Due to the frequent occurrences of the events in recent years related to police violence, which has greatly worsened the relationship between the police department and the general public, on December 2014, President Barack Obama signed the executive order stabling the Task Force on the 21st Century Policing. Months after that, a Task Force Report was finished and published. It includes some of the challenges current policing strategies are facing, records some observations made by the public and scholars about policing, and entails a lengthy list of recommendations for future improvement. The 116-page long report is not only a wholesome review of the current policing policies but also acts as a guideline for future improvement.
When I was reading this report, I could not help but remember the experience of reading through the 1967 Task Force Report on Policing. The 1967 report was done also due to the frequent rise of riots, most of them directly or indirectly linked to police violence. However, the experiences of reading them are hugely different. Reading the 1967 report was like reading a novel, in which you can find the beginning of the problem, how the problem got worsened, and then how the problem could be tackled in the future. It strongly articulated one point – raising the educational level of the policemen – throughout the report and proposed relevant solutions. Although the results of the solutions are a mix of success and failure, it was a good attempt in solving the policing problems.
However, the 21st Century Policing report is totally the opposite. It includes an unnecessarily long list of proposed solutions, but mostly with no rationales supporting it. In the 1967 report, the authors specifically describe how the policemen should be promoted, and how the recruitment should work in great detail, and proposed a goal to achieve – which is to let every police officer receive at least a baccalaureate degree. On the other hand, instead of giving clear instructions and goals to achieve in the proposed solutions, like what was done in the 1967 report, the 21st Century Policing report looks just like a mere description of what ideal policing is like. No details, no justification, and no goals in mind. Most of the proposed solutions are easy to understand but are just extremely difficult to carry out. For example, one of the solutions proposed, which (I suppose) aims to address the police community relationship, wants the police training to be conducted before a body of representation of local community, so that the local community would understand better how policing works and why they have to act in a certain way when on task. However, although it may sound like a good proposal, it is ignoring a lot of potential obstacles to its implementation. Who should be in this representation of the local community? How do we choose them? Are the rest residents going to be pleased if we choose a specific group of people? What should we do if they are not pleased? Every such question is unanswered in the proposal, as the proposal simply described how the ideal case should work.
As I was reading through the report, I felt like instead of being a Task Force Report to the President, it looks more like a Task Force Assignment, which should be finished on time, handed in to the President, and then done. The entire report lacks the enthusiasm in analyzing the root cause of the problems, the attempt to propose something that can actually work in real life, and the faith in producing something that would make a difference in the world.