Community engagement, building trust, training, leadership development, organizational structure, department policies, procedures, accountability and deescalation are all issues addressed in a draft report by high-profile retired top cop Chief Charles Ramsey, retained by the city to make recommendations in the wake of several issues that have fractured the Police Department.
Read report: Ramsay 21CP DRAFT Bridgeport Report (2)
Ramsey Monday night reviewed the document recommendations with Mayor Joe Ganim and members of the City Council in a Zoom conference call.
Excerpt from the draft report:
1. BUILDING TRUST
Building trust and legitimacy in the communities it serves is essential to the BPD to create safe and healthy neighborhoods. Building trust promotes mutual respect and legitimacy through a commitment to procedural justice, transparency, accountability, and acknowledgment of past and present obstacles. It also requires police officers to view their role as that of guardians of individual civil and constitutional rights, rather than just enforcers of the law and apprehenders of criminals.
1.1 The BPD and the Bridgeport Community should engage in an ongoing open and honest conversation regarding the current state of policing in the City and the community’s aspirations for change.
1.2 The discussion should include opportunities for the police and community to collaborate on efforts to make the City safer and what traits and characteristics the community believes make for a competent police officer.
2. COMMUNITY POLICING / ENGAGEMENT
During 21 CP’s visits to Bridgeport, we met with several community organizations. Tension clearly exists between police and communities of color. Several issues surfaced during a large community forum attended by 21CP Partner Charles Ramsey and BPD Chief Perez, hosted by Bridgeport Generation Now. This meeting included a broad cross-section of community organizations. Some of the common themes that emerged from the meeting included: perceptions of poor police relationships with youth, a lack of transparency/trust, and rudeness or insensitivity on the part of some officers.
The BPD has made demonstrable progress in addressing some of these concerns by maximizing the value it places on community policing. Areas of emphasis include Captains brain-storming directly with the department’s Deputy Chiefs, and Chief Perez in creating and applying innovative
techniques (1) for patrol and (2) for more productive department-wide training. Patrol Captains implemented a plan called “Safe Neighborhoods” or “Safe Neighborhood Walking Details,” a strategic program that allocates more officers to walking patrols with additional officers assigned to patrol cars. Officers share their cellphone numbers and business cards with local merchants and residents to introduce themselves and build working relationships within the community. A strategic vision for “building long-term community-based partnerships in policing” is the goal. Re-building trust particularly in communities of color is essential to achieve long-term success. There is, however, a concern that current BPD staffing levels pose a serious challenge to achieving full permanent implementation of an effective community policing strategy.
2.1 The BPD should establish a community policing/engagement strategy that reflects best practices in all areas of its operation, including but not limited to racial and social equity concerns.
2.2 The plan should be structured and staffed to ensure successful implementation and the capacity to be sustained on a long-term basis.
3. USE OF FORCE
An area of concern in many police departments nationwide is the legal and appropriate use of physical force. Use of Force training has evolved over recent years to include an emphasis on de-escalation. Reality-Based Training (RBT) is situational scenario-based training geared toward testing and improving officer judgment. The traditional use of force continuum emphasized levels of force that increased based on the actions of the suspect. There was a minimal emphasis placed on methods effective at de-escalating the situation to minimize the need to resort to high levels of force to resolve a situation. Current training, which emphasizes deescalation, also focuses on field tactics that maximize the officer’s use of time, distance, and cover to minimize the necessity for the application of physical force, particularly deadly force.
3.1 The BPD should implement a robust reality-based training program that focuses on de escalation and field tactics.
3.2 The BPD should establish an after-incident review and debriefing process for all incidents involving the use of force to ensure the force used was necessary, proportional, and proper.
3.3 The City should authorize a uniformed and civilian personnel staffing study to determine the appropriate number of police officers and support staff required to provide quality police services today and for the foreseeable future, including a robust community policing strategy to build trust and legitimacy in communities across the City.