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Document Type

Essay

Abstract

In response to a series of events involving police-citizen encounters, including those in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, that have strained relations between law enforcement and the communities (primarily minority) that they serve, President Barack Obama established a task force charged with developing a set of recommendations designed to improve police practices and enhance public trust. Headed by Charles Ramsey, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, and Laurie Robinson, former Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, and currently a Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University, the eleven-member task force submitted its documented recommendations in May 2015. In a report entitled the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (the Report), the task force sets forth in excess of sixty recommendations, which address, among other things: building community trust, police policies, employment of technologies, officer training, and officer wellness and safety.

The Report suggests that effective policing and improved community relations can be achieved through redirected police policies, enhanced communication with—and involvement of—local communities in public safety matters, as well as improved and sensitized law enforcement training. Rather than engage in a comprehensive examination of the Report’s proposals, this Essay will address an important theme highlighted by the task force—the importance of reforming police culture—and explain why the well-intentioned recommendations proffered in the report associated with addressing cultural change will face substantial hurdles to successful implementation.

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