February 15, 2020


Facial recognition, bail laws, and a new PERF report on less-lethal technologies

Dear PERF members,

Here is the first edition of what I hope will become a popular new service for PERF members – an email with news and commentary about what’s going on at PERF and in the policing profession.

In the past, we used our newsletter, Subject to Debate, to share this type of information. But in today’s world of 24-7 communications, the old-fashioned newsletter process is too slow, so we’re switching to this new email-based format.

We’re calling this new communications platform “PERF Trending: People, Ideas, and Events.” As the name suggests, it will include news you may have missed, bits of commentary and analysis, features about PERF members, and information about PERF activities.

We’ll send you these emails on Saturday mornings. In recent months we have been sending you “Weekend Clips” on Saturday, and your feedback about that has been favorable, so we’ll incorporate the Weekend Clips into the new “PERF Trending” email.

Let’s get started with this first edition of PERF Trending, and you can see what we have in mind! I welcome your feedback.


Chuck Wexler


PERF Trending:  People, Ideas, and Events

THE hot issue in policing for 2020:  Facial recognition….  There’s no issue more controversial than facial recognition technology. Computer programs that match a name to a person’s photograph have tremendous utility to identify criminal suspects.  But it’s easy to understand how this technology gives people heartburn about their privacy. Recent stories about a company called Clearview AI have sparked a discussion about one of the most powerful – and some say sketchy – examples of this technology.  PERF will develop guidelines on facial recognition in 2020.


Another hot issue: Bail laws…. Bail reform and pretrial release laws are changing in many parts of the country. By most accounts, the strongest bail reform law nationwide took effect on January 1, 2020 in New York State. Even before it took effect, many were warning that it might go too far in releasing dangerous suspects who are awaiting trial. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea recently warned that crime in NYC already increased 17% in January 2020, compared to January 2019, and shootings increased 29%. PERF will soon release a report on pretrial reforms, with a national perspective and 3 case examples: Harris County, TX; Davidson County, TN; and St. Mary’s County, MD.


3 PERF Projects in the Works

Pursuit policies: Here’s what leadership looks like. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields recently put a stop to police pursuits, and decided to take a hard look at the extent to which Atlanta officers were conducting pursuits, the circumstances, and the outcomes. PERF will be working with Chief Shields and the department to develop state-of-the-art policies….

K-9 policies: In December, PERF convened a meeting of experienced canine handlers at the Macon County Law Enforcement Training Center in Decatur, Illinois. We discussed the use of canines for patrol operations, processes for selecting dogs and their handlers, training, policy, documentation, and supervisory review. PERF’s report on this project is being written now.

Paterson, NJ study: This week, I traveled to Paterson, NJ with Tom Wilson, Director of PERF's Center for Applied Research and Management, and retired Police Commissioner Chuck Ramsey to meet with city officials and hold a press briefing about a study PERF will do about the Paterson Police Department’s organizational structure, use-of-force policies, and handling of complaints from community members.


New this week... PERF just released a new publication, Refining the Role of Less-Lethal Technologies: Critical Thinking, Communications, and Tactics Are Essential in Defusing Critical Incidents. The report explores a number of less-lethal tools, while stressing the importance of good planning and communication to prepare for the instances when less-lethal tools are ineffective. Thanks to LAPD and Chief Michel Moore for hosting this conference!


PERF Events


Last week I joined PERF’s Director of Technical Assistance, Jessica Toliver, and her senior staff members Lisa Mantel and Alexa Daniels for a meeting with a group of Ukrainian law enforcement officials about the use of technologies such as body-worn cameras, police-community relationships, and other issues … 


And I was honored to attend a retirement dinner in Philadelphia for Commissioner Rich Ross. Past PERF Presidents Charles Ramsey and Scott Thomson were also in attendance. 


In case you missed it… Take a look at what happened in Irving, Texas the other day as Police Chief Jeff Spivey swore in a new recruit. This video is amazing.



Movie News… We recently had the first-ever lunchtime screening of a movie for the PERF staff in our conference room. The movie was Ernie and Joe, which is about two officers in the San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit who de-escalate difficult incidents and divert persons from jail into treatment programs. It’s available on HBO, and I recommend it!

And speaking of movies, my wife and I recently saw Just Mercy, a true story about a Harvard lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who works to reverse wrongful convictions of death row inmates. Really well done!


PERF’s Weekend Clips… As promised, here are this week’s long-form, magazine style articles that we save for the weekend, because you’re probably too busy to read them during the week:


Associated Press: Warren Buffett's son helps Colombia kick cocaine curse

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has committed to spending $200 million over the next few years to transform the impoverished municipality of Tibu, Colombia into a model of comprehensive state building. Plans include strengthening security forces and helping farmers secure land titles and substitute coca — the raw material for cocaine — with licit crops like cacao. The plan envisions subsidies and training for farmers as they switch crops, as well as helping them find buyers. It also aims to strengthen infrastructure for local law enforcement.


Tulsa World: Chief Wendell Franklin outlines policing changes: 'It is going to be so much better'

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin knows many officers may be apprehensive or anxious about the department’s direction under his leadership, and he wants to help by addressing the unknowns encompassing its push toward community policing.  Franklin on Tuesday said he has placed Capt. Shellie Seibert in charge of orchestrating a strategic plan for community policing, as well as articulating it to officers and training. He said if one were to quiz an officer on the streets, that officer probably won’t know Tulsa’s community policing strategy.


Rocky Mountain PBS Video:  Breakdown

A breakdown in mental health services in Colorado has left law enforcement on the front lines of handling people in crisis.  The Rocky Mountain PBS Insight with John Ferrugia team spent more than a year gathering stories from all over the state showing the often-tragic interactions between the criminal justice system and people who are suffering a mental health crisis.  People, often judged mentally incompetent, are spending months in jail without trial waiting through a backlogged mental evaluation system. And police officers say rather than investigating crimes, they are often spending much of their day trying to help people who should be receiving mental health treatment.  

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