President Obama believes that in America everyone should be empowered by the country they call home, not limited by the zip code into which they are born. That’s why the President’s agenda is focused on expanding opportunity for all: restoring economic security to hard-hit American families; building stronger neighborhoods and communities; and ensuring young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Today, in Camden, New Jersey, the President will highlight innovative steps taken by a city that has struggled with one of the nation's highest violent crime rates to create economic opportunity, help police do their jobs more safely, and reduce crime in the process.
Changes include increasing the number of police officer boots on the ground and changing the way their officers interact with the community. The Camden County Police Department has instituted a community policing initiative, and just last month, the city accepted the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge and was separately designated as a Promise Zone, representing the culmination of five years of collaborative efforts aimed at improving the quality of life for Camden children, youth, and families.
The President will also highlight how communities are adopting the recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and will highlight new tools all cities can utilize to build and maintain the all-important trust between the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect. These tools include:
In addition, over the next few weeks, members of the President’s Cabinet will be traveling across the country to lift up best practices and highlight other cities where local leaders are partnering with federal agencies, foundations, private sector partners, and police departments to improve the quality of life in their communities on issues from healthcare to education to transparency in policing. Secretary Castro will visit Fullerton, CA, Kansas City, and St. Louis; Secretary Duncan will travel to Philadelphia; Secretary Foxx will travel to Charlotte; Secretary Perez will travel to Minneapolis, New Haven, and Pittsburgh; and Secretary Vilsack will travel to Memphis.
Additionally, Attorney General Lynch will travel to Cincinnati as part of a national Community Policing tour that will highlight collaborative programs and innovative policing practices designed to advance public safety, strengthen police-community relations, and foster mutual trust and respect. The tour will build on President Obama’s commitment to engage with law enforcement, local leaders, young people and other members of the community to implement key recommendations from the 21st Century Policing Task Force report.
The administration is deeply engaged with these communities and others across the country, showing what can be achieved when people from all walks of life come together to expand opportunity for all Americans.
The Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Last December, President Barack Obama created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing with a mission to identify best practices and make recommendations on how such practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. The Task Force was chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and George Mason University Professor Laurie Robinson and included, among others, law enforcement representatives, community leaders, academics, and youth leaders. Over several months, the Task Force held public hearings across the country; took testimony from over 100 witnesses; reviewed hundreds of written submissions and thoughtfully came to consensus on 59 concrete recommendations. The Task Force presented their interim report, including recommendations regarding policies, training, transparency, accountability, technology and officer safety and wellness, to the President in March, and today the final report is available HERE.
White House Police Data Initiative: Using Data and Technology to Build Community Trust
The Task Force Report emphasized the importance of data and technology in helping local law enforcement agencies excel in their work and build community trust. Even when local law enforcement agencies are willing to explore new ways to use and release such data, there are often technical and other impediments to doing so. To break down barriers, the White House, with assistance from foundations like the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, launched the Police Data Initiative (PDI) with police chiefs and municipal Chief Technology Officers from sixteen jurisdictions that we expect to be leaders in this space. Since the launch, five additional jurisdictions joined the effort. As part of the initiative, these jurisdictions are working alongside technologists, community organizations and police associations to implement multiple commitments to action that leverage open data to increase transparency and build community trust, better utilize early warning systems to identify problems, increase internal accountability, and decrease inappropriate uses of force. More information about the White House Police Data Initiative is available HERE.
Jurisdictions taking part in the White House Police Data Initiative (PDI) so far include: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Camden, NJ; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC; Cincinnati, OH; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; Hampton, VA; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; LA County, CA; Louisville, KY; Montgomery County, MD; New Orleans, LA; Newport News, VA; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, CA; Rutland, VT; and Seattle, WA.
Below are some highlights of the work these police departments are taking with other PDI participants:
Open Data to Build Transparency and Increase Community Trust
Early Warning Systems and Data Research
The Task Force recommended steps the federal government could take to encourage adoption of body-worn cameras (BWC), while also noting that such cameras pose privacy and implementation challenges. Earlier this month, DOJ announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program designed to respond to the immediate needs of local and tribal law enforcement organizations. Today, DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance launched the National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit, an online clearinghouse of resources designed to help law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve plan and implement BWC programs. The toolkit consolidates and translates research, promising practices, templates and tools that have been developed by subject matter experts. Areas of focus include procurement; training; implementation; retention and policies along with interests of prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim and privacy advocates and community members.
Community Policing Grants: Helping Communities Implement Innovative Policing Strategies
The Task Force recommended that DOJ, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) provide incentives for state and local law enforcement to adopt the recommendations. Today, the COPS office will launch solicitations for grants and technical assistance that are closely aligned with the recommendations. Funding is available for local law enforcement agencies committed to implementing the recommendations and to adopting policies that build community trust, including through hiring, training, initiating pilot projects, and developing new guidance and best practices. Grants will be awarded this fall. For further information about how the COPS office is supporting for implementation of the Task Force recommendations click HERE.
Partnering with National Law Enforcement Organizations to Implement Recommendations
With support from the COPS Office, law enforcement focused organizations including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Police Foundation, will develop national-level, industry-wide projects for several of the pillars outlined in the Task Force Report. Supported activities will range from the creation of positive and meaningful engagement opportunities between law enforcement and youth, identification of best practices for engaging the community in the mutual responsibility of public safety, exploration of the circumstances and causality behind documented line-of-duty injuries, and promotion of officer safety and well-being.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association will also be partnering with the COPS Office to host three roundtable convenings of member chiefs to discuss the implementation of selected recommendations from the Task Force Report. The discussions will explore experiences and lessons from agencies that may have implemented some of the recommendations, including associated challenges, and the role of senior leaders making the changes called for in the Task Force Report. Key ideas from the discussion will be captured and shared with the field through a report on the discussions. The first roundtable will take place in Nashville, Tennessee in June.
In addition, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has committed to building a National Center for Community-Police Relations (NCCPR) which will provide support to any local law enforcement agencies that wish to address the issues raised in the Task Force Report. Support will include: providing educational materials that will break down the Task Force recommendations for all levels of officer; on-site culture assessments to determine the strengths and weaknesses of local agencies relating to the report’s six pillars; using the train-the-trainer model to create a national cadre of local agency officers who can train others on recommendation implementation; and leader-to-leader mentoring to allow leaders who have successfully implemented recommendations to work with those desiring to do so.
Helping Police Get People Needed Services
Since 2011, the Ford Foundation, with other foundations, has supported Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) in Seattle, an innovative arrest diversion program co-designed by police, prosecutors, public defenders, civil rights leaders and public health experts. This evidence-based program lets law enforcement officers directly divert people, whom they could arrest for low-level crimes, such as drug or prostitution offenses, to case managers, who assist with housing, treatment and other supportive services, instead of using jail and prosecution. An evaluation by the University of Washington, funded by the Arnold Foundation and released in March 2015, found that participants in the program had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest as compared to a control group. Equally important, it helps improve the relationship between the police and the people they encounter on the streets. Consistent with the Task Force recommendation that law enforcement agencies “emphasize . . . alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate,” the Ford Foundation plans to work with other foundations to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions around the country planning to implement LEAD. Over 30 jurisdictions nationally have expressed interest and will be invited to a convening to be hosted by The White House and the Ford Foundation in July.
Equipment Working Group Final Report
In addition to the work completed by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a separate federal interagency working group—led by the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security – has now completed an extensive review of federal programs that support the transfer of equipment to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. On the basis of that review, the working group developed a series of concrete steps to enhance accountability, increase transparency, and better serve the needs of law enforcement and local communities. The President has directed departments and agencies to put the working group’s recommendations into practice and continue to partner with law enforcement and local communities during the implementation process. The working group report is available HERE.