The president has officially launched yet another “task force.” In response to several high-profile cases of suspects killed by police, Obama has brought together a group meant to review better policing practices.
“In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and around the country,” the White House website says, “the Administration announced new steps to strengthen the relationships between local police and the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. One of the primary actions was the creation of a task force to improve community policing.”
Obama’s website goes on to explain that the “task force will examine how to strengthen public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction.”
Chairing the group will be Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. Co-chairing will be Laurie Robinson, professor of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University and former Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.
In a recent interview, Chief Ramsey said that the task force will result in real-world action. Ramsey insisted that he “wouldn’t be wasting his time” if mere talk was to be the only outcome.
In a separate interview, co-chair Robinson said that a key skill for police officers should be “people skills.” He went on to note that local police departments need to start “having dialogue with their communities. It’s about open communication and discussion of accountability—and ongoing discussion. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s about establishing relationships,” he said.
Chief Ramsey is not without his detractors. Upon Obama’s announcement that the former DC top cop was going to chair the task force, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund criticized the move, saying Ramsey had “a record marked by excessive force, false arrests and complete disregard for constitutional rights.”
Other members of the committee will be Cedric L. Alexander, Jose Lopez, Tracey Meares, Brittany Packnett, Susan Rahr, Constance Rice, Sean Smoot, Bryan Stevenson, and Roberto Villaseñor. All belong to universities, government agencies, or non-governmental organizations.
After an initial “listening session,” the task force will present its report to the president in March of next year.
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