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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fictionland Police Department Planning Division Preliminary Needs Assessment: Department Response to Racial Profiling and Police Brutality

Fictionland Police Department
Planning Division
Preliminary Needs Assessment: Department Response to Racial Profiling and Police Brutality

A videotape of Ofc. Tim Smith in the process of racially profiling, physically assaulting, and arresting without cause a citizen has been released to the public. The videotape flatly contradicted the findings of the Fictionland Police Department Internal Affairs Department in clearing Smith's actions. This videotape spotlights not only the officer's malfeasance, but also exposes issues such as the failure of the Fictionland Police Department Internal Affairs Department to do it's job correctly, a potential problem with the direction of our departmental culture, tension between the department and the minority community, and finally the degradation of the department's reputation within the community as a whole. This preliminary report will address the methods by which we will analyze these issues and propose changes to the department to correct and resolve the issues. We will be using the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment) model of analysis This preliminary report will focus on the Scanning component of the SARA model, primarily in “identifying recurring problems of concern to the public and the police.”, “confirming that the problems exist”, and “developing broad goals”.(Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, n.d., para. 2) Bradley and Connors define a “needs assessment” in terms of answering questions about the conditions a program is intended to address and the need for it. (2007, p.7) First, the need for change must be documented, and the data that will be used must be identified. Secondly, potential causes for these issues must be identified, Third, we must identify all concerned parties, or stakeholders, and identify their interests in these issues. Fourth and finally, there will be influences that will either resist or support proposed changes, and these influences need to be identified. We must recognize any factors that will redirect our department's efforts to providing equal and honest service to all citizens.
The need for documentation serves two purposes. In the first, we must not compound the breach of public trust which the videotape exposed. By documenting collected data, we will fulfill our obligation for public oversight and accountability. In the second, full documentation will allow us to maintain all data in a structured format for accessible analysis. One issue in the process of analysis is the selection of relevant data. “Unstructured analyses typically result in large amounts of data, confusion over the meaning of data, and non-analysis-driven responses”. (Bynum, 2001, p.5) We will need to collect information regarding profiling and abuse complaints over the last five years, IAD reports in that period, chain of custody of the Smith tape, we will need indicators of other of the relation between the police and the minority community,and political alliance information regarding all stakeholders.
It is obvious, based on what we have seen in the Smith video and in IAD's handling of that case, that there is some level of racism and dishonesty in the department's culture. Multiple people in the department will have seen the tape, yet the tape was leaked by someone in the department who felt that there was no credibility in the department to turn to for a just resolution in the case. Thus we can identify racism and dishonesty as potential causes for the issues the department is experiencing. However, we should not focus on quick and easy resolutions when there may be other causes for these issues. “Problem-solving projects can be complex. In action research, the team is expected to persist until success is achieved, refining and improving an intervention in the light of what is learned from earlier experiences.”(Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, 2014, para. 3) Is it possible that IAD thought they were protecting the department from the Michael Brown school of reporting? Perhaps IAD understood the level of Ofc. Smith's abuses and make a political decision to cover up his actions in order to protect the department's reputation. Finally, it is likely that there are multiple causes that can create problems that can reinforce each other; in a community in which assaults against the police are above average, do the police have in turn a higher use of force then the norm? Unless all causes are identified and remedied, then there will continue to be problems. Brown and Scott identify one reason that problem oriented initiatives may fail; “the real contributing or causal factors were not discovered” (2007, p. 2) It must be acknowledged however, that in the discussion of possible causes for tension between the police department and the minority community, that no justification can be found for Pfc. Smith's actions.
A list of interested parties will include the police department and constituent sub-groups within the department, such as the police chief and the police union. The mayor's office and the municipal office of civil rights will represent the community at large. The Center for Justice and local churches in the minority community will be concerned parties. The media will also play a part. The importance of recognizing all these stakeholders as part of the problem solving process can not be emphasized enough; ”situations might require the early involvement of key individuals or groups when determining the order of analysis activities”(Bynum, 2001, p.7) In addition, identifying agents who may play a part in support or in resistance to proposed changes becomes necessary;“Response plans that enjoy grassroots community support tend to be more likely to be implemented than those without it because you can convert such support into political influence, which can mobilize resources and action”(Brown & Scott, 2007, p.8)
The support or resistance by stakeholders to any given solution proposal is hard to predict until a specific proposal in made; but to illustrate the point that Brown and Scott make let us look at the forces in relation to a relatively neutral policy proposal; the equipping of police officers with body cameras. White finds that “Most of the empirical studies document a reduction in citizen complaints against the police and, in some cases, similar reductions in use of force and assaults on officers.” (2014, p.35) This directly addresses two of the issues that we are targeting for solution. The mayor's office may support or resist this idea depending on budget factors, but the civil rights office would support the proposal. The chief's office would support the proposal, but the union may be opposed on the basis of officer privacy. We would expect the leaders of the local churches to support the policy. The support or resistance by the Center for Justice depends on whether the Center is more interested in equal and honest enforcement of the law, or is more interested in pursuing “solutions” v based on identity politics, in which “A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented -- understood, empathized with -- only by persons of the same identity. “(Will, 2009, para.7)


Be guided by SARA – but not led astray. (2014) Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from http://www.popcenter.org/learning/60steps/index.cfm?stepNum=7

Bradley, K., & Connors, E. (2007). Training evaluation model: Evaluating and improving criminal justice training. Institute for Law and Justice. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/244478.pdf

Brown, R., & Scott, M. S. (2007). Implementing responses to problems. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved November 8, 2014 fromhttp://www.popcenter.org/tools/pdfs/implementing_responses.pdf

Bynum, T. S. (2001). Using analysis for problem-solving:
A guidebook for law enforcement. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice Office of Community-oriented Policing Services. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/e08011230.pdf

The SARA Model . (n.d) Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from http://www.popcenter.org/about/?p=sara

White, M. D. (n.d.). Police ofifcer body-worn cameras:Assessing the evidence. Washington, D.C.: OJP Diagnostic Center, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=6525606

Will, G. (2009, May 27).Identity Justice: Obama's Conventional Choice. Washington Post . Retrieved November 8, 2014 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/26/AR2009052602348.html

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