First: hurry! You have only until the end of this week to sign up for autumn’s Citizens Police Academy, an informal 15-week course designed to help you get better acquainted with how our city’s Bureau of Police works.
It’s a good class for everybody from neighborhood or organizational participants who want to work more closely with law enforcement on their block or at their events, to social justice activists seeking to deepen their understanding of the 5-0’s perspectives.
They don’t try to convince you that they’re all angels, so much as provide information as they see it and live it. It’s a good atmosphere for back-and-forth.
Meanwhile we caught up with Police Chief Cameron McLay the other day, and asked him his reading recommendations for understanding policing challenges in the modern era. Here is what he had for us:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police publishes a variety of white papers and resources: on everything from handling vehicular pursuits to sexual misconduct among law enforcement. They also publish Police Chief Magazine.
The Police Executive Research Forum produces similar works, including a new report on “Re-Engineering Training on Use-of-Force” in light of the profession having been “shaken by controversies” over the past year.
McLay recommended The Criminology of Place by David Weisburd and others to learn about “data-driven policing strategies”. According to this review, the book shows how crime hot-spots are often small enough to be described as particular intersections and street-segments which can correlate to low voter turnout, low property values and high levels of housing assistance. This ought to allow the state to “lower the scale” of interventions to a more manageable level for all.
University of Pittsburgh Professor David Harris was given a blanket recommendation for his works, such as Good Cops: The Case for Preventative Policing, Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work and, ominously, Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science.
Professor David Kennedy, who helped to craft the initial Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC) and last year offered some choice words about its implementation, wrote the book Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship and the End of Violence in Inner-City America. Chief McLay says it “outlines the methodology for group violence reduction that is the framework for the model of focused deterrence I am implementing here to address violent crime.” We are in the middle of reading this one, and can report it is very engaging. Kennedy really likes to use italics and write about the dangerous places he has been, lending his voice a Dennis Hopper feel — but it works.
Finally, McLay recommended the Department of Justice Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing, which the conservative Cato Institute criticizes as expansive of the federal government and the Fraternal Order of Police supports partially, while also fretting over costs.
Interestingly, the first and last source in McLay’s outline both recommend that police shift from a “Warrior” to a “Guardian” mindset, a concept which seems controversial or even “PC” in some quarters.