Honolulu Civil Beat Talks To PARC's Matthew Barge About Honolulu Police Commission

The Honolulu Civil Beat talked with PARC's Matthew Barge about civilian oversight and the Honolulu Police Commission:

Matthew Barge, of the Police Assessment Resource Center, compared the Honolulu Police Commission to the one in Los Angeles, which is made up of five political appointees chosen by the mayor who also have authority over the chief’s job status.

While well-connected business types have served on the Los Angeles Police Commission, Barge said the agency also included a college law professor who was an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Barge said it’s also a good idea to include members who have deep connections to the communities most affected by policing.

“In order to have credibility, the commission, like a city council, needs to be seen as representing the community,” Barge said. “The commission’s recommendations on police policy and practices will then be more influential when it’s not seen as a gang of activists or a gang of business leaders pressing their pet agenda.”

Read the full article here.

PARC's Merrick Bobb Talks About Buffalo, New York Police Oversight

PARC's Merrick Bobb spoke with Buffalo's Investigative Post about oversight of police:

“[The] job [of police] is to protect and serve the public,”said Merrick Bobb, co-director of a consulting firm on accountable policing and currently a federal court-appointed monitor to the Seattle Police Department. “That means the public are the ones who need to have the information to decide whether a given officer is or is not professionally serving the public.”

Read the full article here.

New Policies Could Change How Cleveland Police Deal with the Mentally Ill

By Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Jan. 20, 2017)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland police monitor is asking a federal judge to approve a proposed set of crisis intervention policies officers will have to follow in encounters with the mentally ill.

The final draft of the new policies were filed late Thursday in federal court in Cleveland. The goal with the new policies is to reduce the number of people in jail with mental health issues and to steer them toward the help they need. Officials also seek to minimize the use of force during officers' encounters with the mentally ill.

The proposed policies include several changes that have already taken place but were never memorialized in writing, officials said. While giving police a lot of latitude, the policies also lay out clear steps officers would have to take when dealing with a person who suffers from mental illness.

Police monitor Matthew Barge praised the work the city, its Mental Health Response Advisory Committee and others did in crafting the new policies, He wrote that the policies and the collaboration that went into them "represent critical milestones," the motion says.

"Consequently, it is fair to conclude that not only were the specific substantive requirements of the Consent Decree (met) but also that the City moved closer to upholding its commitments to 'provide for civilian participation in and oversight of the police' and 'increase transparency," the motion states.

The new policies are mandated in a settlement the city reached with the Justice Department to address constitutional policing. The Justice Department said Cleveland police officers were ill equipped to deal with the mentally ill.

While not included in the Justice Department's review, the most recent controversial incident involved Tanisha Anderson, who died with her hands cuffed behind her back while she was being placed in the back of a police car in November 2014. The two officers involved are the subject of a criminal investigation that, more than two years after Anderson died, has not yet been concluded.

The new policies mandate the creation of a new Crisis Intervention Team that is made up of specially-trained officers. It also tweaks how dispatchers call out officers to deal with the mentally ill and gives guidance on involuntary hospitalization and how to transport people.

Finally, the new policies would emphasize using techniques to de-escalate as much as possible.

Drafts were publicly unveiled in November and were the subject of two public meetings in December.

Barge wrote that additions were made with suggestions that came out of the public meetings. They included adding more details on how to transport people in crisis who are not being violent, sections on how to deal with juveniles and having officers specially trained to handle crises to be clearly marked.

The policies also now emphasize respect and dignity and building relationships between police and the community, Barge wrote.


Asheville PD Chief Says Seattle Force Policy Is Best Practice

In an article about Asheville, North Carolina's new use of force policy - which emphasizes de-escalation - Police Chief Tammy Hooper indicated that the Asheville PD consulted Seattle's use of force policy, which "reflect[s] similar best practices."  PARC has been overseeing implementation of a Consent Decree between the City of Seattle and United States in which the use of force policies of the Seattle PD were substantially revised to incorporate an express duty of officers to de-escalate situations when safe and feasible to do so.

PARC's Hassan Aden participated with Vera in facilitating the process that developed Asheville's new policy.

Read the fully story here.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Talks to PARC's Matthew Barge About Collaborative Reform in St. Louis County

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch spoke with PARC's Co-Executive Director, Matthew Barge, about the collaborative reform process in St. Louis County:

The success of consent decrees can vary, in part, based on the personalities and bureaucracies involved, notes Matthew Barge, a partner and co-director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which helps police forces on reform initiatives across the country.

Barge is the court-appointed monitor overseeing a federal consent decree between the Justice Department and the city of Cleveland — a legally binding agreement overseen by career federal lawyers who are not as likely to leave as political appointments with the arrival of a new administration.

But unlike consent-decree agreements, there “is not really a backstop in collaborative reform,” which is what St. Louis County police are undergoing.

Read the full story here.

Wilmington News Journal Talks with PARC's Matthew Barge

The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware spoke to PARC's Matthew Barge about the state's Attorney General advocating for revisions in use of force policies similar to those implemented in Seattle and pending before a federal Court in Cleveland:

Seattle's policy, which was adopted in 2013, gives responding officers guidance in de-escalation and techniques "that seek to minimize the likelihood of the need to use force during an incident and increase the likelihood of voluntary compliance," but only when it is safe and circumstances reasonably permit. The tactics can include:

--Placing barriers between an uncooperative person and an officer. For example, using a vehicle as a shield. 

--Calling in extra resources or officers to assist during confrontations. This would include bringing in a crisis intervention team and officers equipped with less-lethal tools.

--These should not be new concepts to police, said Matthew Barge, co-executive director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which helped craft and monitor reforms in Cleveland and Seattle. He said these policies do not interfere with an officer's daily work.

"No one is saying that you have to be a weenie and that you are not allowed to use force when it is reasonable and necessary and proportional under the circumstances," Barge said. "This is not some massively new and foreign set of concepts or requirements.

"These are things that ring bells for officers."

While not everything may be perfect, Barge said this suggests that there have been some important corners turned, especially since implementation in Seattle.

"Bottom line is that use of force incidents overall have gone down," he said. "At the same time crime and officer injury has not gone up at all and community confidence and trust has overall gone up."

Read the full story here.

Cleveland Police's Proposed Crisis Intervention Policies Vetted by Residents at Public Meetings

By Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Dec. 13, 2016)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland residents and mental health professionals said at two public meetings Tuesday that while they generally approve of a set of proposed policies for how police interact with people in crisis, a few changes are needed to ensure the policies cover as many serious situations as possible.

Suggestions from those at two meetings, held at the Murtis Taylor Community Center and Urban Community School on the city's east and west sides, respectively, ranged from being more culturally sensitive to having an officer wear clothing or a badge showing that he or she is specially trained to work with the mentally ill.

The proposed new policies, unveiled in late November, are designed to give officers clear guidance on how to respond to those in crisis and who to call for additional assistance.

The proposed policies are mandated in a settlement the city reached with the U.S. Justice Department, which found many problems with the way officers interact with individuals.

Like the city's proposed new use-of-force policies, the proposed crisis-intervention policies were drafted after the Justice Department said officers lacked proper training on how to deal with the mentally ill.

Proposed policies that would dictate how Cleveland police officers deal with people in mental health crisis are a significant departure from the department's current guidelines.

All officers will undergo eight hours of crisis intervention training, while a new squad of specialized officers will receive 40 hours of training. 

Randolph Dupont a professor at the University of Memphis and a member of the Cleveland police monitoring team, told a crowd Tuesday that similar policies have been shown to reduce the need to use force and make arrests and have resulted in fewer injuries to officers.

He said Cleveland's proposed policies are uniquely tailored to the needs of local residents.

"This is not a city where cookie cutter approaches work well," Dupont said.

Here are a few things that residents said could be improved. Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Tonsing Volosin told a crowd that the city, Justice Department and the monitor will review all of the suggestions and possibly make changes to the policies before a final draft is given to Chief U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. for approval.

Special clothing for specialized officers

During both meetings, community members said they feel crisis intervention officers should wear clothing or a visible badge or insignia that clearly notes that they are trained to deal with those in crisis.

"Seeing a regular police officer's uniform can trigger trauma if you see a regular officer come," said Kareem Hinton, a local activist, in a group discussion at the East Side meeting. He said earlier that residents who had frequent interactions with officers may react in two different ways: complete compliance or trying to flee.

Hinton wasn't alone. Discussions about wearing clothing that shows that an officer went through specialized crisis training was one of the most discussed topics at both meetings. Some suggested a vest, others suggested an armband.

Cleveland police's crisis intervention officers currently wear a pin, though there has been talk of redesigning it and making sure the public knows what to look for to spot a specially trained officer.

Officer discretion

The proposed policy, while giving clear guidance, does give officers discretion on how to handle situations.

Deputy Police Chief Joellen O'Neill told the crowd on the East Side that if somebody has committed a felony, an officer or officers will take that person to jail. First they will go to the hospital though, she said.

But for lesser crimes, some said officers could possibly choose not to file charges.

Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department Lt. Victor McDowell, in a group discussion at the East Side meeting, said discretion is important. If a person acts out, and that could be seen as disorderly conduct, it may not necessarily warrant a charge if there is an alternative that ensures the person gets help, McDowell said.

Recognize other medical needs

Some also suggested making the policy clear that officers should look for signs of other types of illness when responding to crisis calls. This includes asking questions of the person or family to see if they can more quickly find out what's going on.

Cleveland resident Lanisha Bowen said during a discussion at the West Side meeting that her grandfather has acted out in a way that could be seen as a mental health crisis, even though he is diabetic and just had low blood sugar.

Kathleen Clegg, director of community and public psychiatry and the public academic liaison program at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and a member of the Community Police Commission, also suggested the policies incorporate language about looking for signs of an overdose or other medical condition.

These suggestions also dovetailed with conversations about cultural sensitivity and suggestions that female officers respond to calls for females in crisis, or that black officers handle the calls of black residents who need help.


Neighborhood Officers Coming Back to Seattle After Long Hiatus

By Paige Browning, KUOW (Dec. 8, 2016)

The Seattle Police Department will soon have a bigger presence in neighborhoods. Community members will be trained to handle non-emergency incidents. They will be part of the Community Service Officer program, which the city is bringing back to Seattle after a 12 year hiatus.

Community Service Officers in other cities respond to neighborhood disputes, track down runaways, and help with low level investigations. It frees up police to focus on emergencies.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien led an effort to bring the program back, after the city cut it years ago for financial reasons.

Some people, like University District resident Nancy Amidei, say they've waited years for the city to bring these officers back.

Amidei: "They were very, very good at reaching out to people who probably would have been not very pleased to be talking to a police officer. They were super working with runaways (and) with homeless people."

Amidei has worked with homeless youth since the 1990s. She says community service officers are known to deescalate situations that might otherwise get out of hand.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced the police department will hire 26 non-commissioned officers. They'll be on duty as soon as the summer of 2018. They will wear uniforms, but not identical to ones worn by sworn police.

The program will cost the police department about $2 million.


Here's How Citizen Complaints Will Be Reviewed Under the Proposed New Cleveland Police Policies

By Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Nov. 29, 2016)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Newly drafted guidelines designed to overhaul how Cleveland investigates and adjudicates citizen complaints against police will give the city a good start on fixing a system in which many residents long ago lost faith, the police monitor wrote Tuesday.

It won't fix everything, though, as there are still certain challenges because of union contracts, disagreements on legal interpretations and the city's past handling of complaints.

The manuals for the Office of Professional Standards and the Civilian Police Review Board, submitted Tuesday for a federal judge's approval, are the result of a year of work and are aimed at fixing one of the biggest problems the U.S. Justice Department found with Cleveland police.

The depth of the problems became clear when the monitoring team, which is mandated through a settlement the city reached with the Justice Department, started investigating the backlog of unfinished complaint investigations. Office of Professional Standards employees asked to explain procedures would often respond with "I don't know, there's never been a rule, never been a standard way of doing this," head monitor Matthew Barge said in an interview.

"Which means this covers a lot of ground that's never been covered before," Barge said, referring to the proposed manuals.

The monitoring team repeatedly points out in its motion to the judge that the city has a long way to go with its grievance-investigation process. The language is stern and the monitor takes great pains to detail the laborious steps the team and the city took to draft the policies, since the city's draft submissions often did not pass muster.

However, the motion says, the manuals "represent an important milestone in re-establishing trust among CPD personnel and community members alike in Cleveland's internal and administrative treatment of civilian complaints about the police."

Here is a breakdown of the major components of the complaint-investigation process, and some lingering problems.

Complaint intake

The new Office of Professional Standards manual requires every contact with a complainant at the beginning of an investigative process to be documented, assigned a tracking number and reviewed, regardless of whether a formal investigation results.

The settlement mandates that the city accept complaints in a variety of ways -- online, by phone, with or without a signature or anonymously.

However, the current contract between the city and the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association says "[a]ll complaints filed by a citizen against [officers] shall be submitted by the complainant in his or her own handwriting," according to the motion.

The contract language also means that anonymous complaints may not result in discipline. The monitor insists that anonymous complaints are necessary and says the union contract provision may discriminate against people with disabilities who are unable to sign their names.

The monitor expects the city and union to "work expeditiously to ensure that the provisions of the Consent Decree, generally-accepted practice, and compliance with the (Americans with Disabilities Act) and equivalent Ohio state law are harmonized with the CPPA Contract," the motion says.


The Office of Professional Standards will assign all complaints to a "standard" or "complex" track, as well as to a category, such as "biased policing or "harassment." Within three business days, the intake coordinator must forward the complaint to the administrator for review, and the administrator will assign the complaint to an investigator within 24 hours of receipt.

All "standard" investigations must be completed within 45 days, while "complex" cases must be finished within 75 days.

After an investigation is completed, it must be forwarded to the Police Review Board for consideration no later than two regularly-scheduled meetings after the investigation is completed.

Administrator's review

The Office of Professional Standards' administrator must review all completed investigations and make a final recommendation by using a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning the infraction more likely than not occurred.

In "limited instances," the administrator may dismiss a complaint without a full investigation, the motion says.

The administrator shall not make any disciplinary recommendation. After a review, the administrator will then tell the complainant that the investigation has been completed and the Police Review Board will hear the matter.

Police Review Board makeup and expectations

The manual for the Civilian Police Review Board codifies what Cleveland voters passed in a ballot measure earlier this month to change the board's makeup. The board will now have nine members instead of seven, and include one member from each of the city's five police districts. One of the members would have to be between ages 18 and 30.

The Cleveland City Council will decide next week whether to place a measure on the November ballot that could change the makeup of a civilian board that is supposed to review use-of-force allegations made against police officers.

"The Monitoring Team will expect that Board members indeed 'use best efforts to attend all regularly-scheduled Board meetings,'" the motion says. "The Manual indicates that Board members 'shall receive compensation as may be established by the Council.'"

All board meetings are to be open to the public.

The board's manual says the board may, when discussing certain types of investigations, do so with a three-member panel. These could include issues such as bad demeanor, rudeness or a vehicle towed improperly.

The board is not bound by the Office of Professional Standards administrator's recommendations. It must write summaries for each adjudicated complaint.

If the board says an investigation warrants discipline, it will forward that decision to the police chief or the public safety director.

Police Review Board's authority

Under the guidelines, the Police Review Board may recommend suspensions. If the recommended suspension is 10 days or less, it goes to the police chief. If it is more than 10 days, the chief will also have to forward it to the public safety director for a final decision.

The motion notes a dispute the city and the monitoring team have over where authority lies on disciplining officers, and how those decisions can be overridden.

The monitoring team believes the city's charter allows the board to override a chief's suspension decision with enough votes. The city believes the board must send its overriding decision to the public safety director for a hearing and final decision, even if it is for a suspension lasting 10 days or less.