The proposed policy on bias-free policing is an insult to the Court. It’s an insult to the Bias-Free Policing Work Group that committed four months to research and produce a thorough and comprehensive set of recommendations. And it’s an insult to the people of Cleveland.
But more to the point, the proposed policy doesn’t come close to meeting the standard set by the Court, a standard that CDP agreed to and swore to uphold.
Paragraph 38 of the consent decree dated May 26, 2015, requires CDP to “develop a bias-free policing policy that incorporates, as appropriate, the recommendations developed by the Commission pursuant to Paragraph 17.” The proposed policy implements only a tiny subset of those recommendations.
Among the many recommendations utterly ignored by the proposed policy are these:
- The recommendation is to create, maintain, distribute, and publicize a Bias-Free Policing Handbook. The proposed policy does not mention such a handbook. Nor does it offer any mechanism to make the public aware of the existence of a bias-free policing policy or how to apply it.
- The recommendation is to require officers to have name tags and badges that are clearly visible at all times. This recommendation is not mentioned in the proposed policy. I’ve been informed that a similar requirement is already part of CDP’s general order on uniforms, which is good, but that enforcement of internal discipline doesn’t address the impact of anonymous policing on individual civilians in the community.
- The recommendation is to make dispatchers aware of bias-free policing and require them to practice it. Dispatchers are not mentioned in the proposed policy at all.
- The recommendation is that body searches should always be conducted by an officer of the same gender as the subject, and that the subject’s stated gender identity shall be respected. The proposed policy doesn’t address this at all.
- The recommendation is that CDP keep statistical records of all non-voluntary stops so patterns of bias can be detected. The proposed policy does not mention any use of statistics. The proposed policy neglects even the concept of systemic bias.
- The recommendation is for a complaint process that provides substantial support and protections for complainants including the optional presence of parents, lay advocates, or attorneys. The proposed policy doesn’t provide those protections and simply requires a complainant to fill out a form. It seems calculated to discourage complaints.
More importantly, the recommendation shows a great deal of understanding of various kinds of systemic bias. The proposed policy ignores this very important section of the recommendation. Specifically, the recommendation calls on CDP to “eliminat[e] policies and practices that have an unwarranted disparate impact on certain protected and marginalized classes” and to refrain from “unwarranted or unnecessary disproportionate enforcement.” The recommendation also calls for protections for religious minorities such as Muslims, for protections for undocumented persons living in the United States, and for measures to reduce the problem of “profiling by proxy.” Again, this extremely important part of bias-free policing is not addressed at all by the proposed policy.
Likewise, the recommendation shows great understanding of management, organizational culture, and recruitment as they affect bias in policing. Six entire pages of the recommendation address these topics. The proposed policy, on the other hand, puts the entire burden of bias-free policing on the patrol officer in the field.
Ditto: Eight pages of recommendation on training on bias-free policing, including public reports on the result of training, are dismissed in the proposed policy with one sentence calling for “adequate” training and no reporting.
An informed civilian reading both the Work Group’s recommendation document and the policy proposed by CDP might understandably come to the conclusion that the police authors of the latter are either completely unfamiliar with the former or that they are deliberately sabotaging the implementation of bias-free policing. The proposed policy reeks of bad faith and ass-dragging on CDP’s part. They need to lead this process, follow it, or get out of the way.
Update: The American Civil Liberties Union had some similar thoughts, but they also picked up on a lot of details that I missed. Their letter is interesting, insightful, and reasonably brief.