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Why every police leader should read the ‘Renewed Call to Action’ report

A reboot has been issued by former members of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, convened by President Obama in 2014

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This article originally appeared in the May 2023 Police1 Leadership Briefing. To read the full briefing, see Do you have a retention mindset?; ‘Renewed Call to Action’ report a must-read and add the Leadership Briefing to your subscriptions.

Nearly a decade ago the Obama administration initiated the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued a report in 2015. The recommendations weren’t earth-shattering, pointing out that partnerships between local governments, the community and law enforcement could improve trust in policing.

Five years later the National Police Foundation (now the National Policing Institute) issued a follow-up to the task force recommendations promoting six pillars for change:

  1. Building trust and legitimacy
  2. Policy and oversight
  3. Technology and social media
  4. Community policing and crime reduction
  5. Training and education
  6. Officer safety and wellness.

Now another reboot has been issued by participants in the original task force’s report (available in full below). This document, A Renewed Call to Action, promulgated eight recommendations that “focus on accountability, culture, the development of national standards and the important role of local government in developing a whole of government and whole of community approach to transformational policing.

The eight recommendations are:

  1. Establish as holistic role and mission of policing to help define community safety
  2. Align policing leadership, organizational structure, incentives, and strategies to the redefined mission
  3. Rebuild the culture of policing organizations
  4. Establish national policing standards; train to those standards; and provide supervision to ensure their application
  5. Address gaps in accountability systems that protect due process of officers while ensuring transparency and accountability for misconduct
  6. Invest locally and organize communities to address unjust systems that contribute to poverty and racism
  7. Address underlying drivers of crime
  8. The federal government should collaborate and support community-based organizations and local and state governments in helping to create safe communities.

The recommendations include a series of action steps that “could better define community expectations and create accountability.”

The advocates of federalization of policing through national standards and training demands stress local collaboration in what seems to ignore the potential irony of local control over policing with new demands that are attached to too little funding to balance those demands with providing essential services.

A bright spot in the report is a recognition that the police have perhaps become overpoliced themselves, stressing the need for careful balancing of due process in applying accountability to police officers.

Why leaders must address the recommendations

Few police leaders would argue with most of the premises of these reports and could point to many changes already at work in the profession.

Leaders must address the recommendations because these are the lenses through which political forces attach policy and funding. Leaders must be ready to honestly report to their public that these documents have been reviewed, assessed and applied to ongoing policy and training development. Making references to the task force and other nationally publicized recommendations can reassure the public that their interests are being served and that steps are being taken to align with the principles set forth.

Leaders must be able to say “yes, and” not “yes, but”

There is a temptation to be frustrated with these reports and the recommendations that have come from more than 133 task forces and other police reform groups. The Renewed Call to Action report states that there is frustration among communities that have experienced “over-policing” while experiencing increasing rates of crime. Exhausted police agencies struggling to provide basic services with shrinking staff and threatened budgets must wonder if these high-minded academic studies address the realities of trying to respond to 911 calls.

However, the public is less likely to be satisfied with sighs of “yes, but” explaining why some recommendations are out of reach, have been tried before, or belong in the stratosphere of think tanks that have never been in a patrol car. Leaders must be able to say “yes, and” that we are taking steps toward best practices for their communities.

It is worth the read and thoughtful consideration.

NEXT: Lessons for the field: A checklist for fair and just data-driven policing

A Renewed Call to Action by epraetorian on Scribd

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at www.joelshults.com.
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