Criminal Justice

Privacy, Patrols, and the Future of Policing in America

November 2, 2015

Ford Foundation program officer Kirsten Levingston moderated this panel and opened the session by challenging the panelists to describe the purpose of police. Anne Milgram, vice president of criminal justice at the Arnold Foundation, argued that policing should be geared toward building safe communities where people have opportunities to succeed. But, she said, policing has moved too far from that purpose. Later, she explained that police devote too much of their resources to arresting people for low-level crimes, leaving the clearance rate for violent crime at only 20 to 25 percent.

Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, agreed with Milgram, noting that policing should not just be about enforcing laws, it should be about improving the quality of life for community residents. One important way that police can do that, he argued, is by listening to community members and ensuring that their approach meets community needs.

Similarly, New Haven police chief Dean Esserman highlighted the importance of a policing style that builds relationships between police and communities. He explained that every police officer in New Haven walks a beat for a year. He described that after the first month, the officer can’t go down the street without a dozen conversations, and that after three months, residents begin to share incidents of violent assault. In walking a beat, officers develop the trust necessary to enhance safety in the community.

Cleveland State University urban studies professor Ronnie Dunn also noted state-wide reform efforts and model use-of-force policies in Ohio and other states that can serve as examples for policing reform across the country.

The panelists identified the primary challenges to achieving effective policing as collecting data on a variety of police trainings and state-level policing reform initiatives, and providing police officers with the training they want and need, like crisis intervention and procedural justice training. To learn more about supporting these research needs, please visit the Charles Koch Foundation’s Request for Proposals page.