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Policing the Police: Lessons Learned in a Time of Urban Unrest

Daniel DiSalvo Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Professor of Political Science, City College of New York-CUNY
Stephen Eide Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Nicole Gelinas Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Michael Hendrix Director of State and Local Policy, Manhattan Institute
Fri, Jun 12, 2020 EVENTCAST

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Policing the Police: Lessons Learned in a Time of Urban Unrest

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In the wake of George Floyd’s death, and the ensuing urban unrest, there are increasing demands for dramatic changes in the operation—and funding—of law enforcement. Exactly what this will mean for cities, particularly New York City, remains unclear, but ongoing crime and public disorder suggests the stakes are high.

What happens when cities defund or disband their police forces—as Camden, New Jersey did? How do labor unions influence law enforcement? And can proposed policing reforms be better targeted?

On June 12, the Manhattan Institute hosted Stephen Eide, Daniel DiSalvo, and Nicole Gelinas for this important conversation with moderator Michael Hendrix.

 

Event Transcript

Michael Hendrix:

In the wake of George Floyd's death and days of protest and anger across America, we're now in a rush to do something on police reforms. In order to inform that conversation, we know we need constructive ideas and proposals based on evidence. There's also a real danger that politicians will, in their efforts to seize the moments, wind up pursuing deeply counterproductive policies.

Michael Hendrix:

So how can we not still lose sight of public safety? We have a great panel today to answer these questions and more.

Michael Hendrix:

I'm Michael Hendrix, Director of State and Local Policy. It's good to be with you today. Throughout our program, please enter your questions on our Slido platform, and our moderators will either wrap them into our discussion or will ... And me as the moderator will either include them throughout the discussion or in the Q&A at the end. Also, please click on the Polls tab and share your affiliation with us, including even if you don't have one.

Michael Hendrix:

Now, without further ado, it's my pleasure to introduce Dan DiSalvo. Dan is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a professor of political science at the Colin Powell School at the City College of New York–CUNY; Stephen Eide, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal; and Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a longtime writer at New York Post.

Michael Hendrix:

Nicole, I want to start with you. What are you seeing in calls for police reform, specifically in New York City?

Nicole Gelinas:

Well, the concrete culture reform focus on two main things at the New York State and city level, and there was some progress on these bills in Albany this week. We'll likely see some movement in the city council next week. The first thing is repealing what is called 50A, a five-decade old law that protects police disciplinary records from public view on privacy grounds.

Nicole Gelinas:

Now up until very recently, the city of New York interpreted 50A in a way that allowed the city to disseminate these reports to the press, to the public, just redacting some issues that brought up privacy concerns. But the de Blasio administration reinterpreted 50A to keep these records far closer to the vest and not answering reporters' requests to hand over these records.

Nicole Gelinas:

And so, this has been an issue of both, a, the law as written and, b, interpretation of the law. So the good news is that Albany has voted on this, and this is something that likely will be history at some time in the next couple of weeks.

Nicole Gelinas:

The other thing is the issue of chokeholds. Chokeholds are already banned by the police Patrol Guide. Any police officer who uses a chokehold can be disciplined. Also, obviously criminal penalties in terms of assault, attempted murder, murder apply to police officers just as well as anyone else.

Nicole Gelinas:

But the city council is likely to move mid next week to make the ban of chokeholds the law as well as something that is banned, procedurally and generally banned, by the state's criminal code.

Nicole Gelinas:

So those are the two main things. There was a package of reforms before the city council. Some of them are redundant. I mean things like making it clearer that somebody can film the police officer without facing any penalty. That is already the law of the land. Issues of punishment for falsely calling 911. It's already a crime to file a false police report. But that's pretty much the overview.

Michael Hendrix:

Nicole, you talked about the law, the interpretation of the law, potential changes. I want to stick with you for just a second. How do you interpret calls to defund the police that we're now hearing?

Nicole Gelinas:

Well, defunding the police is a purposefully vague term. The word defund, depending on how you interpret it, could mean we don't have a police department to we cut the police department budget by 1%. In general, the calls on the part of furious city council people, the progressive caucus of the city council, range from cutting the police department from $250 million a year to $1 billion a year. Even at the high end, if you consider that the entire police budget, including pension and health benefits, is about $10 billion a year, this would only be a cut of about 10%.

Nicole Gelinas:

Of course, a cut of 10% would be very drastic. It would be unprecedented. But we are also in the context of a historical budget crisis, which means the city is highly likely to have to make budget cuts across the board.

Michael Hendrix:

Dan, I want to go to you next. Police unions have been a big part of the discussion. What's been their response to all of this?

Daniel DiSalvo:

Well, in the initial wake of the killing in Minneapolis, police unions around the country didn't usually, as they have in the past, circle the wagons and defend the officer in question, but police union leaders came out strongly in condemning the killing of George Floyd.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Now that's changed a little bit as we've gotten further from the event and there's been a bit more difference of police union reaction. Both the local police union in Minneapolis came quite out strongly in defending the officer, attacking the media and elsewhere.

Daniel DiSalvo:

As legislation and policy activity has picked up both at national, state, and local jurisdictions across the country, we've seen police unions become more vocal and more critical of some of those initiatives. So some of the reforms percolating in Albany that Nicole was just discussing have seen pushback from Patrick Lynch, the leader of the NYPD officers' union here in New York.

Daniel DiSalvo:

In some ways, I think it's important to recognize that for police union leaders around the country, condemning the Floyd killing, which was horrible and terrible, is fairly easy to do. It's not their officers that are in question in this particular instance. So in that sense, they can do that without sacrificing any of their standing with their own particular memberships.

Michael Hendrix:

Right. I'm curious too, just to also stick with you for second, what's been the relationship between police unions and the broader labor movement in this moment? What are you seeing?

Daniel DiSalvo:

Well, I think even going back, police unions have a very odd position inside, you could say, the public sector labor movement and the labor movement overall. Most public employee unions are strongly politically or very closely aligned with the Democratic Party. For example, the major teachers' unions give their campaign contributions overwhelmingly to Democrats. Police unions, on the other hand, have formed strong alliances with both parties and are often closely tied to Republican parties in state and local governments.

Daniel DiSalvo:

So in that sense, the labor movement's never been quite sure about whether police are really part of the broader movement or if they're somewhat of an outlier. This also has reflected attitudes towards police unions, you could say, on the political left and the political right. People on the political left tend to be more skeptical of the police, but they also want to generally defend unions, so they're often in a little bit of a bind when it comes to how to treat police unions.

Daniel DiSalvo:

People on the political right are often concerned that criticizing police unions will be mistaken for criticism of police in general, and people on the political right are generally more supportive of the forces of law and order in general, whereas they're also more critical of labor unions.

Michael Hendrix:

That's very interesting. I do want to come back to this. But that actually takes us to you, Stephen, about how calls to defund the police have often pointed to Camden, New Jersey's experience. What can you tell us about what that experience actually entail, and even the role of unions in that reform?

Stephen Eide:

Well, the Camden police reform that everybody's been interested in over the past couple of weeks, you had a perfect storm of circumstances around 2010-2011. Camden's one of the poorest cities in America, a history of serious crime problem and also a serious crime of bad relations between the police and the community. When the Great Recession hit, economic woes increased, crime was going up. The police department had also been hit by some corruption and abuse scandals.

Stephen Eide:

And so, there was an interest among state and local officials in trying to do something new. Many reforms, many attempts to improve Camden had not worked. And so, the plan that they came up with, Governor Christie's administration and also county and city officials, was to disband the old Camden city police department that have been around for over 100 years and replace it with a new county police department, a department within Camden county government devoted towards policing services in the city of Camden.

Stephen Eide:

The main substantive benefit that this yielded was a new union contract. You create a new department, you get to enact a new union contract. All the officers were laid out in the old city department, including the police chief, and then were offered jobs in the new county department. Most of them were rehired, not all of them. The old police chief was rehired.

Stephen Eide:

But writing a new union contract gave them a lot of flexibility in terms of bringing down compensation. The total compensation package went down from around $180,000 to around $100,000. Having cheaper cops enabled them to hire more cops. So they actually increased the number of cops in the department, especially on patrol.

Stephen Eide:

It also led to some really substantive changes in terms of just policing, reform policing services. Crime has gone way down since the Camden police reform. Murders were down by over 60%. Total violent crime down by around half. Police community relations have improved a lot as well.

Stephen Eide:

But as a result of having more cops out there in the neighborhoods, the clearance rate has gone up. So Camden not only has less crime, the crime that it does have, it's solving more of that crime. That's clearly an indication of improved police community relations. It proves the thesis that the problem with Camden and in its battle days before the reform was it had a problem of underpolicing.

Stephen Eide:

Looking into this debate over defunding the police, if this is done recklessly, if this is not done in a smart way, you're going to have to see police departments probably retrench, focus only on serious crime. You'll have less cops available to be out in the neighborhoods doing things like foot patrol, doing things like bike patrol, even soft stuff like showing up at community picnics.

Stephen Eide:

In Camden, those types of functions, which seem often so soft, have yielded really concrete benefits in terms of both public safety and improved police community relations for that city. Again, at the heart of the reform was, yes, changes to the union contract.

Michael Hendrix:

Stephen, it seems like then there's an important difference between calls for defunding the police and "police abolition". Those can be different things, right? Camden is different than police abolition.

Stephen Eide:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, like a lot of people, I'm not sure where this debate is headed. As Nicole said, if you're faced with a historic budget deficit, then likely police departments will have to see their funding cut. I don't know if that means we've defunded the police just to activists' satisfaction.

Stephen Eide:

But if you look at the historic debate over policing in America, I mean let's assume that we're still going to have millions of handguns out there in city neighborhoods. There are still going to be calls for service regarding murders, regarding shots fired, and that we will need police departments to respond to those calls.

Stephen Eide:

That will mean a more hunkered down, retrenched policing model somewhat similar to the type of model that police departments are trying to develop around the post-war era. The LAPD in particular was famous for this professional policing, 911 policing, cops in patrol cars moving around quickly, efficiently responding to serious crime, crime-fighting.

Stephen Eide:

The problem with that model was that it did not keep crime down. Crime went way up through the '60s and '70s after this model was implemented. Also, the relations between police and communities had deteriorated, and it led towards the interest in various community policing strategies developed during the later twentieth century. So we really need to keep our history in mind as we're debating these reform proposals.

Michael Hendrix:

I do want to get back to the conversation of community policing, but also to encourage our audience. If you have questions, please submit them. I would love to be able to ask your questions to our panelists. Also, to our panelists, they are also free to ask each other questions, too. We definitely encourage that.

Michael Hendrix:

Nicole, help us to step back here a little bit. What is the political environment and backdrop behind all of these conversations and calls for police reform?

Nicole Gelinas:

Well, with the understanding that the George Floyd killing became a mass national and global movement, a newcomer to New York might wonder why was the goodwill so non-existent between the police, the elected officials, and a pretty significant portion of the protest in public after many years of essentially total democratic and liberal and progressive control of New York City government, including Bloomberg. I mean Bloomberg was far more of a Democrat and a progressive on most issues that he was a Republican.

Nicole Gelinas:

I think the answer lies somewhat in our highly dysfunctional method of turning advocacy into law. We have a culture where the elected political class encourages open-ended months, if not years and decades, of advocacy and protest to get even the tiniest law reformed or passed or repealed. Not to say that 50A is in any way insignificant, but we can make this case with far less significant issues.

Nicole Gelinas:

Take the issue of vending reform. Last year, there was a case where a woman, immigrant woman, was illegally vending in a Queens subway, who had received multiple summonses for vending in a subway. She did not comply with police requests to move [inaudible 00:16:56] subway.

Nicole Gelinas:

One day, she was arrested. She was given a desk appearance ticket. She was not put in jail. She was not abused in any way. And that was that.

Nicole Gelinas:

Now the entire elected political class came out and stood behind her and said, "This is an outrage. This is an abuse. This is an injustice." But the one thing that did not happen was that they did not change the bending laws. We know that the vending laws need reform. We need to have more vending licenses in return for more enforcement of some of the quality of life issues like smoke in trash. We have known this for at least 10 years.

Nicole Gelinas:

But the elected class, because it doesn't want to anger any faction of multiple factions who have various views on vending, would rather just stand behind this woman and pretend to have solidarity with her in hope that the entire issue just goes away and people forget about it, which essentially they did. I mean this poor lady, if she wants to go back and vend, is going to be in the same situation. All of these people standing behind her did not help her.

Nicole Gelinas:

That is true on many, many issues, including issues of greater importance. Take traffic safety. We know from global examples what laws and what type of enforcement need to be in place to assure that people can walk around, bike around, drive around in relative safety.

Nicole Gelinas:

But it takes New York City years and years and years, and the state too, to enact the simplest reforms. Speed cameras, red light cameras, lower speed limits, putting in bike lanes. You have an advocacy community of thousands of people, including people who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. They have to go out there continuously and make it almost a full-time job before the political class will do even the most modest reform. I mean if you think about closing Central Park to cars, it took 60 years. I mean is this a success or a failure?

Nicole Gelinas:

So when you come to the even more existential, important issues like police reform, police brutality, what do we want policing to look like, it is even more fraught with all of these different interest groups, all of these different advocacy groups, and a political class that would rather keep voters outraged than deliver reform.

Michael Hendrix:

That's interesting, this juxtaposition between the very serious issues that we're debating and the performative aspects of politics in modernity, but also the belief that the only way to get any effective change on serious issues is to perform and is to draw attention to the issues. Maybe Dan, as someone who's an expert in political science, has some thoughts on how we approach reforms today. I don't know if you want to jump in, but this is very interesting.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Well, I do think the performativity of politics is certainly ... That's always been a dimension of politics, but it's certainly increased as social media has become so widespread. I think the backdrop here is really a new phenomenon, which is not just that the performance aspect rather than legislative accomplishment has become so central to the advancement of politicians' careers. I think Nicole's quite right in putting her finger on that.

Daniel DiSalvo:

But also the social media is really at the source of all of this. The rise of these viral videos over the last 10 years has helped shine a spotlight on what's clearly an injustice and a problem in these individual cases. But it also, I think, tends to distort the entire discussion a little bit away from some basic facts about policing in the United States and elsewhere because it focuses so much attention on these individual instances of, in case the of Floyd, clear injustice. But does that really describe the interactions of 330 million Americans on a day-to-day basis with the police? It probably doesn't give us much leverage on that reality.

Michael Hendrix:

This is a really complicated and important issue, which is why I'm curious, Stephen, there's a question from our audience about the LAPD approach and what we can learn from that. Is there an LAPD model? We're seeing advocates today present mental health professionals as being either complements or substitutes to policing in certain circumstances. That's a really complicated discussion separate from whatever politicians may be saying. What can we learn from the LAPD model and the role of mental health professionals?

Stephen Eide:

Well, there are a couple of things there. Let me get to save the mental health one for a little bit later, but I do want to get to a certain point. But I think what the commenter was asking about was so this is something that our late colleague George Kelling, the architect of broken windows policing, would talk about a lot in questions of how technology can improve policing, which comes up all the time now.

Stephen Eide:

The state of the art technology earlier in the twentieth century was radio-equipped patrol cars. You could have cops in cars and they would have radios, and that would revolutionize policing for the better, away from having the patrolman on the beat. In particular, it would help control police officers. The police officers would be a little bit more like widgets. You could tell them exactly what they needed to do and when they needed to do it from centralized locations.

Stephen Eide:

Also, ideally, you would create this feeling of omnipresence. So they would be out patrol cars in neighborhoods all the time so that they'd be around, and no one would think of committing any serious crimes when that was going on.

Stephen Eide:

This, along with some other developments to try to "professionalize" the police, policing in America and [inaudible 00:23:07] problems of corruption that had existed when police had too close relationships with neighborhoods during the old machine politics era, basically led to police officer spending a lot more time by themselves in cars and far less time on the streets interacting with people in neighborhoods.

Stephen Eide:

And so, as a result, you had the '60s riots, the wave of riots, that hit so many American cities in the 1960s, which were always triggered by some sort of, initially, minor altercation between a police officer and an individual from the neighborhood, and you had the crime explosion throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Stephen Eide:

So that's what I was trying to get at when talking about how the LAPD during this period exemplified the unintended consequences of what was then thought of as good government, technologically oriented, smart reform.

Michael Hendrix:

How does that intersect with community policing, smart reform, what we can learn about the past handful of years or even decades of community policing that could potentially inform us in the future?

Stephen Eide:

Well, going back to the Camden case, when they said they came up with this plan, it was developed by a former high ranking NYPD official named John Timoney, also the head of police at Philadelphia at the time. When he's laid out his plan for community policing under the new regime, he really meant quality of life policing, dealing with these low-level sources of disorder, which are such a big source of concern for people in neighborhoods, even in very high crime neighborhoods.

Stephen Eide:

And so, quality of life policing, dealing with issues of low-level disorder, this hearken back to the more traditional policing model that was more common in the nineteenth century, but that was what was required in order to create a policing model that was more effective and also just broadly more satisfying and more tailored to communities' needs.

Stephen Eide:

And so, ideally, you have a situation where it's community policing in the sense that you're responding more to communities' needs in a broader sense. But also the community is doing the policing. It's out there on the streets, interacting with the police, and helping the police in keeping disorder and crime down.

Michael Hendrix:

Dan, I think you had a quick question maybe for Nicole about the New York City context.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Yeah. Following on Stephen's point about the community policing where officers are going to be engaged in order maintenance on the street, New York obviously was a pioneer in adopting some of this through what's been now called stop, question, and frisk, which really came into being in the first iteration under Giuliani, and then the various police commissioners Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton.

Daniel DiSalvo:

But I wonder if Nicole might reflect a little bit on New York's experience and the state of mistrust that we observe today between communities and the police. I confess I'd add to this question for you, Nicole, by just saying I often wonder what is public opinion beyond the protesters in many parts of New York City. Many people really do want the police protection beyond that. So what's the true state of public opinion beyond this in light of recent history and experience?

Nicole Gelinas:

Yeah. Thanks, Dan. I think you raised two interesting points, and I'll start with public opinion. We don't know what people think right now, except for on the national level that people obviously and rightly feel broad sympathy with the injustice done to George Floyd and, of course, feel sympathy with this process movement that has built off around it.

Nicole Gelinas:

In every poll that's ever been done in New York City, so going back to two years ago, the vast majority of people in every neighborhood want policing in their neighborhood and have different degrees of worry or concern about crime. So a mass defund movement, like the first lady said the other day, it would a nirvana if we don't have any police in New York City. Maybe people changed their mind over the past few weeks, but there's no evidence that people have supported that up until now.

Nicole Gelinas:

Yes, I think with the stop, question, and frisk issue, if we think back to 1990, actually during the Dinkins administration, that is the year that the murder rate peaked in New York. More than 2200 people killed.

Nicole Gelinas:

Bill Bratton, then the transit police head, started to roll out these new ideas in the transit system, where he would say someone who is entering the transit system without paying the fare, let's stop them in doing that because they are committing a small crime by not paying the fare. Maybe we can prevent them from committing bigger crimes in the transit system once they've entered without paying the fare.

Nicole Gelinas:

There's no question that this worked. I mean the New York Times, when Bratton started doing this, said, "Well, we're never going to fix crime in the subway." I mean we had 26 murders a year in the subway, and the Times said that's as low as it's going to go. You probably won't get murdered in the subway if you're careful. I mean that literally is what they wrote.

Nicole Gelinas:

Three months later, the Times was saying this worked, that we have gotten all crime in the subway down by double digits. Today it is very unusual to have more than two crimes in the subway, although this year, so far, we've already had three, which is an indication of the lost equilibrium of the foot traffic and everything else in the pandemic.

Nicole Gelinas:

But, obviously, as crime went down from 1990 to the early 2010s, the trade-off that people were willing to make in order to keep crime from going down further became different. If you were more worried about crime, you maybe are willing to give up a little bit more in terms of civil liberties than when you're not as worried about crime, because there's only 350 murders. Of course, as the murder rate went down, it was much harder to get the murder rate down further.

Nicole Gelinas:

So the Bloomberg administration adopted a very mechanized approach to stop, question, and frisk at the same time when they were cutting officers. So every officer had to be more aggressive in order to have the same level of policing on the streets.

Nicole Gelinas:

Obvious that 600,000 stop, question, and frisk a year was far too many by 2013 given the crime context of record low crime, the change in political, legal, and social context. The system, to some extent, worked in that Bloomberg faced legal and political challenges to stop, question, and frisk. He cut back significantly by double-digit percentages.

Nicole Gelinas:

De Blasio ran on this and he won. He kept stop, question, and frisk down and pushed it down even further. Well crime also stayed down. I mean we have to give de Blasio credit. Until late last year, crime in New York City remained at record lows.

Nicole Gelinas:

The biggest threat, I think, is the bail reform law, which took effect in January. We already started to see problems with recidivists being bailed out and going on to commit multiple more crimes while bailed out in January and February.

Nicole Gelinas:

But, yes, I do think the short version is, yes, the whole question around stop, question, and frisk certainly exacerbated relations between police officers and in young men, but it was a case where the political system worked, that we did not see this level of protests and, in some cases, violence in order to get this to change and change quite drastically over the past half-decade.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Stephen, I think you have a follow-up, too.

Stephen Eide:

Yeah. Again, trying to shift focus from just rhetoric and advocacy to what reform would mean in concrete terms, just so those of us can evaluate what we even think about it, getting back to the issue of union contracts, I mean ... And this is a question for Dan especially, but also Nicole may have something to say.

Stephen Eide:

When you talk about collective bargaining, it's a give and take. Generally speaking, whether you're talking about teachers or cops or whomever, if you want changes to work rules, or really almost anything, you have to give something of a financial nature.

Stephen Eide:

We're at a context in which it would seem that governments have very little to give of a financial nature because of this historic deficit induced by the coronavirus. So if these are changes that somehow need to be done through the collective bargaining contrast, dealing with clauses in contracts that political leaders don't want, how are you going to do that if you have nothing to give financially for those changes?

Daniel DiSalvo:

Yeah, it's a huge problem to be dealing with this matter in the midst of a massive economic downturn and the coronavirus, which you could say all of these things really tie officials' hands and limit their options.

Daniel DiSalvo:

But I think, as you can see, and ours has already started in Minneapolis, collective bargaining reform, or at least starting at the very local level operating inside the existing collective bargaining rules, management side is going to push back a little bit more firmly on trying to eliminate what they see as some of the barriers to weeding out core performing officers or officers accused repeatedly of misconduct, you could say it's a weeding out of bad apples, and that really should be the target goal.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Now that's going to require a delicate balance that doesn't push back too strongly against unions who want to protect all who are, by law, required to defend all officers equally and want to protect good officers as well. We've got to strike a tough balance here between making the job attractive and why I'm giving them sufficient job protections. Perhaps things have gone too far in the direction of giving too much job protections, and maybe that's an attractive aspect of the job, but not enough salary. As you say, recalibrating that balance might be a certain way to go.

Daniel DiSalvo:

It may also be the case that steps could be taken in these tight-budget times with more salaries for a fewer number of officers in an effort to professionalize and increase the talent pool of people who are attracted to police.

Michael Hendrix:

There's actually a great question for follow-up here from Julie, one of our audience members. What are the chances the New York state legislature will mirror the reforms that occurred in Camden, specifically pertaining to union reforms?

Stephen Eide:

Yeah. So I think the role of state government in Chris Christie's administration, actually the governor's role, more than the state legislature is really interesting in the case of Camden. The way I got interested in the Camden police reform is because I was researching ways that state governments could help fiscally distressed cities.

Stephen Eide:

This was an example of where the state intervened in a quite forceful way, but also an effective way, because now in our debate over police reform, what changes can we make to policing in America, our interest instinctively goes to, well, first of all, the US Congress, because every local problem ... Maybe the Congress can just write a law and solve all of our problems, or mayors, city councils, state government, people have been focused on passing laws. But in the case of Camden, it was really more of this interventionist role that the state made.

Stephen Eide:

If the problem that we have is more of a nature of bad apples, maybe individual bad departments, departments that have a particularly noxious culture, then a broad approach, a new law is not going to be the most effective way to address it. You're going to need a more targeted intervention.

Stephen Eide:

In cities like Camden, I think a state government, leadership from the executive level, is absolutely pivotal. I mean there are many cities like Camden in America. They're very poor and highly dependent on state government. Camden is too poor to support municipal services on its own. It can only support municipal services with massive financial assistance on the part of state government. [inaudible 00:36:18] was not interested in just continuing to throw more good money after bad. It wanted to enact reforms along with continuing to support the city.

Stephen Eide:

Again, there are many cities like Camden that are poor, have poorly functioning municipal governments, and are reliant on the state. And so, if [inaudible 00:36:34] I think that the state governments, and particularly governors, would use the leverage that they have with these cities, then you might be able to address these issues in a more surgical, targeted way.

Michael Hendrix:

That's interesting. Nicole, I think you may have a follow-up question, too.

Nicole Gelinas:

Yeah. I wanted to ask Dan a question since you know more about public sector unions than anyone else. Should police departments go to the completely opposite extreme, where police officers earn more money, maybe they make a higher salary, but without overtime, but they are at-will employees?

Nicole Gelinas:

So someone like Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case six years ago. The city of New York could have just said to him, "You know what? We're not going to do an investigation. We will leave that up to the criminal justice system. But we've decided that you're not right for this job. So today's your last day," instead of having a five-year process on which he was still on the payroll. Would that be a better model and what kind of impact might that have, good or bad, on police department culture?

Daniel DiSalvo:

Yeah. In some way, it's an interesting model. I mean, clearly, we're very far away from that model where it's really the other extreme. So getting from one extreme to the other would be a politically perilous voyage.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Beyond that, I think we do sort of have an example of something like that. If we look at the US military, with the all-volunteer army, it's really the deal that was offered in the wake of the Vietnam War to improve the military's image and to address serious recruitment problems was we're going to pay more, but we're going to expect more. We're going try to recruit more talented people into the military.

Daniel DiSalvo:

The deal was actually really quite good, but the number of job protections is actually really quite small, and you can be dismissed. I mean it's much closer to an at-will employment situation. So we do have something of a model along those lines. I mean it's not in the police context, but it is in the armed services.

Daniel DiSalvo:

I think the big question for recruitment for police, if one were to move to that model, would really be for, say, younger officers. In many cases, it's only officers who are coming in with just a high school diploma. They're in their early 20s. They're developing skills as police officers. But the job protections really are valuable to them because just the nature of policing is going to lead to complaints by citizens. Police, especially police who are active and vigorous in maintaining order and seeking out criminals, are going to face complaints, some of them justified, some of them not justified.

Daniel DiSalvo:

For those younger officers in particular, if they were to lose their job, they haven't really gained a set of skills that are going to be quickly transferable to another line of work. So that security, job security, is really quite valuable. I think just the nature of policing does lead to probably something short of at-will employment where we need to have a process where complaints can be investigated and see if they're sustained or not sustained.

Daniel DiSalvo:

The problem is today that the process for investigating complaints against officers is often so convoluted and difficult and ending up in arbitration that really nothing can be done, and management has lost too many of its rights and we need to work in some ways for management to be able to act with greater swiftness. But perhaps going all the way to the alternative model may be a bridge too far.

Michael Hendrix:

Dan, I mean it's true too that in the military, you can go off and get higher education. You can get graduate degrees, that that is actually beneficial to your career. I wonder if there's a similar [inaudible 00:40:33] that's different in the police force, too.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Well, I mean if you look at the general trajectory of a police officer's career, sometimes people have 20 years up or out, meaning if you're at the officer level, you do your 20 and either you move up in rank and move into police management and you stay on the force or you retire after those 20 years.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Policing is, in many respects, also a young person's job. It requires being on your feet all day. It sometimes requires violent and dangerous situations where physical strength is required. So you get a little older and your back gets a little stiffer, patrolling a beat is just not going to be for you.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Those kind of avenues of further education and where people could go from beyond there, that hasn't been explored, to my knowledge, in the policing context.

Michael Hendrix:

Interesting. Now I do want to really focus now on some of the reforms. I know we have a number of questions from the audience on that. But, Stephen, I know that we had briefly talked about the role of mental health professionals. Can you unpack the mental health aspect either in policing or as a complement to policing? Because I know that from our audience, some of them are asking if there is a defund movement that succeeds in any degree and there's a move to reallocate funds, should it be towards mental health professionals? Whether or not we actually think that's a good idea, what does that look like? Maybe unpacking the role of mental health can help us.

Stephen Eide:

Right, yeah. I've been thinking about this recently relative to the defund question. I mean maybe what people want is if we reallocate our resources from the police departments to more upstream or preventative programs.

Stephen Eide:

There's a long history of police involvement in the provision of social services. The first homeless shelters were actually located in police stations going into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In our own time, when cities go out and do their annual point-in-time counts, what we call in New York City the HOPE count, to determine how many street homeless people there are. One would go out late night in January.

Stephen Eide:

Police have an important role in the point-in-time counts. Sometimes they accompany people. The police just know where homeless encampments are, so their role is really important there.

Stephen Eide:

In west coast cities, where you have big problems with encampments that sometimes absolutely need to be dealt with and cleaned up because they pose such a serious public health threat, the police have an important role in addressing encampments that sanitation and social service workers who have the lead role on these say they want the police around at least in a background role as they're addressing these encampment problems.

Stephen Eide:

So we've always had this question of police playing social worker. This is not a new debate. It proved impractical to try to disentangle them. It's odd for me, this idea that maybe if we just did a better job in the social services side, maybe we would need to rely less on police officers for various functions, because police officers, particularly in the mental health context, find themselves thrust into a role that they don't particularly want because of the failings of social services systems.

Stephen Eide:

One of our colleague D. J. Jaffe's favorite ideas for police reform is to have public safety agencies be able to bill mental healthcare systems for all the services that police have to provide that mental healthcare systems should be providing.

Stephen Eide:

Why do we have so many seriously mentally ill people in jails and prisons? It's not because the corrections departments wanted that situation. It's because they were thrust into that role.

Stephen Eide:

So is it conceivable theoretically that if we invested more in mental healthcare that we could reduce the risk of police shootings of mentally ill? Certainly, police shootings of mentally ill people are too high, but there are some worthy mental health programs maybe that could benefit for more money.

Stephen Eide:

But our mental healthcare system has so many more problems than just a need for resources, that if we're just taking money and putting it into the same old mental healthcare or social services systems that create so many problems that now wind up on the police to begin with. I just really wonder what people are thinking if they're actually serious when they're thinking about these proposals.

Michael Hendrix:

I do think that is actually a broader question that we can begin to tackle, is what is a constructive role for lawmakers, local, state, and federal to address these challenges? I wonder if we can go back a little bit to our discussion on police unions. Is there something that can or should be done there, regardless of the moment that we're in, that there's been a good healthy case for some kind of reform for some time? What might that look like? Dan, I wonder if you may have some thoughts? The others can jump in, too.

Daniel DiSalvo:

Well, I think what we're seeing, beginning at every level of government, is a push and calls for reform. Now at the local level, you're constrained much by existing law. So I think the first thing that local officials need to do is when collective bargaining contracts are up for renegotiation, most contracts last about three to five years, is that the officials should push reexamine and then perhaps push more vigorously for change to their grievance and arbitration processes, other disciplinary procedures that constrain management. That would be a first stage for local officials inside existing law.

Daniel DiSalvo:

For state officials, who can really set the terms of collective bargaining, they could revisit the entire terms of collective bargaining. Many state laws also provide substantial protections beyond the union contracts. I believe about 16 states have what are called Law Enforcement Officers' Bills of Rights, which, in statutes, specify the procedures that must be followed for investigation and discipline of police officers.

Daniel DiSalvo:

So there's lots that states might want to try to do at the state level to either reform collective bargaining itself for police officers, or perhaps for public employee unions more generally, or it might do on existing statutes relating to disciplinary procedures to empower management, that is mayors and police chiefs, to better change the culture and thereby improve community relations.

Daniel DiSalvo:

At the congressional level going all the way up to the federal level, in our federal system, Congress is fairly limited in what it can do, but it could try to incentivize those changes that I just mentioned at the state and local level through grant programs through the Department of Justice, through incentivizing new kinds of tactical training for officers. So there are things that Congress is currently debating and could do as well that would supplement and reinforce what states and localities might be considering.

Michael Hendrix:

Nicole, I wonder if you may also have some thoughts too on constructive things that you may have already been arguing for for some time.

Nicole Gelinas:

Yeah. If we move away from this very poisonous environment where you're either with the police or you're against the police, there are a lot of things New York City can do even without changing the law to improve police and public relations.

Nicole Gelinas:

First, 9/11 was almost 20 years ago. In response to 9/11, the police department did become, what many called, more militarized, and that is true. A big chunk of our policing is show-of-force policing, where you line up 30 police cars at a parade. I'm talking about a peaceful parade, not an anarchist protest against police. You line up 50 officers with machine guns outside of public events.

Nicole Gelinas:

The point makes some sense, that if anyone is tempted to carry out a terror attack, they know that they will be taken down within moments. There is a big disincentive to try to do something like that.

Nicole Gelinas:

Of course, we've had terror attacks against pedestrians on the West Side Highway. It killed eight people three years ago. We've had other attempts at disrupting big public events.

Nicole Gelinas:

But the problem is an average New Yorker of any race or age, when you go to a parade, when you go to a public event, you are met with a phalanx of often quite hostile-demeanored police officers. Is that something that we can change or at least think about changing?

Nicole Gelinas:

I mean even when it comes to something like if you want to go back to a stupid, not that important example. When the police crowds at Rockefeller Center at Christmas. The people who do things like change the ropes and when you can cross the street and when you can't cross the street, they don't have a friendly demeanor because their point, if you get into their head, is we don't want to encourage anyone to break these rules. If you dart across the street when you're not supposed to, you'll be taken down.

Nicole Gelinas:

I mean that's the demeanor they're trying to give out to discourage you from doing that, because if one person breaks the rules, then everyone's going to. So you can certainly understand their point of view, but also understand the public's point of view when confronted by this.

Nicole Gelinas:

Are there things we could do with better infrastructure? Put ballers in the streets, raise them sometimes, lower them sometimes, so you don't need such a big human presence to police non-hostile public events. I mean that's one issue.

Nicole Gelinas:

Another thing is the press office at the police department. There's a pretty mutually hostile relationship between the press and the police. Could that be ameliorated by having civilian public relations professional staff the press office rather than have it be uniformed police officers who don't seem to know much about professional public relations and tend to retreat back into the culture of the police department when a negative event happens?

Michael Hendrix:

This is actually really helpful to have a sense of what we could constructively do. Maybe it's in police-community relations. Stephen, you may have some thoughts too about constructive things that we can do, but you may also be able to speak to some other claims that have been out there that social service spending and social services, as you alluded to, would potentially play a role in reducing crime.

Michael Hendrix:

Whether or not that's true, it's remarkable to me that we've spending at the state and local level on policing roughly stay constant at 4% of state and local budgets for the past 40 years. But spending on things like education and social services, housing has gone up alongside other forms of spending, and yet we're still here in this moment. I wonder if you could inform that conversation too.

Stephen Eide:

Well, yeah. I didn't want to get too deeply into the question of how effective our social services systems are functioning, but we do ... And certainly under New York City, we have a guns and butter approach where we just spend a lot on everything and we can raise questions about how effective all of that is. Certainly, homeless services have exploded under Mayor de Blasio, up over 100%. Most New Yorkers are still quite unsatisfied with the homelessness situation.

Stephen Eide:

But in terms of the reforms, I mean, look, I like thinking of an idea of more moderately compensated officers, but more of them I don't. I'd look in particular in benefits packages. I don't think that the healthcare packages and retirement benefit packages have to be as generous as they are in order to attract and retain a quality police force. Again, you could be talking about more police officers if you restructure these benefit packages.

Stephen Eide:

In terms of civilianization, certainly civilianization was a big part of the Camden story. It was a big problem that you had a lot of officers not out on patrol, instead doing desk work. And so, that was something that they really targeted.

Stephen Eide:

I think that's something you do have to be careful with and you do have to ... Really pay attention to what the culture of policing is. I've seen people, for example, claim that maybe we can have precinct commanders in New York City be civilians as well. I mean we do have civilian control of our police departments. They are under elected officials. So we don't have to civilianize more of the command and control structure necessarily in order to make sure that we're getting the type of civilian pressure that we want.

Stephen Eide:

In the military, this is a very touchy issue, why the people at the upper reaches of the army tend to have combat experience, because if you have a lot of officers out there who have patrol experience, they may have trouble respecting a commander who doesn't have the type of patrol experience in their background.

Stephen Eide:

Another idea, just to really spitball and throw out there, that a very small number of cities have experimented with over the years is cross-training police and fire. If were to start our municipal services array, if we were to found city governments anew right now instead of deal with the legacy array of departments and services that we have that were developed in the nineteenth century, it's not obvious to me that we're going to have separate police and fire, even necessarily EMS departments.

Stephen Eide:

I mean it might look something more like the army where you have a vast array of different functions within the same department. Some departments have basically merged police and fire. If you think about the type of functions that are performed by police officers within the same police department, like detective work versus patrol work, very different functions, yet they're under the same command and control structure. It's not obvious that fire or EMS would be so completely different that they couldn't be combined.

Stephen Eide:

Again, a very small number of city departments have experimented with this. But if you're really looking for a new fresh approach like they did in Camden, I've always thought that this was an idea that never got as much traction as it should have in reform discussions.

Michael Hendrix:

That's very interesting, Stephen. Dan, I wonder if you could talk to the compensation structure for police and how that might change following these experiences, these lessons learned?

Daniel DiSalvo:

Yeah. Well, Stephen just alluded to this matter, and I think it goes to when we're trying to imagine different potential futures and what might be done that would be constructive. Currently, we have a model where so much of police compensation is backloaded into retirement, especially pensions and retiree healthcare. I'm sure Nicole knows the numbers for New York City as well or better than anyone.

Daniel DiSalvo:

But one might wonder whether a reform that's says, well, we want to move away from the traditional defined benefit pension plans and give officers ... And instead of spending so much on pensions, we want to give officers more money in salary upfront or we want to use those monies freed up to hire more officers.

Daniel DiSalvo:

So that goes, in some ways, a debate or a discussion about whether you want to follow the Camden model of cheaper but more police and using some of those funds for that or if you want to try the US military model of perhaps fewer police but compensating them better and holding them to really higher standards and saying that that's an approach. But looking at the structure of compensation, and changing that might be a way to move towards freeing up some dollars to make those changes.

Michael Hendrix:

Nicole, do you have any follow up to that?

Nicole Gelinas:

Yeah. I mean we know that many police officers, maybe not most but a big portion of the force, makes a sort of deal where people say this job is very difficult and it's a thankless job in a lot of cases. But if I'm 22 years old right now. It's 22 years in New York City. By the time I'm 34, I can be retired, I can have a significant guaranteed pension for the rest of my life, and I can start a new lucrative career with the experience that I've gained in private security, in many different areas, which is obviously private security right now is, unfortunately, another growing industry.

Nicole Gelinas:

So, yes. Do you want to think about changes to that or perhaps different parallel track models where some people continue to do that, other people who might want to have different jobs within the police department, sometimes maybe do civilian work, sometimes maybe do police work, sometimes do supervisory work?

Nicole Gelinas:

I mean maybe we actually want older police officers. Although, as Dan said, your back gives out. You can't chase after 20-year-old suspects. But maybe we actually need wiser peers of younger people who are not their supervisors, someone 55 and 60, who has seen this situation over decades and said, "Maybe this is not the way to react in this case. Maybe we should ignore a circumstance going on on one street corner and approach a circumstance going on another street corner."

Nicole Gelinas:

I think with younger workers, they have less experience to deploy discretion, and they're afraid to deploy discretion because they might get in trouble. Maybe that's not a problem with older officers.

Michael Hendrix:

Well, this has been a fascinating discussion, but also an important and constructive one. So thank you to our panelists and thank you to you, our audience.

Nicole Gelinas:

Thank you, Michael.

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