Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Leadership Symposium

The police department is an organization with many traditions. Some are of distant origin, stretching back continuously for over 100 years. Others are more recent.

One of our newest traditions is the Leadership Symposium, a periodic gathering of all the agency's supervisors and commanders. These are typically held at least once a year, with an agenda designed to promote discussion of pressing issues and current events.

In years past, we've talked about things like vehicle accidents, crime lab procedures, property storage, performance appraisals and other technical matters.

This meeting, for obvious reasons, was different. Our Symposium this year confronted a much more fundamental set of questions - questions about the state of law enforcement as a profession, and the relationship between the police and the people.

The conversation started with a review of the legal guidance being provided to local law enforcement in light of recent events. Here we talked about some of the reports and recommendations that the Department of Justice has provided to guide the future development of best practices in policing. We also heard from attorneys at both the circuit and federal level, to gain the benefit of their expertise on topics like exculpatory evidence and constitutional rights.

Next we turned our attention to one of the most important questions in police work today: how we are changing the way we govern and monitor law enforcement's use of force, especially officer-involved shootings. Leading this session was the supervisor of our new Force Investigation Unit, who described a new and meticulously designed set of procedures we have recently started using to examine critical incidents.

We also talked about another new unit, the Office of Community Engagement and Organizational Development. This, I'm proud to say, is by far most comprehensive outreach effort in the department's long history, including ambitious plans for youth programs, community level training, reconciliation initiatives, management of internal culture change, and progressive re-training of officers, among many others.

Our final segment dealt with one of the biggest challenges we face as these efforts move forward: the complicated relationship between law enforcement and the black community. The framework for this nation-wide discussion was established, with admirable fairness and clarity, by FBI Director James Comey in his excellent speech at Georgetown University earlier this year.

Listening to Comey's speech helped us all remember both the historic basis of the tensions that remain so powerful today, and the way that legacy influences various different perceptions of current events. It also asked us to do something difficult: to search our own hearts for hidden bias and then do the strenuous work required to overcome it.

Why did we have this conversation? Why did we spend the warmest Saturday of 2015 indoors, learning about policy and talking about work?

We did it because we have to, because it's the right thing, and because our future - as police officers and as people - demands that we have this conversation, and live by its lessons.

And for anyone who's interested in knowing more about what we discussed today, here's a link to the FBI's Directors remarks. Listen for yourself.

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