POLICE REFORM IS TOPIC OF NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY LUNCHEON:
On January 18, 2018, Al Puller and Dennis Galvin attended a luncheon at the Faculty Lounge of Northeastern University, located at 100 Columbus Place Boston MA; both were guests of Director Anthony Braga, of the Northeastern School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Also in attendance were Chief Michael Davis of the NUPD and Deputy Chief Ruben Galindo. Lunch with these distinguished gentlemen proved very informative.
Director Braga gave an update on the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. He asked that MAPLE spread the news to all former alumni, that the weekend of April 28th will be set aside to celebrate this significant achievement. There will be events and forums throughout that weekend to discuss the notable contributions of the School to Criminal Justice Policy. Director Braga wanted to reassure all former alumni, that the program’s change in status, from a “College” to a “School”, has not impeded its ability to lead the way in the effort to professionalize policing. That goal is still very much a part of its legacy and its future.
The discussion with our three hosts was very enlightening. Director Braga is a nationally recognized criminal justice educator and researcher, specializing in police related issues. Chief Davis and Deputy Galindo were also very impressive. Both men have very distinguished law enforcement backgrounds. Chief Davis rose through the ranks of the Minneapolis Police Department attaining the rank of Captain. He became the Chief of Police in the neighboring Brooklyn Park community before coming to Northeastern. Deputy Galindo hails from Dade County Florida, having retired as a Major on the Dade County Sheriff’s Department. Both men are intelligent, articulate and very cutting edge on issues related to police leadership.
The intent and purpose of MAPLE was presented to our hosts and was enthusiastically received. We discussed concerns relating to the lack of trust that has been identified between African Americans and the Police. Chief Davis and Deputy Galindo offered valuable advice. They were hesitant about the use of town meeting forums to explore issues. They warned that these could get out of hand very quickly, and they would most likely be dominated by a only few people. Chief Davis suggested that the best method to develop information and support is to identify community leaders, talking to them one on one.
Strong emphasis was placed on working with the state’s Chiefs of Police to get their buy in on the effort to reform. Chief Davis offered that support among the “Big City Chiefs” in Massachusetts might be surprising. He suggested that we reach out to them. Their support would be instrumental in moving reform forward.
The state of policing in Massachusetts was discussed and concerns were raised about the leadership in many of the police agencies in the Commonwealth. Many departments were facing significant internal issues. At the core were long traditions of abuse and mistrust between rank and file officers and their leadership. Deputy Galindo was a strong advocate of the “silver badge” concept, which maintains that supervisors should not be overly distinctive in their uniforms. The intent is to demonstrate solidarity with their subordinates. Both police leaders said that they had worked out a very innovative management philosophy called “Policing 201”, which they enthusiastically advocate. It encompasses the philosophy and principles of “silver badge” management. Both men emphasized that the manner in which police officers are treated by their leadership, inevitably sets the tone for how they will treat the public. It all goes back to modeling.
A range of reform proposals were discussed. These included the Police Officer Standards and Training concept. Both the Chief and the Deputy were very familiar with this system having worked under it in their previous duty assignments. The chief suggested that the “low hanging fruit” for police reform may be to push for educational pre-qualifications for police candidates. He anticipated the least resistance from this, and he said that if it succeeded, it would help build momentum for broader reform initiatives. He repeatedly emphasized the importance of getting the chiefs of police on board in support.
There was a strong consensus that past injustices had to be acknowledged. The role of the police in creating the aggression now being directed toward them was discussed. This past must be faced, if there is to be any hope that progress can be made. However, both the Chief and the Deputy emphasized that recognizing past injustice does not mean, that the police have to be indifferent to, or deny, the violent situations, that many officers have to face today. What was emphasized was the need for police managers to understand, that there may be a correlation between the level of tension created by their actions toward their subordinates, and the aggressive behavior that their officers display on the street.
Chicago’s Strategic Subject List, based on an algorithm for predicting those at most risk of generating street violence, was discussed. Director Braga offered that he was familiar with this program, as were the Chief and the Deputy. They cautioned, however, that while it had its merits, it must used in conjunction with a positive and active street patrol strategy that embraces community policing values. They expressed the concern that officers might simply rely on the data that the program produced, and less on their day to day street intelligence and contacts.
Director Braga was an excellent host. He offered the facilities of Northeastern to MAPLE for meetings and conferences. We look forward to working with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Northeastern University in the future.