Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action

Source: David H. Bayley, Michael A. Davis, and Ronald L. Davis, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014), New Perspectives in Policing Series, June 2015

From the summary:
Drawing on discussions during the second Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), David Bayley, Michael Davis, and Ron Davis have developed an agenda that addresses the dilemma that race has become for the police.

In ‘Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action’ the authors divide this agenda into two parts: The first, ‘Strategic Voice’, discusses what police should advocate in terms of policy in order to mitigate the effects of race in law-enforcement. The second, ‘Tactical Agency’, proposes options for what the police can do on their own to address race both within their own organization and in the community at-large.
In giving ‘voice’ Bayley, Davis, and Davis argue that police should urge policies that address endemic and persistent conditions of disadvantage; the conditions, in other words, that generate crime, disrespect for law, and antagonism toward the police. Police leaders should also stress that the purpose of the police is not solely to prevent and control crime, but to do so ‘with consent’ so as to encourage respect for law.

Concerning actions that police can take to gain the confidence of communities, the authors and respective Executive Session members make six suggestions, such as re-orienting the culture of policing and regularly assessing how people feel about the treatment they have received from the public. In this report the authors make another set of six suggestions – this time relating to what police can do to shape the behavior of police officers themselves, such as confronting racial and ethnic tensions whenever they occur and developing ways to evaluate the effectiveness of engaging with communities are offered. ….

The Police and Public Discourse on “Black-on-Black” Violence
Source: Anthony A. Braga and Rod K. Brunson, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014), New Perspectives in Policing Series, May 2015

From the summary:
In a new report released today by Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the authors explain how news media coverage sometimes distorts racial issues, and then strive to present a more cool-headed analysis of black-on-black violence when measured as a homicide problem. Also addressed is how misconceptions of black-on-black violence coupled with over- and/or under-policing of black neighborhoods can further erode citizen confidence in the police.

Research has long documented that most violence occurs within racial groups and that black Americans – often victimized by black offenders – experience disproportionately high levels of violent crime. The term “black-on-black” violence, while statistically correct, is a simplistic and emotionally-charged definition of urban violence that can be problematic when used by political commentators, politicians, and police executives. Because the police represent the most visible face of government and have primary responsibility for maintaining public safety in all neighborhoods, police executives in particular should avoid framing urban violence problems in this way. Inappropriate use of such phrases can inadvertently promote inappropriate policing activities in black neighborhoods, which in turn erode the community’s trust and confidence in the police and inhibit co-operation with them.

In The Police and Public Discourse on “Black-on-Black” Violence, Braga and Brunson argue that careful analysis can lead to clarity in describing urban violence patterns, and can thus improve police-minority community relations in at least two important ways. First, police executives can better frame and communicate to constituents the true nature of serious violent crime problems. Second, careful analysis can lead to the development and implementation of effective and appropriately focused crime reduction strategies…..