The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. is encouraged by the recommendations for police reform outlined in the report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which was released today. The Task Force, established by Executive Order in December 2014, was created to identify best practices and offer recommendations on how policing practices can build public trust and promote effective crime reduction. LDF believes that the Task Force’s recommendations offer an important first step toward instituting better policing practices and responding to the police violence that plagues African-American communities. The Task Force’s recommendations provide an opportunity for a renewed focus on how police can better serve communities of color.

LDF has consistently advocated for criminal justice reform that would eliminate racial disparities and bias at every point in the criminal justice system, including in the policing of African-American communities. Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President & Director-Counsel, offered testimony at a Task Force Listening Session entitled “Building Trust and Legitimacy” in which she advocated for accountability in policing, law enforcement training on explicit and implicit bias, and transparency in policing through robust data collection on citizen-police encounters. LDF supplemented that testimony with a letter to the Task Force advocating for reliance on special prosecutors in incidents of police misconduct or excessive force, the mandatory collection of data on police use of force, the demilitarization of schools, and training on bias-free policing and de-escalation of police-citizen encounters.

LDF is pleased that the Commission’s recommendations set forth specific policies and practices for local law enforcement agencies to follow that are designed to increase accountability, supervision and transparency in the provision of police services. We urge their adoption and implementation as soon as practicable. LDF is especially encouraged by the Task Force’s decision to embrace several recommendations advanced in Ms. Ifill’s testimony and LDF’s supplemental letter focused on transparency, accountability and the legitimacy of law enforcement, including:

  • National data collection on incidents of use of force by police officers and other civilian-police interactions;
  • Independent and external special prosecutors to investigate officer-involved shootings, both fatal and non-fatal;
  • An end to policing practices that require officers to issue a predetermined number of tickets, citations, arrests or summonses or to initiate investigations for reasons not related to public safety; and
  • Civilian oversight, demilitarization of police during mass demonstrations, training on de-escalation and bias-free policing and alternatives to school-based arrests.

Critically, the Task Force also recommended that law enforcement agencies “acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination” and “establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy” in an effort to heal the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“While much work remains to be done, the Task Force’s Report is a significant step forward in the effort to restore public trust in law enforcement and respond to the recent tragedies that took place in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and in numerous other communities across the country. We hope that communities across the country will use the Task Force’s Recommendations as a blueprint for reform,” said Ms. Ifill.

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in media attributions as the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund or LDF.

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