As the Obama Administration enters its final year in office, Attorney General Loretta Lynch is on a mission. Lynch has long understood the importance of strong police-community relations: less than a month after she was sworn in as Attorney General last year, she began a community policing tour to visit cities where law enforcement agencies were working to mend fractured relationships with their communities. Time and time again, she has spoken compellingly about the breakdown in trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and the vital need for engaging communities as partners in order to build back this trust.
Now she’s started the second phase of the community policing tour, traveling around the country to visit six jurisdictions whose work effectively mirrors some of the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. This focus on law enforcement agencies that have successfully implemented “pillars” of policing outlined by the Task Force—including building trust, policy and oversight, and technology and social media—reflects the belief that while it’s important to recognize how far we have to go, it’s also important to recognize the progress we have made.
This post kicks off a series that will highlight each department Lynch will visit.
What have these departments been up to that has landed them a place on Lynch’s community policing tour? First up: the city of Doral, FL, which exemplifies Pillar 1 of the President’s Task Force—building trust and legitimacy.
In February, Lynch kicked off the tour in the city of Doral, FL to highlight the Doral Police Department’s focus on building community trust. The City of Doral Police Department has adopted the Blue Courage initiative, a training program that focuses on police as guardians of their community, not warriors. The program, designed by a retired Aurora, Illinois police officer with support from the Department of Justice, emphasizes teaching police officers how to increase engagement and reduce stress to improve their ability to de-escalate potentially volatile situations. By summer, Doral intends for its entire department to be trained through Blue Courage.
Anecdotally, Doral PD is already seeing the positive results from their training. As Doral PD officer Luis Martinez told the Miami-Herald, “Police work has always been very stat oriented. But when it comes to the good stuff, there’s no way to quantify it. Blue Courage gives us the permission to do these things, to go the extra mile.”
During her visit, Lynch praised the small, 125-officer Doral PD’s consistent reputation for striving to maintain the trust of the community, noting that the Doral PD is “living the values that we talk about every day.” Unfortunately, police-community relations have not always been equally rosy in Miami, which AG Lynch also visited—just fifteen miles down the road from Doral. In Miami, Lynch hosted a youth town hall where high school students and local police officers had a chance discuss the sometimes-strained relationship between the police and the community.
The Department of Justice’s 2013 investigation into the Miami Police Department’s use of lethal force reflects a source of some of this conflict: DOJ found that in just three years, Miami police officers shot and killed 33 people. Soon after Lynch’s visit, the Miami Police Department reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to implement reforms in response to the investigation into officer-involved shootings that found a pattern or practice of excessive use of force. Importantly, the agreement incorporates some of the values underpinning the community policing tour. For example, there will be a mechanism to ensure community participation in the monitoring process.
Stay tuned for our next post in this series, which will explore Lynch’s visit to Portland, OR, to highlight the Portland Police Department’s work in community policing and crime reduction.