Subcommittee on Police Department Policies and Practices
Police Department Policies and Practices Subcommittee Preliminary Recommendations:
1. We Recommend That the City of Alameda Engage A Professional To Review and Propose Revisions to Alameda’s Police Policies and Procedures
We are a group of volunteers with no particular expertise in this area. We are aware that there are professionals who have devoted entire careers to studying police practices and developing policies that implement the values identified by communities. Alameda’s police practices and policies encompass over ___ pages. A comprehensive, word-by-word review of these practices and policies is far outside the scope or capacity of this committee.
Accordingly, as we dig deeper into the minutiae that is police policy and procedure, it appears that our most important recommendation is that the City of Alameda hire a professional consultant to bring our police department’s policies and procedures in line with contemporary best practices, informed by the values of our community as identified above.
We recommend that the professional engagement include the following elements:
A community engagement process, including public forums, to identify the priorities of the community. This process should be open to all and should explicitly solicit the voices of economically marginalized “Alamedans”, BIPOC Alamedans, and others who have been historically the subject of policing.
A comprehensive set of proposals for the reform of police procedures and policies, based on contemporary best practices, driven by data, and reflecting the priorities of the community as established in the public forums identified above.
A review and feedback process for the public to reflect on and provide input into the set of proposals before they are finalized.
Training for Alameda police officers on reformed police policies and practices.
2. We Recommend That APD’s Policies and Procedures Include Procedural Justice As A Core Value
A recurring theme of complaints that we are hearing from community members, particularly people of color, is the lack of respect displayed by police officers during interactions with the public.
This is corroborated by a recent study completed by Stanford researchers in which they analyzed the body camera footage from 981 traffic stops conducted by OPD over one-month . The researchers found
that white residents were 57 percent more likely than black residents to hear a police officer say the most respectful utterances, such as apologies and expressions of gratitude like “thank you.” Meanwhile, black community members were 61 percent more likely than white residents to hear an officer say the least respectful utterances, such as informal titles like “dude” and “bro” and commands like “hands on the wheel.”
Encouragingly, “a majority (65%) of officers say that today in policing it is very useful for departments to require officers to show respect, concern and fairness when dealing with the public – an approach referred to as procedural justice.” It seems it would go without saying that an interaction that starts out with a negative or disrespectful tone is more likely to escalate into a violent encounter.
In 2014, the White House convened the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which published its report (pdf) in 2015. Its first recommendation: build trust and legitimacy, using procedural justice. Since the publishing of the president’s report a number of large police departments, including New York City have begun to implement procedural justice policies (though progress was slowed during the Trump administration?)
We recognize that respectful conduct, without substantive reform, is inadequate. However, respectful conduct is a necessary, though not sufficient, component of establishing trust between the policed and the police. We recommend that procedural justice be enshrined in the written policies and procedures of the Alameda Police Department and that an appropriate training program be instituted to support this new policy.
3. We Recommend that APD Require Mental Health and De-Escalation Training on an Annual or Semi-Annual Basis
In recent years, police forces have found themselves moved toward militarization by the threat of terrorism and the fear of mass shooting events combined with the ready availability of cheap or free military surplus vehicles. It is increasingly common to see police officers donning olive drab or camouflage uniforms rather than the traditional black or blue. This turn toward militarization has resulted in increased time spent training for violent and sustained confrontation and a corresponding reduction in time spent training on everyday issues such as de-escalation to avoid use of force and interacting with people with mental health issues.
The training that officers receive should reflect the majority of the type of work that they do. The reality is that the vast majority of APD calls are not violent in nature, but instead reflect mental health, homelessness, and other distress. To the extent that these calls continue to be handled by police officers, rather than by social workers or mental health professionals, police officers must have training to equip them to handle these calls without resorting to the use of force or to arrests.
Currently, APD officers are mandated to receive fire-arms training on an annual basis. Conversely, officers are only trained in so called “soft skills,” such as de-escalation, cultural diversity training and crisis intervention training one time, often at the police academy before actually beginning their careers.
We will be recommending that APD conduct de-escalation and crisis intervention training on a at least a semi-annual basis, with the goal of creating a culture of non-violent dispute resolution within APD and ensuring that patrol officers have the skills they need to avoid resorting to the use of force.
4. We Recommend Consideration of an Alameda Police Department Code of Conduct
Preparatory Formal Review Process
The Policies and Procedures Subcommittee has interest in considering the role a formal Code of Conduct might play in police department policies and procedures. In support of a full review of this option, it is requested that the City of Alameda (or a subject matter expert) provide assistance with research and written or verbal summary of:
Existing approaches in policies, procedures, accountability and/or oversight in the City of Alameda of police officer misconduct,
National trends and examples of Police Officer Codes of Conduct or equivalent Codes of Ethics or equivalent guidelines for general police conduct in the performance of the duties. This is not a request for examples of conduct guidelines in specific tactical police operations. Research and examples should include, at a minimum, conduct that could be described as “dereliction of duty” or “conduct unbecoming of an officer”.
National trends and examples of Municipality, Elected Official (like our City Council) and civilian Community Oversight structures and processes for oversight of internal police department use, accountability and oversight of a Police Officer Code of Conduct or equivalent Codes of Ethics or equivalent guidelines for general police conduct in the performance of the duties.
Proposals Under Consideration Once A Formal Review Is Completed
The Policies and Procedures Subcommittee (“PPS”) proposes that the Alameda Police Reform Committee (“Committee”) consider developing and recommending to the City of Alameda City Council a Police Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is proposed as a permanent part of the Alameda Police Department Policy Manual, to which all City of Alameda police officers and police managers would agree to follow as a condition of continued employment in the City of Alameda. We note that the City currently has codes of conduct and a Code of Ethics in its existing policies and procedures, and we expect that this work would build on those existing documents.
The PPS further proposes that the Committee consider developing and recommending to the City of Alameda City Council an Alameda Police Department internal accountability and oversight process for specifically enforcing the Police Code of Conduct.
The PPS proposes that the Committee consider developing and recommending to the City of Alameda City Council a City Council and Community Oversight process that includes enforcement of the Police Code of Conduct. The recommendation should include, as a minimum, a preferred model of a Community Oversight structure, conditions under which there is a mandatory review of incidences of potential police officer misconduct as defined under the Code, a legal review of the legal authority structure necessary for potential oversight actions and a recommended timeline for all required City Council action on any necessary revisions to the City Charter.
Why Consider a Code of Conduct?
Police departments have long had policies and procedures and Codes of Ethics that reside in their operational manuals and guiding documents. We believe that these guiding principles are in need of a full discussion, with stakeholder input, and that this discussion will help reinvigorate those standards and create shared expectations around police conduct. We further believe that these shared expectations need to be monitored through internal accountability systems and civilian oversight.
What Could Be Included in a Code of Conduct?
There would be codes dedicated to general conduct and specific conduct. Examples could include:
Why a “Code” Versus Better Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures are guidelines for behavior that rely on a police officer’s skills, knowledge, and judgement to prioritize, use or, if appropriate, ignore, depending on each unique tactical situation faced in policing the Community.
A Code of Conduct is not a set of behaviors that can be prioritized or ignored nor are dependent on a tactical situation.
A Code of Conduct is a social contract between a police officer and the Community that is, in exchange for agreeing to follow the code, granting the officer special policing powers. A code can be used by officers to build a baseline set of behavioral standards they can rely on to guide their engagement with the Community.
5. We Recommend That the City Create a Police Policies and Procedures Review Board
A policies and procedures review board will be formed including members of the public chosen from those who apply*, at least one member of the police commission and a representative of city staff, such as the Assistant city manager or city counsel.
The Policies and procedures review board will meet at least quarterly but as often as is necessary for timely review of proposed permanent changes and/or additions to APD policies and procedures.
The review board will report and make recommendations to the city counsel before said changes are adopted.
*All efforts should be made to include a cross section of the city taking into consideration race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and residence within the 5 districts.
Please take the community survey here to share your feedback on the subcommittee recommendations. A report of the preliminary recommendations from all five Subcommittees can be downloaded here(PDF, 765KB).