After two years of work, the Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force unanimously approved a 79-page report Tuesday that recommends more training to improve relations between police and the disability community, more recruitment in diverse communities, and more citizen review boards to examine police actions.
It’s a comprehensive roadmap that task force members hope will be implemented by the legislature and police departments throughout the state.
“This is just the beginning, not the end,” said task force Chairman Daryl McGraw.
In some cases, the recommendations would have to be implemented through legislation, in others, it would be up to the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) or local police departments to make policy changes.
Task force members plan to remain available to discuss the recommendations with legislators, POST, which sets statewide policies, and police chiefs to make sure that reform will take place.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to bring it to the next step,” McGraw said.
The task force was formed by the 2019 police accountability law primarily to study interactions between police and the disability community. But their work broadened when they were additionally charged with looking at a wider scope of policing issues after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked national and statewide protests in May 2020.
Their mission culminated Tuesday in a document that provides 21 recommendations on a variety of topics from recommending how to fund adding social workers to providing a framework for police departments to hire a more diverse workforce.
The task force met monthly with subcommittees drafting recommendations and then sought input from the entire body. The insight gained from several public listening sessions also was considered when the recommendations were crafted.
There were some difficult conversations, McGraw said in an opening letter attached to the report. “Many of you shared stories that were hard to hear but necessary for everyone to understand,” McGraw said of the families who came forward to tell their experiences with police. “We gained insight into the impact of one’s actions when not given the proper training and/or tools required to address a situation where lethal force appears to have been the only answer. I thank you for your truth and courage to be bold in the face of adversity.”
The group, which included law enforcement officials, members of the disability community and stakeholders in the criminal justice system, acknowledged in the document that police have felt under siege in recent years which has led to a resistance to embrace reform.
“Police departments and officers tend to portray any restrictions or reforms on authority and autonomy as a serious threat to officer and public safety,” the report said.
In order to accomplish reform, police culture needs to change, the report said. Training in peer intervention and the duty to intervene would give officers more support from command staff and coworkers to fulfill their legal requirements to report inappropriate behavior or intervene if a colleague is using excessive force, the report said.
Other recommendations focus on shifting some 911 calls for help with people in crisis from the police to 211, where they could be connected with mental health providers. Police also should receive more training in how to deal with people in crisis and consider hiring social workers who can go on calls and provide follow-up links to services, the report said.
The task force also recommended that a statewide study of school resource officers and their roles should be conducted to determine their effectiveness. In addition, the report recommends training in conducting internal affairs investigations, a statewide uniform complaint process for the public that can be reviewed and more citizen input into the hiring process.
The document also laid out a process and rationale for hiring more minority officers and women. Black and Hispanic officers use force less than white officers, make fewer stops and fewer arrests but rely more on community interaction and problem solving, according to a 2021 study cited in the report. Female officers also use force less than men, receive fewer complaints and engage in less misconduct, and they are also better at communication and de-escalation, the report said.
The completed report will be sent to the legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committees and posted on the task force website so that law enforcement agencies can examine the contents to shape change within their departments.
Milford Police Chief Keith Mello, a task force member and chairman of POST pointed out that he agreed with most of the recommendations and disagreed with a few others simply because they seemed underdeveloped and needed more work.
“It was clearly a heavy lift and a major task to put this together,” Mello said. “There’s a lot of good in here.”