In the wake of police-related deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York, the Obama administration has decided to sidestep the most controversial proposals for law enforcement reform, opting for conservative approaches instead.
According to NBC News, an 11-person task force, chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University Professor Laurie Robinson, opted to recommend less debated changes. The group did not embrace proposed policies such as requiring police officers to wear body cameras or requirements that departments have all of their officers undergo racial bias training.
Instead, the “overarching recommendation” from the task force was for Obama to create a so-called National Crime and Justice Task Force to suggest more ideas. The group also asked that police departments collect more data on the race and other demographic characteristics of individuals who are stop and arrested in their jurisdictions.
Civil rights groups like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund have been pushing for more aggressive policing changes, such as reducing the use of military-style weapons by local police departments and ending “broken windows” policing approaches. However, the report did not unequivocally accept either idea.
Obama appointed the task force, but he does not have to adopt its recommendations. In fact, in several cases he cannot implement suggested changes as most policing in the U.S. is conducted at the local and state level.
In comments on Monday, he praised some of the ideas in the report. “A lot of our work is going to involve local police chiefs, local elected officials, states recognizing that the moment is now for us to make these changes. We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel, rather than being embattled, feel fully supported,” he said. “We need to seize that opportunity. And so this is something that I’m going to stay very focused on in the months to come.”
NBC News reported that Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been pushing strongly for police changes, said, the ideas in the report “will significantly improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
“For us to see meaningful change, local authorities must first implement data collection systems to improve transparency, use of force policies that emphasize de-escalation, eradicate all forms of biased policing, and improve community engagement and oversight to provide accountability,” Bennett added in a statement.