I was recently in Denver conducting an audit of the Colorado version of MCOLES. I did this as part of my role with the International Association of Director’s of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST). Essentially it is an association of my counterparts across the country and internationally as well. Other membership includes police academy directors and law enforcement trainers. My goal is to bring IADLEST to Michigan for an audit to see how we stack up across the country in all aspects of what we do.
I know there is criticism in the profession about having national standards for police. It is understandable as we pride ourselves on local control and resist the federalization of police. I don’t disagree with local control and feel that local governments can determine best the type of services that they want and can afford. That doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot have some basic training standards across the profession as other professions do.
What I observed in Denver, as I have in many other states, are similar training and operating standards. My point is that we already have many of these standards in place in our basic training. As an example, I was observing a subject control class at the Aurora Police Academy whereby the recruits were practicing ground fighting techniques. Ground fighting has taken the place of the traditional boxing and other subject control classes. This is logical as most of the physical encounters end up on the ground. In 1980 I was trained in boxing but had already received ground fighting techniques in the Army which assisted me in the field more than boxing. Over the years law enforcement has learned and changed to new and better techniques.
So my point is that we already have national standards to a certain degree. Why be so fearful of it and not take it to the next level? While in Washington DC attending a summit on the 21st Century Policing task force report, I suggested to the COPS organization that a nationwide Job Task Analysis should be conducted as we already do state by state. This would give the profession a basic level of tasks that a police officer conducts all across our nation. Thus some nationwide basic standards could be developed. Basically a set of best training practices could be developed and shared across the entire profession. This would make reciprocity agreements by states accepting other states training easier and allow officers to transfer if they so desire. Ultimately the public we serve will receive similar services regardless of the location which is something they already expect.
It seems that daily the public is bombarded with negative stories about law enforcement. Simultaneously positive stories are not presented or do not get significant coverage. That is just a fact of life and life in the public setting. The media handling of law enforcement is not restricted to just the police but is how public service is covered in general. I lived the life as a City Manager for 6 years and found that to be true in all facets of the government. Law enforcement, however, is such a dynamic profession and the possibility of a major incident looms around every corner every day. It’s part of the profession and it’s volatile as both sides of the equation, the public and the police are both human and subject to mistakes.
What I strongly agree with in the Presidents 21st Century Policing Task Force report that was published in May of 2015 is the need for developing community trust. It is not a new idea as many agencies have been developing those relationships for years prior to the report. The report does highlight the need, however, and there are several ways to accomplish that trust. I have always believed and practiced that community education about police processes is a useful tool for relationship building. Agencies for years have been utilizing programs such as Citizen Police Academies and outreach programs like Police Athletic Leagues.
Recently Danny Rosa from MCOLES took part in a discussion panel that outlined what students should do if stopped by the police. This discussion took place at Cass Tech High School in Detroit and Danny was joined by Judge Kenneth King of 36th District Court; Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Kim Miles; criminal defense lawyer Cliff Woodward; former Detroit police commission attorney and prosecutor Aliyah Sabree, as well as Black Lives Matter activist Angela Waters Austin. Danny discussed and demonstrated the reality of reaction time for officers when they encounter hostile situations to give the students an understanding of why the police train the way they do and react the way they do . The program was well received and was covered by the Detroit news;http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2016/04/08/black-lives-matter-detroit-students-police/82814604/.
Congratulations to Danny Rosa and all of the other panel participants for taking their time to educate these Students. Also congratulations go out to the 800 Cass Tech Students who attended and were very engaged in the practical demonstrations and discussion. As Danny stated to the audience, it takes everyone talking these issues out if we are to ever resolve them. Several months ago Danny, Mike Logghe and I all from MCOLES took part in a practical demonstration and discussion with the group, Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (APLACT) at the Washtenaw Police Academy. Members of the group were exposed to real life situations utilizing the digital firearms training system that police recruits are put through. We also had honest in-depth discussions about police/ community relations.
These are just a few examples of ways that law enforcement is engaging the public. It is a continual process and we cannot rest on previous accomplishments and be ever mindful of taking advantage of every opportunity to be open and honest with our public and seek every chance to exchange dialogue.
MCOLES tracks, among many things, the total number of licensed officers in the state on a monthly basis. As a state we have been in a continual decline since 2001 with a total reduction as of March 31st of 4,109. We presently have 18,379 licensed officers across the state which includes all categories of officers, State, County, local, tribal and others.
Recently I also read an article about the overall crime rate being down despite the decrease in officers. It has been my experience that there are many factors that affect the crime rate, law enforcement response or lack of being one along with economic conditions and others. My fear is that a story such as this will give rise to the belief that we have enough law enforcement.
As a former Chief of Police I faced this argument in the past and was careful to remind those who had this thought, that crime fighting and prevention is not all that an agency does. General calls for service that I used to call quality of life and order maintenance are a vast majority of a law enforcement agencies work load.
Additionally, it is easy to forget how we got to a low crime rate. I will agree that law enforcement is not the sole factor that reduces crime and are a part of all the other factors I have listed. However, it can’t be denied that law enforcement has an effect and is part of the overall solution to crime. The problem comes when we get complacent, take advantage of the reduced crime rate, and either continue to work at a low-level of staffing or continue reducing.
When I was a city manager, I always used the example of our water system, when giving a presentation on city services. I would ask how many people turned on a faucet that morning and flushed a toilet. Of course every hand would go up. I would then talk about how much continual maintenance it took to make the seemingly simple process of getting water in your house and back out again work.
Crime is no different and it takes continual maintenance by a community. That maintenance comes in the form of a strong economic environment and other factors with a good law enforcement presence being critical.