May 30, 2020


The Death of George Floyd, and Its Searing Effect on Policing

Dear PERF members,

The death earlier this week of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sent shockwaves through the police community. Everyone I have spoken with has had the same reaction: despair and sadness. First and foremost, for Mr. Floyd and for his family -- our hearts go out to them for having to endure this senseless loss of life. But it’s also sad for decent working cops across America who now must experience the public again questioning the humanity and professionalism of police generally. 

Police chiefs recognize that their officers’ efforts to fight crime and build trust in their communities can be undercut, in an instant, by one inexplicable bad act in a city far away from their own. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. 

The video of Mr. Floyd’s death is searing and difficult to watch.  For some people, the video will only reinforce the narrative that nothing has changed in American policing. This makes me angry because so much has changed, in how police chiefs and sheriffs respond to these situations. This was evident in Minneapolis.

In the past, a chief might have waited for a formal (and often lengthy) investigation to be completed before taking action against officers whose conduct was clearly egregious and possibly illegal. Today, police chiefs move quickly and decisively.

Within a day of the Minneapolis video going viral, four officers were fired – the officer who pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck and the three other officers on the scene who failed in their duty to intervene with a colleague who had clearly stepped over the line, not just of agency policy but of basic human decency.

What is different today is that police chiefs no longer accept these deficiencies or wait for others to tell them what is obvious. Chiefs defend cops who are justified in their actions, and they apologize and take action when their officers fail. 

In recent years, police agencies across the country have also worked to improve their use-of-force policies and training, and to repair and strengthen bonds of trust with the community. PERF and our members have been an important part of that, through our Guiding Principles on Use of Force, our ICAT training, and our reports on building police-community partnerships. But a lot more work remains.

The death of Mr. Floyd makes me especially sad because when I first came to PERF some 20 years ago, Minneapolis had a homicide problem and PERF was asked to help. For the next two years, I traveled every other week to Minneapolis to work with some of the best cops and community members I have ever known.

It wasn’t always easy, we had some rough times, and some called me Junkyard Dog because my role was to be the catalyst for change. But out of this experience, homicides decreased, and new police-community partnerships developed for years.  

I made lifelong friends in the Minneapolis Police Department and the community.  This experience taught me a lot, and I’ll always be grateful to those who I worked with. The killing of Mr. Floyd this week is so troubling because it makes the job of the good working cops in Minneapolis – and across the country – much harder. 

Most of all, we cannot allow one horrific incident to undermine the efforts of those officers and deputies who go out every day and perform with dignity and honor. They need and deserve our support right now. 

Thanks to all our PERF members for your constant support and assistance.




Weekend Clips

The Bitter Southerner: The bicycle sheriff in the birthplace of speed

Daytona Beach is famous for its parties and fast cars. When former Philly cop Sheriff Mike Chitwood rode into town with a commitment to demilitarize policing, increase transparency and work toward reform in racially charged and politically polarized Volusia County, Florida, it made some people mad. As the first police chief in Florida to mandate body cameras, he’s got a cult following of supporters that span the political divide and a small but mighty contingent that wants him out.


The Crime Report: Can procedural justice training reduce officer misconduct?

A study of the Chicago police department, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), argues that a less aggressive approach, employing the principles of “procedural justice,” can reduce hostility while at the same time increasing police effectiveness.

Researchers studied the careers of 8,480 officers who went through procedural justice training in the Chicago Police Department (CPD) between 2012 and 2016, and found that in the two years immediately following their training, officers received 10 percent fewer complaints than those who had not been trained.

Similarly, the researchers found that “training also reduced the use of force against civilians by 6.4 percent” in a two-year period.


Evidence Technology Magazine: Investigating the Dark Web

The dark web — an encrypted, anonymized part of the internet accessible only by the use of special software — is the place where an increasing amount of illegal activity is taking place. It’s not just a tool for hackers or bitcoin traders; even local gangs are making use of dark web resources. Further complicating investigations, tracing a crime across the dark web will not only defy city, county, and state boundaries, but can also cross international borders.

Despite its unfamiliarity, experts say all levels of law enforcement should have a basic understanding of the dark web. This will empower them to recognize important physical evidence, and to know how to properly collect and preserve it.

The first step toward educating law enforcement professionals about the dark web is to identify their challenges and needed resources. RAND Corporation and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), on behalf of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), brought together a panel of experts to discuss and identify the top problems and potential solutions related to evidence on the dark web. The results of this 1.5-day workshop were published in late 2019 in “Identifying Law Enforcement Needs for Conducting Criminal Investigations Involving Evidence on the Dark Web.”

Police Executive Research Forum
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Washington, DC 20036
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