This afternoon, President Obama will sign an executive order, bringing to life Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a group whose mission is to outline clear and concrete steps to repair trust between law enforcement officials and the communities that they serve.
The task force will consist of law enforcement representatives, community leaders, academics and youth leaders who all want to see change, particularly in the wake of the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.
“[President Obama] has emphasized again and again the need to meet this challenge head on and be honest about the complex problems we face,” Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, said on a call this afternoon. “We all recognize that these problems won’t be solved swiftly, but what we can do is assemble people of great intent to come around the table.”
The 11-member team, headed by Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University Criminology Professor Laurie Robinson, will have until March 2, 2015, to come up with a concrete outline of ways to strengthen trust while also continuing to reduce the crime rate. They will then pass their plan along to President Obama, who could potentially turn their proposed ideas into legislation.
Though there is no specific set of issues that the team will address, Ron Davis, Director of the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services and former police chief, said that they would examine police recruitment practices as well as diversifying departments, training officers, accountability, the use of unnecessary force, implicit bias and the appropriate use of body cameras.
The task force, which will be reaching out to communities across the nation, will depend greatly on feedback, hoping to hear specifically from youth activists.
“Part of what we don’t want to do is limit the richness of the ideas that can come from all sources,” Jarrett said. “We also want to make sure new ideas are brought to the table. We are open to new and creative ideas that perhaps none of us have considered before.”
Davis said that the opportunity for a group to come together and talk amicably is a start for what is turning into a national conversation.
“[The task force] will model the behavior that we would want to see at the local level: People coming together, diverse perspectives, diverse views, people who can disagree without being disagreeable and learning how to work toward solutions,” Davis said. “The discussions need to turn into concrete action quickly. We have to get people to the table. They can own and be part of the solution.”