From Talk to Specific Recommendations on Policing Reforms

Back in the summer, as protests and riots occurred nationwide after the death of George Floyd, I hosted my first webinar for The Philanthropy Roundtable. It was on policing reform at a time when this was very much on everyone’s minds.

Why did the Roundtable cover this topic? Our mission here is to support philanthropic excellence, protect philanthropic freedom, and help funders advance liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility. But our topic today certainly touches on all three of these areas. A proper rule of law, with various levels of government playing their appropriate roles, is essential to protecting our liberties. Those working in criminal justice reform have identified potential obstacles to opportunity arising from the law enforcement aspects of that system. Also, personal responsibility on the part of both officers and citizens has been an important part of today’s debate. After the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, new questions are arising about how law enforcement managed the response. This seems to be one area where we are struggling to get things right.

Adam Gelb leads the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ); he spoke at our webinar about the need for policing reform and that CCJ was convening a Task Force of experts. Their goal? To identify the tangible, realistic, reasonable, and necessary reforms that would lead to better policing, meeting the needs of both law enforcement and the communities they serve. 

The CCJ task force recently released its first reports, with specific recommendations to now be considered for adoption by various agencies across the country. Here are a few examples:

  • “Chokeholds should be prohibited on grounds that they can cause serious harm to individuals and police legitimacy. But such bans alone will have little impact on the number of people killed by police because less than 1 percent of deaths involving law enforcement are caused by asphyxiation.”
  • “To have greater impact, duty-to-intervene policies should be accompanied by mandatory reporting rules that require officers to speak up when peers or superiors engage in all manner of misconduct, such as drinking on the job or using racial slurs.”  
  • “Because of complex case law informed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions, banning no-knock warrants will not necessarily reduce the number of forcible, unannounced entries by police. That’s why it’s critical that all warrants requested be based on a detailed threat analysis that prioritizes officer and resident safety. In addition, agencies should publish data on warrant requests, activities, and outcomes to enhance transparency and accountability.” 

The relevance of these reforms to the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor incidents that so upset so many across the country is apparent. It is encouraging to know that we have a culture that looks to learn from mistakes and find new and better ways of doing things. We’re looking forward to seeing how these recommendations can be put into action. Maybe we’ll bring the back panel together this summer to hear how things have improved—both for the officers trying to protect our rule of law, and for the citizens who benefit from their hard work.

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