October 30, 2021

Inside PERF This Week, and Catching Up from Around the Country


Dear PERF members,

It’s been another interesting and rewarding week at PERF. We’re very fortunate that in spite of COVID and all the other challenges that policing has been dealing with, PERF is doing well, and because of a great staff and our incredibly responsive members, we are getting through this crazy period of our lives and making a difference.

This week, we continued our national rollout of PERF’s ICAT training (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) with a regional training session in Fargo, ND for police agencies in the upper Midwest states. Next week, ICAT will go to Knoxville, TN, where we’ll be hosted by the University of Tennessee Police Department.  Thanks go to PERF’s Dan Alioto for his tireless work running these important training programs.

And on Monday, we welcomed Nancy Demme to the PERF staff. Nancy is a former Captain with the Montgomery County, MD Police Department. I first met Nancy when PERF was doing a major report for the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance on the DC Sniper case of 2002. Montgomery County PD was the lead agency on the case, and Nancy was very helpful to us. She has a Master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and a law degree from the University of Maryland. I’m really pleased that Nancy will be working with us.

The Police Response to Mass Demonstrations

PERF has been doing a lot of work lately on police agencies’ management of demonstrations. The thousands of demonstrations in the summer of 2020 were unprecedented, and we’re putting the finishing touches on a major Critical Issues in Policing report about what 2020 taught us. PERF will break new ground in providing guidance to police departments, especially in two areas: (1) new ways that police should bring community leaders into the process of planning for and managing demonstrations, and (2) guidance on the use of less-lethal tools – everything from CS gas and pepper spray to “soft” projectiles and “flash-bang” devices. We’ve been working with a range of police experts, academics, and civil liberties officials on these questions.

This week, PERF also heard from the National Institute of Justice that our proposal to conduct research on police response to protests and civil disturbances was approved. This study will be conducted over three years and will have three components: a national survey of law enforcement agencies on their policies, programs, and training related to mass demonstrations, as well as how often protests occur;  interviews and focus groups with law enforcement leaders, front-line officers, and community stakeholders to assess decision-making on protests; and collection of data on civil disturbance events from a select group of agencies to assess the effectiveness of police responses.

PERF also is working with the National Police Foundation on a virtual meeting we will hold in early December about demonstrations. We’ll have officials from several police departments in large and medium-size cities to tell us about their experiences in 2020 and what they learned from the year of protests. This is part of a project funded by the COPS Office to develop a 21st Century Protest Response Guide that uses community policing principles, promising practices, and lessons learned from recent protests to improve responses to future demonstrations. Be on the lookout for details on the virtual meeting.

Finally, I’ve been working with a group of experts in Scotland who are preparing for demonstrations during the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. This conference begins tomorrow and will continue for almost two weeks, which could be a long time to manage nonstop demonstrations.

I’ve been on several Teams calls with Police Scotland officials, academics, and representatives of civil rights and environmental organizations, who are preparing for the same types of issues that we talk about in the United States about policing and demonstrations. Questions like differentiating between civil disobedience and civil disturbances, about calibrating the police response to peaceful assemblies, peaceful but unlawful assemblies, and actions that pose potential risks to public safety.  How one relatively small incident can “go viral” and become the public face of policing during demonstrations. The benefits and limitations of mutual aid agreements.  And how international events like the COP26 Summit pose special challenges because demonstrators may come from many different countries.

Good News on Public Support for Policing

In case you missed it, there was some important good news for policing this week.  The Pew Research Center released a new survey showing that public opinion is rapidly shifting away from “defunding” police.

Here’s how the Pew Research Center described their findings:

“The share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased now stands at 47%, up from 31% in June 2020. That includes 21% who say funding for their local police should be increased a lot, up from 11% who said this last summer.

“Support for reducing spending on police has fallen significantly: 15% of adults now say spending should be decreased, down from 25% in 2020. And only 6% now advocate decreasing spending a lot, down from 12% who said this last year.”

And we’re seeing some movement in this area. A City Council committee in Madison, WI, rejected calls to reduce the number of officer positions, and the state of Michigan announced major new funding for officer recruitment and retention and other law enforcement priorities. Of course, all eyes will be on Minneapolis next week when voters decide on a referendum that would replace the police department with a newly constructed Department of Public Safety.

Odd and Ends This Week

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell announced on Wednesday that he won’t seek a second term next June. “This isn’t goodbye,“ he said; “it’s time to move on to serve my community in another manner.”  Todd has been asking his City Council for additional funding to hire more officers, because “the women and men who hold this department together are being pushed to the brink.” Todd was always there for PERF when we needed his perspective, and we expect to hear more from him as he begins his Chapter 2.  …..  And Eureka, CA Chief Steve Watson announced his retirement.  Steve has been a trailblazer on many issues, including officer wellness, outreach to people experiencing homelessness, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), use of naloxone by officers to prevent drug overdose deaths, and PERF’s ICAT training. ….. Baltimore Police Commissioner (and PERF President) Michael Harrison announced that under a new three-year contract, starting salaries for new officers will increase to $60,000, making Baltimore the highest-paying major law enforcement agency in Maryland. ….. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams will serve as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. …..  Northeastern University Prof. James Allen Fox said that domestic violence with guns has been soaring, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gun homicides by intimate partners rose 58% over the last decade, including a 28% spike in 2020 compared to 2019. ….. And John Marshall of NHTSA drew our attention to news that the number of traffic deaths in the first six months of 2021 hit 20,160, an 18% increase over the same period in 2020 and the largest figure since 2006.

On a lighter note, here are some of the best Halloween costumes by PERF staffers yesterday.

My Executive Assistant Soline Simenauer was Bernie Sanders, who got all dressed up for President Biden’s Inauguration:

PERF’s Senior Accounting Manager Raquel Rodriguez was a nice nurse (not Nurse Ratched):

Senior Research Associate Sarah Mostyn was White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, dropping a PsakiBomb:

Membership Coordinator Balinda Cockrell reminded us that when life hands you lemons….

And Research Assistant Rachael Thompson was a copycat:

I hope you have a great Halloween weekend.