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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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4 Responses to Post Ferguson Public Policy Solutions

  1. Julie Ann Racino Reply

    March 2, 2016 at 10:01 am

    First, my local army and navy store just offerred a good buy on a “pink raspberry” pistol so we can proceed, for example, on who the gun is to be used against if I am against jailing anti-war protestors!?! Remember I was in college about the time of Wayne State and shooting on campuses during the Vietnam era.

    Second, the police force decades prior to cultural diversity training were to have “integrated” the police force, which the author “knows”
    because he cites the body requirements that likely allowed “women” on the force (but of course not to be a police chief yet in four decades in front of me on the line of white, male photos).

    Finally, it is time for America to learn that its leadership built prisons and jails for everyday Americans. And it did not tell its professionals, let alone collaborate with its university elite or tell its citizens. And those who want it want a nasty society that can be charged, arrested, and made money from (the cash cow snakepits are not just in the field of disability) (Castellani, 2005)!!

    Will join my colleagues shortly as Criminal Justice in America, and if only it was about criminal justice reform not criminal behavior by that sector of society. Different?!

  2. Louis DeAnda Reply

    February 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    None of the suggestions and recommendations contained in the article are actual solutions for the fact patterns that emerged from the Ferguson investigations. While they may assist the Ferguson PD in community relations, hypothetically, every single one of the recommended approaches could have been implemented a year ago and this shooting would very likely still have been the outcome of the same fact pattern.

    As a former federal law enforcement manager and civil rights investigator with 28 years of field experience I’m amazed by educated and well-intentioned commentators who continue to regard erroneous information and draw from demonstrably false narratives as the premise for their one-sided suggestions…

    All of the cultural diversity and sensitivity training in the world would have not had an impact upon the tactical fact pattern that presented itself over the course of less than one minute in Ferguson.

  3. Vanessa Harris Reply

    December 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Your suggestions are good ones. I agree that police diversity training is needed. It is imperative that communities and townships put forth an effort to ensure that the respective police force reflect the cultural identity of the communities in which they serve. Cultural differences are a major factor in the resent rash of police encounters resulting in death. Even though giant steps were made due to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, it appears that in the 21st century, we are taking broad steps backwards to the days of blatant and brutal racism. We all assume that our society has succeeded in bridging the gap in racial relations, racism still exist and is tolerated when no one is paying attention. Diversity and opportunities in the jobs sector, housing, and legislated equality has lulled society into a false sense of equality and justice for all. It is now apparent to the world, due to global media outlets, that there is still work to be done. Training is not only needed in the police force, but also it is needed in the community. Young people of today have an attitude of entitlement. Respect for others and authority is lacking. Although they may feel as though police officers are misusing authority, many deaths could have been avoided if the victims had complied with the officers commands. Just do what is asked at that moment and be able to go home alive. My local community is now holding meetings with young black men to train them how to respond to police officers and all authority. The men in the community are reaching out to mentor these children and are filling a void that has broadened due to the escalation of homes with only a mother working and raising children alone. A woman can not teach a man how to be a man. So, society can easily be blamed for this problem of not connecting with one another. Going back and renewing our awareness of where we came from and encouraging positive interaction can go a long way in achieving diverse and involved communities. Lives are at stake.

  4. Jude Jokwi Reply

    December 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Good suggestions.
    However, the public is a big part of the equation especially low income and minority neighborhoods. To this end, part of the solution should include seminars with members of the aforementioned communities within those communities on how to react/comply to law enforcement orders. The recent unfortunate events involving law enforcement and civilians speak to the high level of ignorance members of these communities exhibit by exposing themselves to the wrath of culturally “untrained” law enforcement officers. These untrained officers will at the blink of an eye unleash bullets on their victims and manipulate the evidence to favor their own. Letting members of the communities to know that these guys would kill them and face no consequences for their brutality could mitigate some of these unwarranted loss of precious life by complying, at least by living to fight another day.

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