The National Police Foundation
The National Police Foundation is a nonprofit professional organization focused on studying and improving police work in the United States. It was founded in 1970 by the Ford Foundation, when the country was in great turmoil, including riots and anti-war marches that put police on the front lines.
In its statement of purpose the organization says it is unafraid of questioning traditional methods in order to test and find new methods of policing. It purports to be an objective, fact- and data-based catalyst for combining research with methodology to make improvements in approaches to peace-keeping and crime prevention.
Legacy of the organization
Community policing is the practice of officers getting to know a specific “beat” and establishing relationships with residents and businesses. This practice was reborn around 1993 following research done by the National Police Foundation. The organization took best practices in policing, such as the “broken windows” approach that says even small issues can’t be overlooked – melding them with new approaches – revealing a makeover for law enforcement that coincided with President Clinton’s 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that poured funding into crime prevention. While the approach was not completely new, the organization codified it and made community policing a cornerstone of their work, holding seminars and training opportunities for communities around the country to adopt the necessary methods.
Key aspects of community policing include:
being proactive rather than reactive;
establishing face-to-face relationships with stakeholders;
formulating strategies for crime prevention; and
allowing officers on the street to initiate programs and opportunities.
Building upon community policing, the National Police Foundation has sought to train police departments in the use of data and science to solve and prevent crime. It has partnered with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to train law enforcement on use of the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, which tracks bullets by their unique markings, which could make a difference in policing violent gangs.
Recently the National Police Foundation has begun compiling a library of case studies of significant events that is aimed at better analysis and understanding of intervention. Among these case studies are the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016, the San Bernardino California mass shooting in an office, the Furguson, Missouri protests in 2014, the Las Vegas concert shooting in 2017, and Charlottesville, Virginia white supremicist demonstrations in 2017. Other post-event analyses and reports include hostage takings, ambush shootings of police officers, and the 1993 Waco, Texas siege of the Branch Davidian complex run by David Koresh.
Other data the organization has collected include cases of school violence that were averted, officer-involved shootings from 2015-2017, and studies/critiques of police departments and law enforcement systems in Mexico and the United States. The latter analyses were commissioned with an eye toward improvements and professionalization.
Several projects on the organization’s table are aimed at bettering the working conditions of law enforcement officers, including a near-miss officer safety initiative that allows police to anonymously report details of situations where they might have been harmed or killed so that others can learn from them. Another is focused on officer mental health, using examples of best practices from departments around the country to reduce stress and avert mental health crises. In 2018 there were at least 159 suicides among law enforcement officers, more than the number of police killed in the line of duty.
Study of mass violence
Events of mass violence or terrorism that impacts a large number of people is of particular interest to the organization because, it said in a statement, these events are happening with more frequency and lethality, potentially affecting every American regardless of age or gender. In addition to its database of events, the National Police Foundation has created a separate website to study and learn from police responses. Called the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies, it is aimed at understanding and eventually preventing such events. Among their findings thus far are the following tips:
police must establish better relationships and communication with stakeholders in the community, including schools;
students must be taught to be aware of the warning signs and to alert administrators and/or law enforcement to potentially dangerous persons and situations;
school personnel must take students’ concerns seriously when a potential threat is reported;
signs of depression and suicide should be taught, and when recognized, should be taken seriously;
schools should seek out depressed or bullied students and get help for them;
parents should monitor students’ social media;
parents/guardians should keep guns locked up, away from impulsive children and teens; and
schools should create, implement, and practice safety protocols that include ensuring that every person who enters a school building has a valid reason to be there.
By providing thorough, interactive reports at the end of an investigation of an incident, the National Police Foundation offers law enforcement an opportunity to learn from best practices in real-life situations and mistakes made. For instance, during the Orlando, Florida Pulse Nightclub Shooting, the report says, 300 law enforcement officers swarmed the site but more coordination of their efforts should have been established, and while a command center coordinated efforts, other first responders such as firefighters were excluded from communication taking place on scene.
In addition to supporting rural law enforcement organizations that might not have access to the same high-tech equipment as others, the National Police Foundation is looking ahead at ways technology can enhance policing. One of the subjects of a recent report is the use of drone technology in policing, from safety to compliance with airspace regulations to residents’ concerns about unnecessary surveillance. Few law enforcement agencies currently have access to such machinery or the necessary manpower to train and develop plans for deployment, but the range of applications is wide, from assisting firefighters without risking lives to search and rescue efforts, to assessing large-scale situations without deploying officers.
Much of the National Police Foundation’s research is paid for through grants from federal grants and through programs like the National Institute of Justice. Other, location-specific assessments and training programs are funded by the department or state benefiting from the assistance.