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Post Ferguson Public Policy Solutions

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Michael O. Adams, Carroll G. Robinson and Howard Henderson
December 12, 2014

Commentary decIn the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, body cameras for police officers have become the preferred policy solution. Most recently, President Obama requested funding from Congress for the purchase of body cameras and additional training. Communities are looking for a response from elected officials and police departments nationally and locally on what changes can be made to improve how the criminal justice system functions. Here, we offer several policy ideas for consideration on how a thoughtful discussion can take place.

First, police officers should all have annual hand-to-hand combat training certification requirements so that they have the skills to deal with a physical encounter with an unarmed suspect.

Second, to ensure that officers on the street have the physical fitness to defend themselves, officers should be required to meet the optimal body mass index range for their mass and height. Officers should be provided incentives under the prevention and wellness provisions of their jurisdiction’s health care insurance policy. Congress and state legislatures could also provide additional incentives.

Third, Congress should provide incentives for local police departments to report to the FBI data on their officers’ use of their firearms and tasers, the race and gender related to all such incidents and the outcome of internal affairs investigations of all such incidents.

Fourth, if grand juries are going to be used as a substitute for trial juries, then the members of grand juries should be jointly appointed by prosecutors and public defenders like trial juries are jointly appointed by the prosecutor and defense counsel supervised by a judge.

Fifth, cultural competency courses taught to police officers should be reviewed and updated.

Sixth, incentives should be available to police officers who opt to carry a taser in conjunction with their firearm. (Though the use of tasers remains the top subject of ongoing research and evaluation, it is still viewed as a less lethal weapon for use by police).

Seventh, police officers should be subject to post employment psychological stress exams on a regularly scheduled basis.

To keep moving forward, we have to put all the ideas on the table and thoughtfully discuss and evaluate each. We hope that the following suggestions provide a starting point to broaden the discussion on how improvements can be made.

We would appreciate feedback on these suggestions and would like to hear your thoughts, ideas and recommendations, especially from police officers and other law enforcement officials.

Authors: Dr. Michael O. Adams, professor of Political Science and Public Administration, is the interim chair of the Department of Political Science as well as the program director of the Executive Master of Public Administration (eMPA) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs. He can be reached at [email protected]

Professor Carroll Robinson, Esq., is an associate professor of Public Administration in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University.

Dr. Howard Henderson is an associate professor and director of the Administration of Justice Graduate Program in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Affairs at Texas Southern University.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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