idea is: we need to give more power to marginalized communities. We need to let people have more say in how they’re policed, and how much they’re policed.

We should have more civilian oversight. We should have community control. These are all terms that are a little bit vague. They’re old terms that have been given new meaning. They’re still a little bit vague, I think, but the general idea is to empower people; especially empower people in communities that feel over policed, that feel like they’ve been disproportionately and unfairly the victims of bad police behavior. Give the power to them, let them decide what kind of policing they want and need.

I think a different path, and not necessarily contradictory, is more technocratic.

It’s more about continuing with the trend of professionalizing the police. We’ve made some progress, but not far enough. We need better people, better-educated people. Police need to be trained better. We need better monitoring of them — body cams are part of this. And I don’t think these two things are in opposition, but I do think they represent two different mindsets.

I believe we’re seeing a little bit of a struggle here between them. Often the people in the first camp – the democratizing camp – they kind of look at the second camp and think you guys just want to make these incremental little changes . . . and it’s not really going to do any good. Then the people in the second camp look at the people in the first camp and think you basically want to overthrow the government — and even if I agreed with you, it’s never going to happen. So, let’s try to make things better and focus on harm reduction; you have these two opposing philosophies, even if the solutions don’t necessarily need to be in opposition.

RH: I hear you, John. What do you think of the defund the police part of this equation? There’s a recent Bloomberg story on it, which says it’s not really real. There are a few examples of it that appear very real, right? What do you think that looks like in this next chapter? 

JR: I think that it’s really important if you ever want to have a conversation about defunding the police to clarify your terms at the beginning, because you could be talking about two entirely different things. You can get in a fight with somebody because you have different definitions in your head. So, when some people hear defund, they think it literally means take all the money away from the police —

it’s basically the same as abolishing the police. And they think this is both a horrible idea and really unrealistic. To them, the people who are talking about defunding the police must be crazy.

I think there’s a much more modest way to think about defunding the police, but to me it feels a little bit like common sense. And that is to say, “Look, we tend to have ­– in many respects – a small government compared to some of our Western European counterparts. We don’t have the robust kinds of social services that we see in some other countries. Instead, we have this police department — and we ask them to do all kinds of different things.

RH: We ask them to do everything on some levels.

JR: Yeah, like people who are struggling with mental illness, people who

don’t have housing and have domestic disputes, All sorts of different things; noise complaints, parking violations, getting cats out of trees — all this stuff. And I think one way to look at the defund campaign is just to say that a lot of this stuff doesn’t need to be done by police officers. It doesn’t need to be done, frankly, by people wearing intimidating-looking uniforms and carrying firearms. If you’re carrying a firearm, there’s at least a chance you’re going to use it.

We’d feel better if some of these jobs were done by other people who could do them as well or – in some cases we think – better than police officers, because they have more training related to dealing with people who have mental health issues, right? So, let’s try to trim off some of the fat, they would say, and let’s redistribute those dollars to agencies like the Department of Mental Health Services and hire more social workers, more nurses. Let’s make those professionals the frontline people who go out when there’s somebody who’s having a psychotic break — or something of that nature.

I think that’s a very moderate way of looking at defunding. It’s one that I don’t find too hard to get behind, even if I’m skeptical about some of the more extreme approaches. But still, I think there’s a lot we don’t know.

RH: I think theoretically, it sounds great. If you have someone who’s a trained mental health professional . . . police are trained at de-escalation, but fundamentally they will never have the training that someone who’s made that their life work. If there are lessons that have come from prior police reform to me, it’s that when we dehumanize police they become warriors. And what would make them a warrior? I would say they become warriors if they’re only needed when their gun is needed.

It seems exactly opposite of what we were trying to accomplish with community policing — which is to become embedded in the community, to become trusted. And if we take police out of the day to day because there are other people who might do it better or differently, then the police are left to be the folks who deal with violent, hardened criminals. That, to me, is a scary place to be because I think ultimately there’s mission creep, right?

The idea that at 2:00 AM when someone calls 911 because they’re scared of another person – whether that person has a mental illness or has ill intent as a criminal – whatever that might be, it’s real-time. It doesn’t allow itself time to figure out who’s the best resource to show up — and it will always, I think, ultimately fall on the police.

So, it’s the right debate to have. That said, a caution I would bring up as we’re having a dialogue about this is the idea of ‘how do we keep the police as humanized as possible in a very hard job?’

JR: I agree with a lot of what you just said, and I think it’s a really good point that if you say police are reserved for combat situations, then in fact, that might actually reinforce the warrior mindset. But I think one response to that might be that if the police spend less time responding to some of the calls they respond to today – cats in trees, noise complaints, low-level traffic incidents, ticketing – that they might actually be freed up to spend more time getting to know people in the community. It’s not that they’ll necessarily be invisible the rest of the time — it could be more about interacting in different ways.

RH: For sure. I love the debate, John. And I think it will be interesting to see where cities land on this one.

Don’t miss Part 2 in our post, The Call for Research-Based, Data-Driven Police Support, where Mr. Rappaport shares his thoughts on where policing fits in dealing with today’s broad societal issues and needs. He also weighs in on the growing importance of data collection and in-depth research to drive and direct applied science for developing more effective reform and police support measures.

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 Maggie Goodrich, Consultant, University of Chicago Crime Lab and on the Baltimore, Cleveland and Newark Police Department Federal Monitorships. In this entry, Ms. Goodrich discusses her experience and imperatives in developing and implementing first-class early warning and intervention systems— as well as her belief in the importance of having wellness-focused, non-disciplinary support in place to be truly effective.

Welcome back to our leadership series, Maggie. To start, you were super instrumental, serving as an advisor for the University of Chicago Crime Lab, on the recently announced early warning system for the Chicago Police.

When you were working on that, or when you do your work as a monitor, what do you look for? What are the data sets that you say, “Look, here’s ground stakes for a good early warning system”? What things have you learned from the crime lab work that you think would be interesting for folks to think about — or what they might want to include in a personnel management/early warning system that they might be looking at?

MG: I think there are a few fundamental data sets that are a must-have for any early monitoring system. The basics of HR, obviously. Understanding who the employees are and the chain of command I think is important as well — who works for whom. Then, from there, it’s really thinking through all of the data that’s collected on a daily basis . . . maybe currently not in an automated fashion. In many departments, some data is still collected on paper.

To be able to get to a situation where you’re going to implement an early intervention system, you really have to get to a place where all of this data is collected electronically. For example, information on complaint investigations, use of force investigations, and police pursuits. Lawsuits are often asked about, and sometimes hard to get ahold of information mainly because they’re not always handled by the police department itself. So, having a good working relationship with a city or county entity that handles that aspect of data is important.

And then in terms of just implementing an early intervention system, I would say the other piece that often comes last in many implementations, I believe you really need to think about first — and foremost. I think Chicago PD did a really good job of this, in that they actually started at the end so to speak. By that I mean even if you have a very accurate early intervention system that can identify who needs support now – which officers need additional training or support or mental health services or whatever it may be that’s unique to the officer – an agency needs a menu of interventions to support officers in place.

If you don’t have a robust employee assistance program, mental health services and in-service training options to offer, then the system can really only be as good as what you have to offer when you identify somebody who needs support.

RH: Yes, that makes so much sense. It always strikes me that these things need to be concurrent. While you’re implementing and figuring out how the technology is going to work, you can concurrently figure out all the policy needs together.

MG: Absolutely. I think many agencies are thinking first and foremost about consent decree compliance, which is important. Often the consent decree says, “You need to have a system to do these things,” but often the consent decree doesn’t necessarily spell out the officer wellness and support portion in as much detail as it does the early identification portion. I think doing these two things in parallel is really important.

RH: Agree. It always strikes me that well beyond the handful of departments across our nation that are currently under consent decrees – and we’ll see what happens in the future – it’s such a basic, modern tool, in this current era of police reform is to understand your workforce and intervene to support them any way that you can just seems like a 101.

MG: Absolutely. Especially because of the limited resources that agencies have. Even if you develop a new training program that is groundbreaking and really going to help your police force tomorrow, you can’t get the whole department through your training that quickly. And in many departments, you can’t get the whole department through that training even in a few months because of the logistics involved in many instances. So, how do you decide who should get it now and who’s okay to get it maybe six months from now?

And so, how do you just apply those limited resources to your personnel in a way that’s going to benefit those who need it most today? I think an early intervention system is often talked about in such a negative light — viewed as a system that’s penalty-driven or disciplinary in nature. And really, a true early intervention system is not about discipline at all. It’s about getting resources and additional support and training or whatever it may be that an officer needs to meet their unique situation. How do you get that to them as soon as possible in light of the limited resources you have as an agency?

RH: Yes, that’s right. I think what I’m hoping for in this next chapter of police reform is that the systems that support the police to be better at their jobs are funded. Then to your point, in the budget cuts that are occurring because of COVID – and in certain cities the defund movement – we need to actually work to elevate the profession. And we do this by investing in the systems that support and help the police to be better at what they do — and consistent with how the community wants it.

MG: Just on that point, I really couldn’t agree more with you. That you talk about defunding, or even just having to cut the budget, because of tight financial times. Generally, you have to look at where you’re spending today and where you’re going to cut that funding; because all too often just an across-the-board five percent budget cut means that technology and equipment go first. Those are the line items that can be reduced more quickly — rather than salary costs, for example.

You really do a disservice to a department by not giving them the tools and technology they need to do a better job . . . the things that are the driving factors behind change in a police department, right. Focusing on transparency, focusing on accountability — all of these things can be supported and delivered to the community in a way that is really meaningful by the use of technology.

RH: Yes, and there are shining examples of it. I think in cities where the infrastructure has been invested, the people systems have been invested, and the people have been invested. Training is expensive, right. And we’ve seen those departments that have invested elevate. We’ve seen them be more effective. We’ve seen them have more trust with the community. We’ll see what happens. I’m an optimist — so I hope that we’ll see that happen.

Maggie, I’ve got two final questions for you. First, who are your heroes out there when it comes to the world of policing? It’s very easy right now for the police to be attacked for a whole bunch of reasons. In this difficult time for everyone in law enforcement, particularly people who have done their job so admirably and respectfully, who are the folks that you turn to and say, “You know what, these are my heroes in the profession.”

The other person is a civilian who was in the police department working under Bill Bratton — partnering with him on consent decree implementation. And that’s Gerry Chaleff. Gerry was on the board of police commissioners that oversaw the police department at one time, who actually helped negotiate the consent decree.

­And Bill Bratton had the foresight to call Gerry and say, “Well, you got us into this consent decree, you helped negotiate it and write it — come implement it. You know what you wanted to see, so come do the job.”

Again, I think it took a lot of foresight to hire Gerry into that type of position, but Gerry came in with a vision of how to do things right, how to support a police force — and also serve the community properly. He’s somebody, honestly, I call probably weekly for advice and guidance.

RH: Fantastic. We need those people. And for those of you who didn’t see the interview or read our blog on it, we had the privilege to interview Bill as part of our IACP Leadership Series as well.

Maggie, you bring so much expertise to our profession from a completely different angle, right. You’re someone who has thought about reform, someone who’s worked in policy, someone who understands technology, and someone who’s been involved in police reform in departments throughout the country.

My final question is this: You started your company so that you can share that expertise and support for folks who need it — and agencies who do it. Can you tell us the name of the company, a little bit about your vision for it, and who else is involved?

MG: Sure. I recently started a company called TacLogix with a couple of colleagues who also are formally LAPD — and are in the consulting world today. One is Arif Alikhan, who was previously the director of constitutional policing and policy for LAPD. The other is Dan Gomez, who is a retired lieutenant from LAPD, who essentially served as my CTO while I was CIO for LAPD. The three of us have formed TacLogix to be available to police departments across the country, as well as tech companies that are serving police departments with their technology.

The idea is that we go into agencies, perform an assessment of the current state of technology — bringing a 360° perspective drawing upon my IT background, Dan’s very technical but boots-on-the-ground perspective, and Arif’s policy and risk management perspective. We don’t come in and just look at IT for IT sake. We come in and look at the whole picture. We look at your training, look at your policy, and look at how all of your IT is working together to help make your department run more efficiently and effectively.

MG: There are two people I turn to when I need guidance in the policing profession — one is sworn, or was sworn, and one is civilian. They both were really the drivers behind the implementation of the consent decree of the LAPD, and the profound change at the LAPD. First is Bill Bratton. He brought me into LAPD at a time, quite frankly, where back then it was really strange to bring in a 32-year-old attorney . . . deem her deputy chief . . .and put her in charge of the bureau: a police department of 10,000 sworn personnel. It was really unheard of. I think if it weren’t for his vision and drive for doing the right thing – and serving the community properly while supporting officers at the same time – I don’t know that LAPD would be the changed department it is today. That vision was really critical. And so, Bill Bratton is somebody I call on regularly for perspective.

The other person is a civilian who was in the police department working under Bill Bratton — partnering with him on consent decree implementation. And that’s Gerry Chaleff. Gerry was on the board of police commissioners that oversaw the police department at one time, who actually helped negotiate the consent decree.

­And Bill Bratton had the foresight to call Gerry and say, “Well, you got us into this consent decree, you helped negotiate it and write it — come implement it. You know what you wanted to see, so come do the job.

Again, I think it took a lot of foresight to hire Gerry into that type of position, but Gerry came in with a vision of how to do things right, how to support a police force — and also serve the community properly. He’s somebody, honestly, I call probably weekly for advice and guidance.

RH: Fantastic. We need those people. And for those of you who didn’t see the interview or read our blog on it, we had the privilege to interview Bill as part of our IACP Leadership Series as well.

Maggie, you bring so much expertise to our profession from a completely different angle, right. You’re someone who has thought about reform, someone who’s worked in policy, someone who understands technology, and someone who’s been involved in police reform in departments throughout the country.

My final question is this: You started your company so that you can share that expertise and support for folks who need it — and agencies who do it. Can you tell us the name of the company, a little bit about your vision for it, and who else is involved?

MG: Sure. I recently started a company called TacLogix with a couple of colleagues who also are formally LAPD — and are in the consulting world today. One is Arif Alikhan, who was previously the director of constitutional policing and policy for LAPD. The other is Dan Gomez, who is a retired lieutenant from LAPD, who essentially served as my CTO while I was CIO for LAPD. The three of us have formed TacLogix to be available to police departments across the country, as well as tech companies that are serving police departments with their technology.

The idea is that we go into agencies, perform an assessment of the current state of technology — bringing a 360° perspective drawing upon my IT background, Dan’s very technical but boots-on-the-ground perspective, and Arif’s policy and risk management perspective. We don’t come in and just look at IT for IT sake. We come in and look at the whole picture. We look at your training, look at your policy, and look at how all of your IT is working together to help make your department run more efficiently and effectively.

We look at what IT you have today that maybe you aren’t completely leveraging. . . maybe there are aspects of your IT that if they were integrated – or if they were just used in a slightly different manner – you might actually get more out of your current investments. Then also looking at recommendations for future investments in IT. We don’t recommend any particular products specifically, we really try to be product agnostic. The idea is to make recommendations on what areas of technology you should put on your roadmap — then help you develop that roadmap and strategy for the future.

RH: Fantastic. Well, I wish I could have hired you when I was on the other side of the fence in government, we certainly could have used that trifecta of right policy, deep technical expertise, and the sworn experience from some of your teammates. It sounds like a powerful group. Maggie, we are super grateful that you’ve joined us for the IACP 2020 Leadership Series. We’re grateful for your service to the profession. You’ve made a big difference — and continue to do so.

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 Maggie Goodrich, Retired CIO of LAPD; Consultant, University of Chicago Crime Lab; and on the Baltimore, Cleveland and Newark Police Department Federal Monitorships. In this entry, Ms. Goodrich discusses the current state, issues, and growing importance of technology in policing — sharing key considerations for IT assessment, system upgrading, implementation, and integration with consent decree policies and guidelines.

RH: Maggie, you bring a unique expertise to our leadership series — serving as Chief Information Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department for seven of your 11 years there. You not only have a great perspective on what it takes to drive good police reform, but also on the current state of police reform technology. Let’s start with something simple: When you go into a police department as a consultant – which you’ve done a ton of times – and you are asked to assess their technology, what are the things you look for?

MG: First and foremost, I talk to the end-users to figure out what they’re really using — and how they’re using it. Sometimes, what IT understands and what the end-users are really doing with it are two different things. I think an organization that runs its IT well has a good communications loop between IT and the business. The other thing that’s really critical is just basic IT governance. And by that, what I mean is that IT is not setting the IT priorities — the business is driving the IT priorities.

Understanding what the goals and vision of police leadership really are, and ensuring that it’s those business goals that are really driving IT decisions, so that the IT is truly supporting those business goals – truly enabling them – and not just being implemented in a vacuum.

RH: Makes so much sense, Maggie. When you think about the current state of law enforcement technology – and I’m only going to focus on the people side of the equation – because I think a lot of people are up to speed on CAD/RMS systems. But when it comes to systems for managing their personnel, it’s a much bigger question for chiefs and others. Generally speaking, what do you think the current state is of people technology systems in public safety? What do you come across when you walk into the average police department?

MG: I would say that the average department is lacking a system to just manage its basic people HR functions — probably for a number of reasons. For one, policing is unique, so it’s often difficult to fit the policing personnel model into a standard HR solution. This is just because of the way officers are deployed, and the different types of things that need to be tracked that aren’t necessarily tracked in a traditional, private sector setting. We see a lot of agencies that have homegrown solutions, or maybe multiple solutions that they try to pull together to create an HR solution — and then they struggle to support that.

RH: I see the same thing myself when we work with agencies. It seems many departments are trying to make a lot of different tools solve the problem — versus trying to figure it out holistically.

Maggie, let’s take this observation and discuss the current state of police reform. I think a lot of cities and police agencies are trying to solve the problem on that front. Let’s look at it using the example of consent decrees that have either come into existence, or are currently being implemented. You were there for LA, and you were a big part of their success story. What do you think the DOJ is trying to achieve when they put such broad goals into these consent decrees — as it relates to personnel management and technology?

MG: I think the goal – or goals actually – of many consent decrees across the country are focused on ensuring that officers have the tools they need to be at 100% when they do their job. That is to have clear guidelines, clear training, clear policy — and, importantly, to know what they’re going to be held accountable for. I think in some departments, this area needs work; in the area of technology, in particular: Do the officers have the tools on their tool belt that they need to do their job professionally? So often, when it comes time for budget cuts, it’s technology and equipment and those types of things that go first.

Technology’s been a pretty strong component in many recent consent decrees, I think, because of the acknowledgement that officers need certain tools to do the job right. The cameras, for example, have been a big topic of discussion lately —along with early intervention systems. And those are things that aren’t necessarily funded first when it comes time to tighten the belt from a budget perspective.

Then obviously, the other goal under a consent decree is always to ensure that the community is being served as it should be — and treated equitably. I think these two things go hand in hand. And if officers don’t have the training, tools, policies, etc. to be in a position to serve the community effectively . . . then ultimately, it’s not just doing a disservice to those officers, it’s really a disservice to the community.

RH: It makes a ton of sense, Maggie. Let’s talk a little bit about IT in your experience. Where were you before the LAPD so folks know?

MG: Before the LAPD, I was a policy director in the mayor’s office in LA — and prior to that I was at a law firm. I’m a lawyer by background.

RH: Got it. You’re a lawyer who goes into policy, and then finds herself running the technology, right? I find your path really interesting, because you were such a successful CIO. So often, the technology leadership in policing struggles in a lot of ways. There are some phenomenal people, and there are some folks who just struggle with it. If you were a police chief tomorrow, and you were hiring your own CIO, what would you look for? How would you think about that? What do you have to say?

MG: Before I went to law school, I was a project manager in IT and software development. I had that in my background. I picked up IT fresh, I would say. But unfortunately, I think many departments force somebody to pick up IT fresh.

Often it’s a sworn employee who’s good with computers — someone who gets handed a lot of IT projects because a department may not have a CIO or head of IT. That’s a difficult position to put someone in. Most officers did not join the department to ultimately become the head of IT. I think that’s always challenging.

That said, I think there are definitely some success stories across the country of sworn personnel who have taken over IT and done it very successfully. I would say, generally speaking, that’s a difficult position to put someone in. In terms of selecting a CIO or head of IT, I think, a few things are really important. One is having vision for how IT can effectively support an organization . . . how it can be used as a force multiplier . . . and how it can really enable the overall goals of the department. I think really understanding that is very important.

Understanding true IT decision-making must be driven by the goals of the department, the business and policy — not wanting to implement IT just for IT’s sake. You must make it really critical. The other skillset that’s really important to have in IT is strong communication skills. A lot of my job as CIO was communicating. And sometimes, interpreting between the IT staff and the policy staff, the leadership in the police department, or elected officials in a city.

You really have to be able to speak in language understandable by the audience you’re addressing. So, you have to be able to go back and talk about business requirements in IT language to software developers. But then you also have to be able to go back to a police chief or city council and explain things in plain language, in non-technical speak. I think that’s a really critical skill to have as well.

Then, ultimately, you need basic management skills. I found many times at LAPD, while I was the CIO responsible for setting vision and the roadmap for IT, many days I was also a project manager on whatever our priority project was at the time — whether it was an early intervention system implementation or body camera deployment. There were some days where I was just sitting down and getting into the weeds while putting a plan together for how we’re going to implement something. I think you really have to be willing to wear multiple hats.

RHYou know I’ve always found, Maggie, that good leadership operates at 10,000 feet – and at times ­– has to operate at 1,000 feet. All good leaders are inherently project managers because they’re moving something along, right.

Maybe you can take us through the life cycle, a little bit, of technology as it relates to personnel management. Because at the time you helped build the LA system, there was nothing to buy. Meaning there was nothing you could purchase off the shelf that would have served your needs, right?

MG: Absolutely. At the time LAPD entered into the consent decree, there really weren’t any off-the-shelf products to help manage personnel, or help manage administrative type investigations. All of that really had to be built from scratch. There wasn’t an off-the-shelf software system that could even handle managing the chain of command of a 13,000-person organization. Let alone then be nuanced enough to track use of force investigations or personnel complaints investigations and the like.

The LA consent decree was executed in 2001. Back then, you really had to build your own because there wasn’t anything to buy. But I think we’ve seen a good evolution over time, there are now platforms that you can purchase. There are new, commercial, off-the-shelf software service platforms that will really enable a department to leverage some best practices that have been implemented into those systems. I think those like LA, who were early in the game, had to build it and learn as we went along.

RH: You were a visionary in the movement. You guys had to figure it out, right? You had consent decrees, you had dates — and you’re like, “All right, we’re going to go be a software development company.”

MG: Yes, I don’t know that it was visionary. I think it was out of necessity, actually. But yes, we’ve had to experience those growing pains ourselves — and we didn’t have a lot of lessons learned to pull from when it came to how to develop personnel management software. So now, I think agencies are in a better position to be able to leverage some of those best practices that are in off-the-shelf products.

RH: Yes, for sure. Of course, you know I think so, Maggie, because at Benchmark, it’s so much of what we do there as well. I love this idea of helping departments think through how to more effectively manage personnel in order to meet all of the reform requirements asked of them — and help them operate more effectively.

Don’t miss Part 2 in our post Early Intervention Systems in the New Age of Police Reform, where Ms. Goodrich discusses her experience and imperatives in developing and implementing first-class early warning and intervention systems — as well as her belief in the importance of having wellness-focused, non-disciplinary support in place to be truly effective.

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 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.