A group of law enforcement professionals is working on recommendations to the governor for improving trust between police and the communities they serve. You have through this weekend to give them your thoughts.
Governor Rick Snyder issued an executive order in October to have the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards produce the report. It will focus on three underlying themes: improving community engagement, training, and recruitment.
David Harvey is Executive Director of Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, the group Snyder tasked with the report. Harvey says they’ve held several meetings to collect public input; in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Marquette, Benton Harbor and Flint.
He says there have been a number of common themes.
Harvey says people at every stop across the state wished police officers spent more time out of their cars and meeting with the community.
“That sounds simple enough and it sounds inexpensive and to a certain extend it is for agencies that can do it,” Harvey said, “The issue would be in a jurisdiction that is so understaffed that they’re going from run to run to run, how much free time, uncommitted time, do they have to not get out of their cars?”
Another ways the group is hearing police departments could improve relations is to hire more diverse police officers, particularly people from within the communities they serve. Harvey says one of the barriers have been that most departments don’t cover the cost of putting officers through the police academy.
“A single mother with two kids at home working may want to be a police officer, may be a fantastic police officer, but can she go into the academy for $7,000 and not work for 18 weeks and support her family? So that’s problematic,” Harvey said.
Michigan State Police, Detroit, and a couple other big departments pay, but Harvey says it’s no longer the norm. That means a lot of people entering the academy are “pre-service” Harvey says; younger people right out of school who are not employed. He says experience, including general life experience can be a real asset for officers who need to react to quickly and fairly under stress.
There’s also been a lot of talk about better training for police; particularly in de-escalating situations and implicit bias. Training takes money, Harvey said, and departments usually have to back-fill those officers in training with other officers who earn overtime. “It’s more expensive. There’s not much flexibility for training,” he said.
Another theme Harvey expects to show up in the report is how departments can use social media. He says it varies widely and some departments don’t have the right person or the resources to use generally inexpensive tools like Twitter and Facebook to their advantage.
Harvey says he was happy how many people said they trust their local officers and want them to have more resources, especially given the tense climate over the last couple of years; the climate that prompted Snyder to request the recommendations in the first place.
He expects to have the report on Snyder’s desk by May 1st.