Resources and Studies to Help ReimagineATX
Right Sizing the Police Department
Alternative first response programs sprout up all over the country
Well before protesters recently flooded the streets of America, demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and calling to defund or abolish police departments, several cities across the country had begun shifting resources and responsibilities away from law enforcement to professionals trained to handle emergency calls for nonviolent, crisis situations.
Dallas Police Department Staffing Study
The City of Dallas got recommendations in 2019 that start with analyzing what police are doing and allocating existing staff more efficiently.
An Analysis of Police Department Staffing: How Many Officers Do You Really Need?
Police staffing experts provide a demand-based framework for assessing police staffing. Although it does not address ways to reduce that demand with alternative first responders or alternative approaches to major sources of that demand — like addressing unsheltered homelessness with homes or drug use with services rather than arrest — it does allow us to take data we have and identify the most important factors to discuss: “It does appear, albeit from this limited sample, that crime is not a factor, response time is not a factor, and service demands are not a factor, but CFS rate and peak-demand staffing are factors.”
Governing: Size of the police force varies widely
Data reported by law enforcement agencies to the FBI depict a wide variation in the size of departments. Washington, D.C., for instance, maintains by far the largest police presence of any city, with about 57 officers for every 10,000 residents. Not too far behind is the Wilmington, Del., Police Department, employing approximately 43 officers for every 10,000 residents. Those numbers seem big when compared with a place like San Jose, Calif., which has only 9 officers per 10,000 people.
The Marshall Project: is the answer more cops?
“…the consultants found that officers were spending a lot of time chasing reports about burglar alarms and vicious dogs. City officials debated and rejected the idea of freeing up cops by outsourcing low priority complaints to other city agencies, or to private security firms. “That was going to be a pretty steep hill for us to get over with the citizens, to say we aren’t providing that service anymore,” said former Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. “It is hard to stop doing something that you have traditionally done.” Consultants say that in police departments across the country they encounter similar resistance to change.”
Police Academy Reform
Stop Training Police Like They’re Joining the Military
“When I entered the Washington, D.C., police academy in 2016 as a recruit officer in the district’s volunteer police reserve corps, I quickly discovered that I was joining a paramilitary organization.”
Police are Trained to Fear
Police departments find several ways to keep cops afraid, and a lot of this fear is cloaked as self-defense and “remaining alert.” Once a year in my department, we were required to qualify with our duty weapons at the gun range, and when I went, the range staff showed a plethora of YouTube videos of police-involved shootings. I left the police field before body cameras became the norm, so most of the videos I saw at those times were from dash cams for stopped cars. (Which, to note, the BPD didn’t have at the time because cops would pull out the wiring to disable the cameras.) Think about it: a bunch of cops sitting in a small, windowless room in the basement of the Northeast Police District watching video after video of cops getting into shootouts during traffic stops. It reminded me of the highway accident movies in driver’s education class 20 years earlier—basically hours of worst-case-scenario training. There was very little emphasis on any sort of de-escalation; it was all “point and shoot.”
Georgetown Law’s Innovative Policing Program
Georgetown’s program may indicate some experts and curricula that would be useful to review for Austin.
Why cops should be trained to gain cooperation
Much of the professional police communication instruction states that the goal of law enforcement is to generate voluntary compliance, not cooperation.
How fear contributes to cop’s use of deadly force
Regional differences in the overall incidence of lethal force are so great that whites in Houston have a higher likelihood of being killed by police than black residents of New York City do. Such extreme geographic variations suggest that selection, training, leadership and organizational culture have considerable impact on the way officers respond to perceived threats and defuse situations before they become threatening. Some powerful historical evidence supports this view.
Animals in Policing
Austin Police Department Canine Unit
The Marshall Project: Six Takeaways from a Year of Research on Police Dogs
Police dog bites are rarely fatal. But in other ways, the case of Joseph Pettaway is not unusual. These dogs, whose jaws and teeth are strong enough to punch through sheet metal, often produce severe injuries. Police employ them not only in emergencies, but also for low-level, non-violent incidents. The dogs bite thousands of Americans each year, including innocent bystanders, police officers, even their own handlers. And there is little oversight, nationally or in the states, of how police departments use them.
Police still use attack dogs against Black Americans
The animal’s only job in this scenario was to debase, violate and humiliate a Black man the officers presumed to be guilty. And this didn’t happen decades ago, it happened weeks ago. The video evidence reflected a gory episode of state violence through the jaws of a canine that conjures up a long history of such images.
Washington Post: Brutal dog attacks lead cities to curtail k-9 units
In response to recent revelations by NPR and The Marshall Project, police chiefs are starting to review body camera video from dog bite incidents and are finding problems. Police unions respond that dogs are effective at finding hiding suspects or subduing a fleeing suspect and that body camera video of brutal dog attacks provide an incomplete picture. Experts in human behavior point out that in fact dog attacks escalate situations because people are “hard-wired to actively fight an attack that might lead to serious injuries or death. Many Black suspects also have frightening personal histories of ancestors being hunted by canines. Enslaved people who fled plantations were tracked down and mauled by dogs, sometimes to death, their bodies brought back as a warning to other enslaved people. K-9s were also routinely used in the 1960s on civil rights protesters.” In response, a police union official claimed that efforts to eliminate dangerous K9 units are “part of this anarchist movement to take tools away from police.”
The Remarkable Origin of Police Dogs in America
By 1911, New York had 16 dogs that were used for patrolling in the Long Island residential district…From 11pm until 7am the dogs ran loose in the neighborhood assigned to their handlers (officers on the police force) and, upon encountering anyone other than a man in uniform, would knock the stranger to the ground, stand on him, and bark until the handler arrived.
Slave Hounds and Abolition in the Americas
Examining racialized canine attacks also contextualizes representations of anti-blackness and interspecies ideas of race. An Atlantic network of breeding, training and sales facilitated the use of slave hounds in each major American slave society to subdue human property, actualize legal categories of subjugation, and build efficient economic and state regimes.
Furguson Police Found by DOJ to deploy dogs dangerously, especially with Black residents
FPD engages in a pattern of deploying canines to bite individuals when the articulated facts do not justify this significant use of force. The department’s own records demonstrate that, as with other types of force, canine officers use dogs out of proportion to the threat posed by the
people they encounter, leaving serious puncture wounds to nonviolent offenders, some of them children.
NPR: Videos Reveal A Close, Gory View Of Police Dog Bites
Donald W. Cook is a Los Angeles attorney with decades of experience bringing lawsuits over police dog bites — and mostly losing. He blames what he calls “The Rin Tin Tin Effect” — juries think of police dogs as noble, and have trouble visualizing how violent they can be during an arrest. “[Police] use terms like ‘apprehend’ and ‘restrain,’ to try to portray it as a very antiseptic event,” Cook says. “But you look at the video and the dog is chewing away on his leg and mutilating him.”