Detroit Today

New Recommendations On Changing Policing Within Communities

Tuesday March 10, 2015

Co-hosts Sandra Svoboda and Saeed Khan discuss community policing efforts and how they have been changing. They are joined by the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Mike Wesaw, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade. Together they examine the relationship between police and communities that is 21st century policing.

McQuade says it's an ongoing problem. “It’s not a new problem, but it’s certainly reached a tipping point,”. Before and especially after Ferguson and Michael Brown, McQuade say there has been a roadblock in finding a way to merge community and police interests. She acknowledges that the goal is to have police departments engaging with the community they are serving in a way that can keep the community physically safe and secure, but also carrying out their work in a way that builds trust and bonds with community members and the overall group.

Wesaw relates that there are services, groups, and programs that do exist to help bridge the gap such as Coffee with a Cop, and the MDCR’s ALPACTS, Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust. In Michigan the ALPACTS help communities identify problems and establish relationships between community and faith leaders and law enforcement leaders. Programs like these help police departments get ahead of conflict and understand community status so that they can build trust and a working perspective on civil rights in the community. Part of the issue is also the lack of information and knowledge of police activity within communities and the lack of direct access between individuals and police administrations.

Community policing also takes different forms based on the goals and organizations involved as well as the bureaucracy that surrounds them. Under-funding and the structure of the police also hinder efforts to bring individuals and officers together. McQuade mentions that federally many laws and processes are being looked over and modified to ensure that they are not impugning on civil rights and that police act in ways that allow for proper due process. Wesaw notes that in his work he sees more efforts to train officers in cultural competency and helping them understand how to deal with different minority groups and understanding their issues. He acknowledges the bias in police departments and finds that the solution is encouraging law enforcement agencies to further explore cultural relations and community impact.