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Decker urges police panel to take broad approach to solutions

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Decker 21st Century PolicingFoundation professor Scott Decker told the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing that what members are doing is long overdue. He was invited to address the panel as it delves into how training and education can strengthen relationships between police and the communities they serve while also reducing crime. The Task Force met at the Phoenix Convention Center February 13 and 14, 2015 as part of series of meetings held in select communities nationwide.

Decker, the former director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, pointed out that not since the Kerner Commission in 1967 has there been a national task force that is focused on providing input on how law enforcement agencies can better serve their communities and improve outcomes.

Decker criticized the recent trend of law enforcement agencies to "circle the wagons" and become more withdrawn when facing criticism for the actions of its officers. He suggests in-service training can boost knowledge and skills that can subside over time.

"In-service training enables law enforcement officers to keep up with a rapidly changing world of technology, people and circumstances," Decker told the panel.

He pointed out three distinct training programs the board could learn from. One is the Supervisory Leadership Academy at the Center for Policing Excellence run by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

"This is exceptional training that emphasizes procedural justice, legitimacy and best practices," Decker says.

Another is the concept of  “perishable skills” used by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. It requires a 12-hour training module in communication skills every other year.

Decker also recommended the task force examine procedural justice workshops to officers by the Chicago Police Department.

"Training isn’t value neutral; training announces and reinforces the values that underscore fair and effective policing," says Decker. "In this context, in-service training is especially important as it leads to patterns of behavior and expectations among law enforcement officers. Indeed, training reinforces the mutual bonds and expectations between the police and with the public."

Decker stressed that diversity training should be an "essential component of 21st Century Policing," suggesting that building empathy and understanding is a requirement to serve the public. 

He also raised concerns about how law enforcement deals with immigrants. Decker is the co-author of two studies funded by the National Science Foundation that examined how local agencies deal with immigration-related law enforcement. In surveys of police chiefs in large cities and small towns and with sheriffs who are elected to office, Decker and his colleagues found that more than half had no clear policy of how to deal with undocumented immigrants, instead, leaving it up to the discretion of individual officers. 

"This means that neither the national government, nor local elected officials, nor police executives have clear control over the enforcement activities now taking place," Decker says. "The patchwork that is immigration enforcement, in short, is made by individual officers on patrol with little or no guidance or oversight."

A former board member of the Arizona Police Officer Standards and Training board, Decker submitted a list of 11 recommendations for the task force to consider. It includes the idea of in-service training, diversity training, and communications training that eliminates the use of the F word and N word by police. 

To see the complete list of recommendations and a transcript of his testimony, click here.



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