Key Points Summary
- This report, which has been adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is the work of its Working Group on Police Reform and Racial Justice. It makes practical recommendations to help us address police reform and racial justice, following the principles the Conference adopted in June.
- True reform requires that police officers build trust and accept accountability. But it also requires that we support them. The job of a police officer is vital, difficult, and sometimes dangerous. The vast majority of officers perform to the best of their ability and in good faith.
- There is a consensus about what we need to do to reform policing. The report identifies best practices and makes practical recommendations for sustainable reform.
Trust and Legitimacy
- The first principle is trust and legitimacy. Our police have a hard and necessary job. To do their job—to prevent crime and to promote public safety—our police need public trust and cooperation. If they do not earn that trust, they cannot do their jobs.
- All of our recommendations are designed with this key principle in mind.
Redefining the Role of the Police
- We have seen calls in recent months to “defund” the police.
- The phrase “defund the police” means different things to different people, but actual defunding is not the path to better public safety and enhanced public trust.
- Our police are first responders, but that does not mean they should be the first responders for every need.
- In some cities, only a small percentage of calls for service involve violent crime, while many other calls involve issues like mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.
- We must continue to fund policing. But we must also consider which roles police should play and allocate resources to other important social services.
- As a part of this, cities should advocate at the state and national levels for adequate funding for social services that are currently left to police officers.
Sanctity of Life
- Job number one for our officers is the protection of human life and physical safety.
- To accomplish this, it is vital that use of force policies state that:
- Deadly force is a last resort;
- Officers should exhaust all reasonable alternatives before using force;
- If force is used, it must be the minimum force necessary; and
- Tactics like chokeholds and firing at moving vehicles should be banned or reserved for only the most extreme circumstances when the use of deadly force is permitted.
- Departments should have a de-escalation policy and should train their officers on that policy and de-escalation techniques.
- Departments should require officers to intervene when they see a fellow officer using excessive force.
Equality and Due Process
- Officer interactions with individuals must be impartial and free from bias.
- Police department policies and training should make clear that bias in policing is prohibited, and we should help our officers recognize that bias, to better address it.
- Departments should monitor stops, searches, and arrests to identify disparities in enforcement that disproportionately impact communities of color and others.
- Police chiefs and other supervisors must be empowered to hold accountable any officers who are found to have violated anti-discrimination or bias-free policing policies.
- Departments should set goals for recruitment so that departments hire and retain men and women who are part of the community and reflect the community’s diversity.
- When our officers have strong ties with the community they serve, they are in a better position to fight crime and guard public safety.
- Fostering community trust begins with the officers on the street.
- Our police should build relationships with our communities, and then work together with them to address shared problems.
- All cities should have strong community policing programs.
- Departments should provide training on cultural literacy, the history of policing, and procedural justice.
Policing Mass Gatherings
- Our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble, and our policies must reflect that.
- In policing mass gatherings, we should minimize the use of provocative tactics and equipment and de-escalate confrontations whenever possible.
- Force should be used only as a last resort.
- Police are there to protect demonstrators and community members from potential violence. Departments should plan for the possibility that peaceful protests may turn into unlawful assemblies, without assuming that they will.
- We recommend not resorting to mass arrests if individuals who are committing crimes can be removed, so that others may continue to peacefully protest.
Transparency and Accountability
- Cities and police departments must adopt policies that strengthen transparency and accountability so that officers who engage in serious misconduct are not returned to duty. In some cases, this will require working with unions to rework collective bargaining agreements that prevent appropriate investigations of officer misconduct.
- There are a number of areas that require reform.
- Disciplinary authority must reside with the police chief and not with arbitrators who too often return to service officers who do not meet department standards.
- Collective bargaining agreements and certain state laws that are barriers to investigating officer misconduct must be changed to eliminate, for example:
- Bans on anonymous or third-party complaints that prohibit even the initiation of an investigation;
- Mandatory delays and inflexible deadlines for investigations; and
- Purges of disciplinary records.
- Every state should require that officers be licensed and have a strong system for revoking licenses for serious misconduct.
- Every police department should use body-worn cameras for every officer and have clear policies on their use and for the release of videos to the public.