President Barack Obama on Monday cautioned against expecting easy answers to help ease tensions between communities and law enforcement after a task force unveiled its recommendations.
The 21st Century Policing Task Force unveiled a report recommending greater use of officer-worn body cameras, improved collection of officer involved shooting data and sanctions on police departments using unnecessary military tactics and equipment, among dozens of other policy recommendations.
After conducting seven listening sessions around the country, members of the task force issued 59 recommendations for how our communities can build stronger relationships with the police that serve them.
Obama praised the effort, but noted there’s no one silver bullet for fixing the issue.
“There’s been a lot of talk about body cameras as a silver bullet or a solution. I think the task force concluded that there is a role for technology to play in building additional trust and accountability, but it’s not a panacea,” Obama said. “It has to be embedded in a broader change in culture and a legal framework that ensures that people’s privacy is respected and that not only police officers but the community themselves feel comfortable with how technologies are being used.”
The report claimed law enforcement has become more effective over the last 20 years, but recent Gallup polls show public confidence in the police has flattened or decreased among minorities following the high-profile, officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
The public would like more law enforcement to be more transparent, polls show, and that has prompted calls for officer-worn body camera to be the norm.
When officers wear body cameras, research shows there are 88% fewer incidents of use of force and 59% fewer complaints against officers. But complicating the issue is the fact that communities also still have privacy concerns about officers wearing cameras.
Greater transparency through body cameras would also improve data reporting, members of the task force said.
“There is no reason for us not to have this data available to use,” said Charles Ramsey, who chaired the panel.
The task force also discouraged officers of donning riot gear and bearing military grade equipment when it is not absolutely necessary for crowd control, a practice that ratcheted up tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, following Brown’s death.
Despite a broad consensus on the positive effects these recommendations would have on the relationship between law enforcement and communities, it will be a daunting task to implementing these proposals through the 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies operating in America. For example, the federal government may require police departments that receive federal money to report all of its officer involved shooting data, many smaller police departments do not receive federal grants leaving no mechanism to ensure proper reporting of this data.