Rebuilding Trust through 21st Century Community Policing
April 12, 2018
Today marks three years since the death of Freddie Gray. The relationship between police and many communities across America remains in crisis. To restore faith, we must work to build police departments comprised of officers who reflect the full diversity and live in the communities they serve. We must ensure that police training and tactics incorporate tools for the deescalation of violence and confrontation. Community policing models and deescalation tactics and cultural competence training — standardized throughout the state and codified in Maryland law — would both reduce implicit bias and help officers better identify individuals, and particularly young people, at greatest risk.
I believe Maryland has a moral obligation to adopt a new paradigm for policing — one that maintains both public safety and the freedoms and dignity of people in all communities. One that fully embraces that black lives matter.
As Governor, my administration will attack the fundamental causes of crime (poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunity, public health needs, access to transit, etc.) and cast aside the failed strategies of yesterday, including mass incarceration, mandatory minimums, zero tolerance, and the war on drugs.
As Governor, I will lead a new era of police-community relations, which emphasizes greater diversity within the ranks; encourages more officers to live in the communities they serve; prioritizes de-escalation and cultural competency; treats addiction as a public health crisis; and, above all, fosters collaboration and communication among communities and police to build mutual trust.
Establishing Trust between Communities and Police
In too many of our most under-resourced communities, residents are distrustful and resentful of police. We need to support our police officers as they connect with the communities they serve to earn the trust and respect of the residents that they are sworn to protect.
- Ensure police reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Only 40% of Baltimore’s police force is African-American (less than the 63% of overall population), and less than a fifth of officers are women. We will never build trust between police and communities if officers are not representative of the communities they protect. We will work with departments across the state to improve their outreach and hiring practices, as well as build a pipeline of talent by working with local HBCUs, community colleges and universities, and community organizations to encourage more people of color to consider and pursue public safety careers.
- Encourage police to live in the communities they serve. Just over 20% of Baltimore City police officers live within Baltimore’s city limits. Studies have shown that reducing physical distance between police and the communities they serve decrease the potential for violent conflict and dehumanization. As Governor, I will provide matching funds to help jurisdictions that need it to provide for relocation expenses, home-buying incentives, and tuition assistance to incentivize officers to live in the communities they serve.
- Provide pay bonuses to officers who engage in local community development initiatives like volunteering at Boys and Girls Clubs, youth sports leagues, and other local non-profits. Initiatives like the Baltimore City Police Department’s Community Collaboration Teams are a good start, but every officer should be encouraged to become an active member of the community they serve.
- Implement more walking patrols focused on engaging with and speaking to residents, rather than solely making arrests. Too often fear and mistrust prevent honest and open collaboration between police and residents. Every resident should feel like the police force in their area works on their behalf.
- Invest additional state funds into police youth mentorship initiatives. Not only do youth mentorship programs help recruit local students to become police officers in their own communities, they also help build more positive relationships between students and officers.
Violence Prevention Law Enforcement Efforts
- Encourage all police departments to prioritize deescalation techniques by providing training, resources, and incentives for officers to expand their skills and competencies. Work with local institutions to build deescalation training modules into criminal justice academic programs, police training programs, and the requirements for graduation of all local and state police academies. As part of this training, we will encourage all agencies to ensure their officers receive cultural competency training to reduce the potential for miscommunications that can escalate into violent conflict.
- Re-fund and expand Operation Safe Kids. This Baltimore-based program, which Governor Hogan inexplicably decided to de-fund, uses high-touch interventions to divert the kids most at risk to become victims or perpetrators of gun violence towards better educational opportunities and life outcomes. It also offers wrap-around services to participating students and their families, ensuring kids have a roof over their head and food to eat while they concentrate on their education.
- Treat drug addiction as a public health crisis. Ensure that local departments
are fully integrated with mental and behavioral health providers to ensure that Marylanders struggling with the disease of addiction are increasingly in treatment facilities, not jail.
- Fund the Expansion of Mobile Crisis Teams Statewide. Mobile crisis teams pair officers with social workers, and when responding to a 911 call, the social worker and officer can work together to de-escalate a situation, particularly when minors are involved.
Justice is a journey we have to take together, and I will make it one of my top priorities to restore police to a place of trust in the communities where officer-resident relations have suffered.