Monday, July 11, 2016

Public Trust and Law Enforcement

In the wake of still more shootings of or by police officers, what actions could Congress take to improve public trust in law enforcement?  In March before the latest round of shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) wrote a report entitled Public Trust and Law Enforcement - A Brief Discussion for Policymakers. The report mentions Gallop poll data showing Americans are generally confident in the police, but that varies by race, place of residence and other factors. The report makes the following suggestions to Congress:

  •  Congress could consider placing conditions on federal funding to encourage law enforcement to adopt policy changes to promote better community relations.  
  • Policymakers could consider expanding efforts to collect more comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement officers.  
  • Congress could consider providing grants to law enforcement agencies so they could purchase body - worn cameras for their officers. 
  •  Policymakers could take steps to facilitate investigations and prosecutions of excessive force by amending 18 U.S.C. §242 to reduce the mens rea  (intention of wrongdoing) standard in federal prosecutions, or place conditions on federal funds to promote the use of special prosecutors at the state level . 
  •  Congress could fund Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants so law enforcement agencies could hire more officers to engage in community policing activities. 
  •  Policymakers might consider using the influence of congressional authority to affect the direction of national criminal justice policy.