Over the past several years, America’s law enforcement community has been confronted with an array of challenges. Violent crime rates have increased in many major cities across the country, though in others, police departments are effectively maintaining crime rates at, or near, historic lows.

Police Foundation and Major Cities Chiefs Association, “Reducing Violent Crime in American Cities: An Opportunity to Lead,” January 2017, https://www.policefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/PF-MCCA_Reducing-Violent-Crime-in-American-Cities_FullReport_RGB.pdf(accessed May 3, 2017).

Immigration concerns have grown more complex. Throughout, agency budgets have tightened. At the same time, hostile narratives have emerged in mainstream and social media, which encourage antipathy toward police and paint American law enforcement as “systemically racist.” These accusations attempt to characterize modern policing based on the undisputed fact that throughout much of this nation’s history, police were often tasked with enforcing racist laws and sometimes enforced laws in a racially discriminatory manner, which has left an indelible impression in some communities. The high volume of consent decrees handed out by the Department of Justice under prior Administrations, alleging patterns or practices of excessive force and other violations of citizens’ constitutional rights, has only exacerbated this misrepresentation of today’s police. The predictable result has been friction between police departments and the communities they serve, which has occasionally erupted in violent protests and targeted attacks on law enforcement officers.

Throughout, the police have had few allies. City officials have often been quick to give in to political pressure, blaming officers and calling for prosecutions before investigations are complete and the facts are known. Fearing for their careers and reputations, many police officers are hesitating or ceasing to engage in discretionary enforcement activities, although this is not common to all departments. Some are leaving the force altogether, while potential recruits are opting not to join, contributing to staffing shortfalls. Mischaracterizations of highly successful law enforcement techniques, such as stop-question-and-frisk (“Terrystops”), deny these tools to officers. In the final analysis, anti-police rhetoric has left Americans, particularly those living in low-income communities and minority communities, more at risk.

This prevailing narrative belies major successes and innovations in law enforcement across the country, as well as long-term declines in crime rates, which are now being threatened by some of the developments discussed in this Special Report. The Trump Administration is setting new federal law enforcement priorities, including establishing a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, to focus on reducing violent crime and supporting police. All these factors make this a pivotal moment for American policing and the communities these officers serve.

The Heritage Foundation assembled a diverse group of professionals with extensive background in federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as representatives from police unions and national law enforcement organizations, for a Policing Strategy Summit in March 2017. The meeting had three principal objectives:

  1. Identify the most pressing problems that law enforcement agencies face today, including the breakdown in trust, adequacy of training, proper use of new technologies, media and community relations, and the gathering and sharing of data.
  2. Identify the best practices and most innovative approaches that law enforcement authorities are employing to address these problems and combat crime.
  3. Identify the most effective means of communicating with the public and political leaders, building trust and improving police–community relations, and bringing the needs and concerns
  4. of police agencies to the attention of federal officials.

The summit was attended by some of the nation’s leading and most-experienced law enforcement professionals. The following is a list of summit participants. Some requested anonymity and are consequently not listed here.

The following represents the proceedings of the Policing Strategy Summit. It does not necessarily reflect the views of specific attendees or organizations but seeks to capture the wide-ranging discussion that took place at the summit.

Allegations of “Systemic Racism” Are False and Harmful

Countering False Narratives

As examples of this line of critique,see Emily Badger, “12 Years of Data from New York City Suggest Stop-and-Frisk Wasn’t that Effective,” The Washington Post, August 21, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/21/12-years-of-data-from-new-york-city-suggest-stop-and-frisk-wasnt-that-effective/?utm_term=.eb783a1659a0 (accessed August 3, 2017), and Leah Libresco, “It Takes a Lot of Stop-And-Frisks to Find One Gun,” FiveThirtyEight, June 3, 2015, https://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/it-takes-a-lot-of-stop-and-frisks-to-find-one-gun/ (accessed May 3, 2017).

 but the low numbers are, in all likelihood, proof of the effectiveness of the stops—demonstrating the deterrent effect of this law enforcement technique on criminals who would otherwise carry guns.

The Police Need Political Support

Improving Police–Community Relations

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, “The Law & Your Community Program,” http://noblenational.org/noble-programs/the-law-your-community/(accessed May 3, 2017).

Effective Crime-Fighting and Prevention Strategies

1.“Timely and accurate information or intelligence;

“Rapid deployment of resources;

2. Effective tactics; and

3.“Relentless follow-up.”

Bureau of Justice Assistance and Police Executive Research Forum, COMPSTAT: Its Origins, Evolution, and Future In Law Enforcement Agencies, 2013, http://www.policeforum.org/assets/docs/Free_Online_Documents/Compstat/compstat%20-20its%20origins%20evolution%20and%20future%20in%20law%20enforcement%20agencies%202013.pdf(accessed May 3, 2017).

About the author: Scott Bernstein is the CEO of Global Security International LLC headquartered in NYC. He has extensive experience as a Counterterrorist Consultant, International Apprehension Operative, Human & Sex Trafficking Expert and a Military and Law Enforcement Trainer. He is available as a Consultant and as a Speaker. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also interact with Scott on his LinkedIn group http://bit.ly/1LMp2hj.

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