Time to End Police Militarization (and Its Causes) in the United States

Note: This is lengthy personal research on an issue of great importance to justice, civil liberties and 2016 election platforms in the United States. I feel strongly that a study of causes of police militarization must accompany any news consumption of police use of force.

The activities of local police departments are facing increased scrutiny since high-profile shootings of unarmed civilians by police, such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland. Cases of police use of force against residents of Fort Worth, Texas, have seen comparatively little attention. Are there trends of deadly use of force against unarmed civilians and the increasing presence of military-grade equipment and tactics in North Texas? The case of Jermaine Darden’s death in May 2013 deserves examination as a comparison to high-profile national cases.

Jermaine Darden died after being placed on the ground and hit with a taser multiple times. He complained he was unable to breathe before he died, and officers completed a search of the house for drug paraphernalia before calling an ambulance to tend to Mr. Darden. A video of the encounter was released at the request of family lawyers over a year after the incident (WFAA, 2014). The video of the detaining and death of Mr. Darden bears striking similarities to cases of police killing of unarmed civilians in other municipalities in the United States.

This report, rather than implicate the Fort Worth Police Department, seeks to answer: What is the connection between national trends in policing and the practice of the Fort Worth Police Department? Is the case of Jermaine Darden an isolated mistake by a small group of officers, or does the service of a no-knock drug warrant by heavily-armed SWAT team members represent a larger pattern of policing strategies and tactics in the department? After assessing these questions through a review of literature, the report goes on to assess the success of different policing models in building community trust while reducing crime. 

Review of Trends in U.S. Policing Practice: 1980-2015

The origins and conditions of police militarization extend into administrative policies and governance practices of national decision makers and local police departments. The spiral of the increased arming of police departments corresponds to political attitudes and public opinion regarding crime. In turn, the American legal system has slowly altered precedent around the boundary between acceptable police conduct and rights of citizens. The consequences of high-profile police shootings which have drawn national media attention since August 2014 show the symptoms rather than the cause of a militarizing policing paradigm which began in the middle of the 20th century.

Recent literature on policing trends indicates a growing consensus between social scientists, postmodern scholars and policing policy groups. The importance of a well-supported and funded public safety administration is unquestioned, but the strategic and tactical direction of these institutions poses a risk of their social purpose. Moore (1999) identified seven core objectives of an effective police force which serves its local community:

“(1) Reducing criminal victimization.

(2) Calling offenders to account.

(3) Reducing fear and enhancing personal security.

(4) Guaranteeing safety in public spaces (including traffic safety).

(5) Using financial resources fairly, efficiently and effectively.

(6) Using force and authority fairly, efficiently and effectively.

(7) Satisfying customer demands/achieving legitimacy with those policed.”

The breach between police practice and public trust signified by a militarized local police force does not have a single cause. The consequences, however, of increased no-knock raids, the use of SWAT teams to serve nonviolent drug warrants, the transfer of military-grade equipment en masse to municipalities are well documented (Balko, 2006). Police departments, policymakers and members of the judiciary have created and operated within institutional and social causes since the mid-20th century which have produced outcomes which disproportionately affect low-income and non-white citizens.

The Rational-Legalistic Approach to Police Administration: The proliferation of SWAT teams and aggressive policing tactics in the past several decades had its origins in the upper administrations of police departments. As technological policing tools evolved, the strategic vision of police forces often tied itself to the use and utility of a technology rather than the implications of its use on community relations. In turn, police administrations became blinded by the omission bias of being unable to perceive and respond to trends in communities that were neither being sufficiently measured nor examined such as trust and feelings of security.

In the 1980s and beyond, municipal police forces began to follow an increasingly “rational-legalistic emphasis” in their force allocation and deployment strategies (DeMichele and Kraska, 2001). This approach pushed by administrators quantitatively measured the effectiveness of departments by the number of arrests and frequency of patrols conducted by officers. The outcome, combined with the growing currency of “broken windows policing,” pushed departments to focus on maintaining external appearances of law and order in communities. As a result, the policing net tended to target specific communities where more arrests and patrols could be made to increase performance metrics.

The most notable and groundbreaking example of this policing strategy was the CompStat crime computing and mapping software used by the New York Police Department beginning in the 1990s. One of the original applications of big data in municipal administrations, CompStat created a management approach which pushed large volumes of police into statistically higher-crime areas. Godown (2009) explained the four hallmarks of a CompStat management approach to be: “accurate and timely intelligence, effective tactics, rapid deployment and relentless follow-up and assessment.” Pressure from regular meetings with police administrators created conditions inside police departments conducive to carrying out and reporting higher arrest and patrol rates to superiors.

Skogan (1990), explained the consequences of the rational-legalistic approach even before the widespread use of CompStat, revealing the gulf between policing practices and community perceptions: “Even if they are conducted in a strict legal fashion, aggressive tactics such as saturating areas with police, stopping cars frequently, conducting extensive field interrogations and searches, and bursting into apartments suspected of harboring gambling or drugs can undermine police in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.”

Rational-legalistic approaches to measuring, targeting and deploying incidents of crime bring a “fighting” approach to police administration which resemble the work of military tacticians. Balko (2006) relays the testimony of a Connecticut police chief who rejected adopting the CompStat philosophy into his police force, claiming “the military approach paints civilians as the enemy in the eyes of police officers.” The military approach is not entirely caused by administrative strategies (see below), but has the same outcome of undermining trust with civilians in the community who become units of analysis in a crime mapping software rather than valuable assets in creating safe conditions on streets and in neighborhoods in which “eyes on the street” from local residents are most important in preventing crimes against persons and property (Jacobs 1961).

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in its 2014 staffing study of the Fort Worth Police Department, called for better assessment of police actions as “the impact of these police operations in terms of improving communities” (5). Police management research groups have begun to alter the prevailing consensus of municipal police departments since the 1980s, which tied funding and performance to the number of arrests a department made in a given year as an indicator of crime control (Balko, 2006). Sparrow (2015) offered a corrective to the focus on arrests and crime statistics in proposing police forces which operate as “nimble, vigilant and skillful” focused on proportionate responses to incidents of crime. The expert consensus on police administration and objectives has shifted in recent years, but flies against decades of a previous approach.

The Iron Triangle: War on Drugs, the Cold War and Inequality: While the internal organization and behavioral incentives in police departments created militarized administrative procedures, the social and policy environment permitted the growth of heavily-armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams and their use in disproportionately nonwhite, low-income neighborhoods. SWAT teams themselves emerged in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Beginning in the 1970s in the United States, the War on Drugs began, a concerted federal, state and local effort to prosecute possession and dealing of illegal drugs, especially in American inner cities (Alexander, 2012). The War on Drugs accompanied a “tough-on-crime” rhetoric from politicians. The War on Drugs legitimized and accelerated the growth of paramilitary police units such as SWAT. Balko (2006) explains:

“The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 brought new funding, equipment, and a more active drug police units across the country. Reagan offensive in the War on Drugs involved a more confrontational, militaristic approach to combating the drug supply, a policy enthusiastically embraced by Congress.”

Increased militarization of police domestically correlated with the de-escalation of the Cold War toward the middle of the 1980s. Awash with used military equipment, the federal government created the 1033 program which awarded armored vehicles, heavy weapons and crowd control equipment to municipal police departments at a fraction of their market value. Simultaneously, the federal government created the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Balko 2006), which tied funding for law enforcement to the number of drug arrests made in a jurisdiction. Police departments were given tools for crime-fighting and a federal mandate to pursue and prosecute certain types of crime, especially drug usage. The result was an increase in patrols in disproportionately nonwhite and lower-income neighborhoods with armored police equipment. At least 18% of military-grade SWAT units around the United States were used for “roving patrols in high crime areas” (Balko, 2006).

As the mandate of SWAT units with military equipment expanded to include patrolling, particularly for nonviolent drug offenses, the use of such equipment became codified into police practice. The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (2005) explained the SWAT teams are designed for “command and control” and “containment.” The application of these standards requires SWAT and police officials to conduct threat assessments before deploying SWAT teams. However, the paramilitary divisions of police departments, such as Zero Tolerance units which resemble SWAT teams in function, are asked to share responsibilities with nonviolent drug enforcement. The Police Executive Research Forum (2014) report on the Fort Worth Police Department encouraged “reassigning the team Zero Tolerance teams [to] also assist the Narcotics Section.”

The influx of military equipment into police departments and the use of that equipment and tactics for drug enforcement incentivizes departments to expand operations and staffing to accommodate new equipment, and ask for new equipment in turn. PERF (2014) encouraged the Fort Worth Police Department to expand its Zero Tolerance enforcement units: “additional tactical equipment needs to continue to be requested. This includes pole cameras, flash bang grenades, larger SUVs per team to store equipment, additional undercover vehicles per team, and night vision equipment.” The only justification provided by the PERF for the increase in paramilitary equipment was “growing workload trends” for the Zero Tolerance officers in their mandate to focus on “crime issues in specific areas” and “possible suspect targets in specific areas.”

A compounding effect on targeted crime fighting, emphasis on nonviolent drug offenses and federal military equipment in police forces is the social and demographic landscapes of American cities. What appear to be socially disordered areas to police departments using broken windows policing strategies are increasingly residentially, racially and socioeconomically segregated neighborhoods. William Julius Wilson (1987) described the flight of the middle class from inner city neighborhoods, and the increased social dislocation of low-income, predominantly African-American families in those same neighborhoods as social structure collapsed and economic opportunities eroded. Low-income inner-city residents have increasing structural obstacles to equality and wage-earning. Kneebone and Holmes (2015) found “61 percent of high-poverty tracts (with poverty rates above 20 percent) and 55 percent of majority-minority neighborhoods experienced declines in job proximity between 2000 and 2012.” The socioeconomic neglect of urban and increasingly-suburbanized poverty creates the very conditions which attract highly militarized, drug crime-focused police departments.

Tactical Implications of a Militarized Force: When paramilitary police units such as SWAT teams with mandates to make nonviolent drug arrests meet underserved and economically disadvantaged communities, the results have often been cycles of increasing distrust and poor relationships between community and law enforcement. The most recent, high-profile analysis of police tactics with disproportionate racial and socioeconomic impact came from the Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (2015). While the report found an administrative incentive for officers to increase ticket and arrest counts to raise municipal court revenue, the burden of these practices fell on African-American residents and in some cases was motivated by racial prejudice.

The Department of Justice investigative report concluded “police and court practices…disproportionately harm African Americans and do little to promote public safety; the persistent exercise of discretion to the detriment of African Americans; the apparent consideration of race in assessing threat; and the historical opposition to having African Americans live in Ferguson, which lingers among some today.”

Furthermore, the investigation uncovered communications conveying explicit racial bias between members of the police department and city officials. Balko (2006) identified a growing trend of prejudice combined with a warrior mentality among American police officers. One noteworthy example at a SWAT industry group meeting was a shirt reading “Operation: Ghetto Storm” in reference to paramilitary police units operating in American inner cities.

The influence of subjective and civil rights-violating decision-making tactics by police officers entrusted with public safety corrodes public trust. Accountability by police departments is critical in enforcing standards of action and then reviewing police actions afterward. The same principles apply to SWAT units (California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training, 2005). The Department of Justice report on Ferguson cites court precedent around the Fourth Amendment requiring police departments to articulate reasonable suspicions of threats to officer safety before force can be executed. Citizens are not required to submit to requests for searches, identifications or charges unless the police officer expresses a basis for action. However, SWAT units frequently employ no-knock execution of drug warrants on the suspicion that nonviolent offenders possess violent weapons (Balko, 2006). A lack of adequate information for accurate threat assessment increases the likelihood that officers will make inaccurate tactical decisions.  

Police departments placed under pressure to increase crime reporting statistics and then given tools and technology with which to increase patrols and arrests must be held to high standards of accountability and reporting to justify police action, especially use of force in the “command and control” functions of SWAT and Zero Tolerance units. However, many municipal police departments such as Ferguson lack adequate after-action officer reports and supervisor reviews (Department of Justice, 2015). In Fort Worth, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) recommended additional administrative support be given to SWAT units to better document SWAT actions. The PERF report further recommended that the Fort Worth Police Department expand the ability of its Information Management section to assess and respond to threats accurately through the creation of a Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). Aligning the daily tactical decision and behavior of officers with a fair policy and administrative context improves the accuracy and reliability of police action, in turn creating trust with residents.

Badges and Benches: Policing Precedents in the Courts: The seismic shift in police practices in the past several decades have been contested in the legal system, which has established precedent generally in favor of police officers in cases of no-knock SWAT raids which often incur damages against citizens unrelated or disproportionate to the purpose of the police intervention. More generally, the increased presence of militarized police units has broached the division between combat troops and domestic, municipal law enforcement enshrined in American civil liberties.

The constitutional principles which protect American citizens from police intervention include the “castle doctrine,” an English common law precedent which protects the rights and property of a citizen’s home (Balko, 2006). When SWAT teams conduct no-knock raids, in other words entering homes without warning, a high legal standard must be met, However, the case Richards v. Wisconsin (1998) permitted police officials to exercise momentary discretion when executing warrants for the use of no-knock raids. Police officers were able to circumvent the required “exigent circumstances” to justify entering a home without consent or warning on the basis of a “reasonable suspicion” that announcing themselves would bring harm to officers.

Mid-20th century court precedent upheld the right of citizens to be protected from unannounced police raids, Justice William O. Brennan wrote in Ker v. California (1963) that “if no previous demand is made, how is it possible for a party to know what the object of the person breaking open the door may be? He has a right to consider it as an aggression on his private property, which he will be justified in resisting to the utmost.” Police intervention into private homes without warning increases the risk of escalation, and offers self-justifying grounds for police to apply force against the subjects of SWAT raids, who are frequently targeted for drug-related offenses. Courts in recent decades have reduced the legal standard for conducting SWAT raids as well as the use of evidence obtained from raids.

The exclusionary rule is a customary safeguard against the use of evidence obtained from an illegal or unreasonable search. Such evidence, such as drugs obtained in a raid from a mistaken identity, could not be used in a future legal proceeding. However, Hudson v. Michigan (2006) permitted the use of evidence obtained from no-knock raids. Police departments which can conduct SWAT raids with little articulable reason for a use of force and expect evidence gathered from raids to be used against defendants in trial have little incentive to follow legal standards for police conduct, and already operate in a system of decreased institutional accountability from supervisors and elected officials (Sparrow, 2015).

In broad constitutional principles, the increased militarization of police through SWAT teams and the use of SWAT teams in routine police patrol work broaches territory covered under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act (Balko, 2006). This act prohibits the intermingling of combat troops and local law enforcement officials, applied in cases of national security threats and insurrections. The rhetorical and policy framework of the War on Drugs and Department of Defense-subsidized transfer of equipment to municipal police have cast a wide net over what constitutes a national security threat. DeMichele and Kraska (2001) explain the rationalization for the military approach to policing in terms of the faltering “technologies of the self” that govern the behavior and norms of marginalized demographics. In other words, it becomes justifiable for local police departments to act in the name of public safety while treating law enforcement as a battle against foreign combatants.

Comparative Case Study: Camden, NJ and New York, NY

To illustrate the influence of a rational-legalistic and militarized local police system, this study will briefly examine the effects of police administrative systems on community trust in the local police force. A comparative case study of Camden, New Jersey from 2011-2015 and New York City from 1994-1999 will demonstrate the effects of administrative change on community attitudes toward police forces. The unit of analysis in the evidence is a city-year. In other words, the research evaluates public opinion within a single year to provide a snapshot of changing attitudes over multiple years, and assess whether or not the changes in such attitudes are a product of changing police systems or another variable.

The independent variable in the study is a police-administrative system. The organizational practices and professional paradigms adopted by a police department have significant causal value in a given administrative district, such as a city or county. The President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing (2015) establishes this causal relationship in its mandate to recommend “policing practices [that] can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.” The police-administrative system variable is valid for research due to its variance. Different police departments offer widely different models of conducting crime reduction and trust-building activities: such as the number of civilians working in central offices, known as civilianization, the opt-in to the Department of Defense surplus military equipment programs and the standards of training for officers. The professional paradigm which governs a police department encapsulates each of these aspects of policing practice.

The dependent variable is public trust in the police force. Citizens respond to police based on the daily interactions on the street with members of law enforcement. The behavior of law enforcement sets a precedent for how citizens perceive them. The Department of Justice report on Ferguson, MO demonstrates a negative pattern of interaction between police and community members, which correlated with a negative pattern of interaction back toward police from community members in the form of protest. As Sparrow (2015) outlined, public trust in policing is one of seven contemporary measurements of policing effectiveness, and is a valid proxy variable for measuring the quality of a police department as a democratic institution. Trust between citizens and in local institutions has been shown to be an important determinant of overall local governmental effectiveness (Putnam, 1993).

Each variable will be assessed at the ordinal level. The independent variable ranges from low to high levels of deterrent police activity, while the dependent variable ranges from low trust to high trust. Given the relative paucity of data publicly available and the summary nature of the case study, the variables could not be refined to continuous or more specific connections — such as proportion of civilianization or volume of patrol officers or SWAT units. Nevertheless, the variables are time sequential: the public has reactions to changes in policing practice and institutional behavior. The variables have a plausible causal connection, and each variable has the capacity for wide variation.

Utilizing Mill’s most similar case study design, this research briefly surveys the connection between different policing systems and community response in New York City, NY and Camden, NJ. Each city, heavily urbanized and with a large low-income population, implemented a rigorous new police management paradigm in the face of high rates of violent crime (Willis et al., 2004)(Camden County Police Department, 2012). New York City implemented the Compstat data-driven, officer accountability-centered crime reporting program beginning in 1994, while Camden implemented a rigorous administrative reorganization and civilianization effort beginning in 2011. The key difference, therefore, between each case is the police-administrative system rather than any contextual or demographic variables.

Boots on the Ground in New York: Implementation of Compstat

Compstat, an integrated accountability and geographic crime-targeting system, gained currency in police administrator circles in the late 20th century in response to the trends in technology and politics mentioned above. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton used the crime-tracking ability of Compstat to set a goal of a 10% reduction in the crime rate in New York City. Willis et al. (2004) explained, “to convey a clear sense of the NYPD’s commitment, top management reasoned that the mission statement must include specific terms for which the organization and its leaders could be held accountable.” Compstat introduced stringent terms of accountability for officers and district-level management for the reduction of crime, and frequently tied performance reviews to crime-fighting. The result in the NYPD was an “adversarial culture” which pitted top management against line officers in attaining crime reduction goals (Willis et al. 2004).

Figures 1 and 2 below, from the Police Foundation, shows a statistically significant relationship between the implementation of Compstat and a corresponding increase on improving crime statistics. Interviewees were police line officers in the respective police departments. These findings have external validity to apply to officers in another Compstat-utilizing department such as NYPD.

Figures 1 and 2: Police Department Survey Results (from Willis, et al. 2004)

Police Militarization 1
Police Militarization Figure 2

With an emphasis on driving down crime statistics and reducing teamwork between departments, the Compstat program in New York City came into effect in the mid-1990s under NYPD chief WIlliam Bratton. One of the signature tactics adopted by the NYPD under the new administrative system was the “stop, question and frisk” of persons deemed ‘reasonably suspect’ by field officers. The New York Bar Association (2012) reported: “The number of reported stops grew from 97,296 in 2002 to 685,724 in 2011, before dropping to 533,042 in 2012. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly laud the stop-and-frisk policy as a significant component of the City‘s successful effort to reduce violent crime, a means of keeping guns off the street and improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods most affected by crime.”

The New York Bar Association (2012) described the origins of the stop-and-frisk policy as “the implementation of CompStat as a policing tool in the 1990s.” Additionally, the NYPD uses a growing Emergency Services Unit (ESU) for SWAT-related activity, including warrant service. “The unit serves as the entry team for 500 “high-risk” warrants around the city a year,” (Weiss and DeBenedetto, 2012). An officer with ESU was involved in a shooting of an unarmed motorist during a stop in 2012. ESU officers were also named in a 2007 lawsuit for conducting warrant service which injured elderly residents and allowing police dogs to bite fleeing suspects. The growth of SWAT tactics for warrant service, and overlap of SWAT functions with the Compstat-mandated street patrols in New York illustrate the tactical implications of implementing the Compstat system.

Figure 3 below shows the current attitudes of New York borough residents toward police, measured in terms of the nature of the police encounter. The data from the New York Civil Liberties Union (2013) shows a disproportionate amount of Black and Latino respondents having negative interactions with police, showing that assertive police tactics in designated “high crime” areas by CompStat will have disproportionate racial effects:

Figure 3: New York Residents’ Response to Police Activity (from NYCLU)

Police Militarization Figure 3

As political evidence of the growing distrust between police and community members, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against the New York Police Department in Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. The lawsuit, in which the plaintiffs were found to have sustained damages through an unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy, represents the collective action of a distrustful community. In more popular consciousness, the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and the resulting lack of an indictment against involved officers highlighted the crime patrol-sweep and frisking practices of the NYPD and its impact on community members.

Community Policing in Camden: Municipal Consolidation Program

Camden, New Jersey in the early second decade of the 21st century faced a crisis of being labeled one of the most crime-ridden areas in the United States. Violent crime in Camden far outpaced neighboring cities and benchmark cities around the country (Camden County Police Department, 2012). Local administration made a cohesive step to an integrated, county-wide administration system which would allow for more flexibility and cost-savings with “economies of scale” in the allocation of resources (Camden County, 2011). By 2012, the county issued a summary of its initiatives as part of the consolidation of different municipal departments into a single department:

  • “Not top heavy (5% brass versus 13% lieutenant and above)
  • Organizational Flexibility – Peak Time Demand/Crime ‘Push’ Staffing Model
  • Civilianization/Outsourcing
  • Demand Management/Resource Optimization
  • District-Level Community Policing Teams
  • Policing in Real-Time”

The mission outlined by the new Camden County Police Department focused on eliminating layers of administrative redundancy and increasing the amount of time individual officers were able to spend among community members rather than on crime-focused patrols. Furthermore, the county called for “substantial participation of community leaders” in the selection of high-ranking officials that would be setting the tone for mid-level management and field officers in the department. Increased training would be given to officers who were re-hired into the countywide police department.

Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson noted in a report to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015) “that community policing starts on the street corner, with respectful interaction between a police officer and a local resident, a discussion that need not be related to a criminal matter.” Chief Thomson outlined the important shift in administrative strategy occurring in his department toward community policing:

“Community policing cannot be a program, unit, strategy or tactic. It must be the core principle that lies at the foundation of a police department’s culture. The only way to significantly reduce fear, crime, and disorder and then sustain these gains is to leverage the greatest force multiplier: the people of the community.”

This statement echoed the findings of the President’s Task Force that cultural changes must accompany policy changes in a police department, as many departments have taken on a military-style culture which implements orders and runs fixed routines of crime statistic reduction, at the expense of legitimacy and trust in the community.

Figure 4 shows the dramatic changes in the administrative strategy of the Camden County Police Department to create a newer, more flexible force composed of more highly trained officers. The dark shaded blue category shows the growing number of CCPD officers, slowly displacing the brown shaded category of the old municipal Camden Police Department.

Police Militarization Figure 4

Figure 4: Camden County Police Staffing Changes

The reforms in the Camden, New Jersey area resulted in immediate partnerships between the city and the new Camden County Police Department – Metro Division. The Mayor of Camden created a Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan (2013) and collaborated with the police department. Camden government leveraged the increased flexibility and community orientation of the police department to break down administrative silos and craft a more holistic approach to preventing crime and restoring relationships in the community:

“The Camden Metro Police Division uses a community-based model for policing the City of Camden, increasing potential for enforcement/social service partnerships and reentry and social service partnerships. Under the leadership of Chief Scott Thompson (sic), not only will a community based model of policing be implemented, but there will be a significant increase (nearly double) in the number of officers on the ground.”

With groundbreaking reforms in the inclusion of law enforcement in the prevention of violence and care for the at-risk youth of a low-income city, Camden also demonstrated quantitative changes in resident trust and response to the new police administrative model. President Barack Obama visited Camden in May 2015 to call attention to the community policing reforms implemented during the past several years, and build political support for a larger community policing initiative around the United States. The President’s remarks highlighted the quantitative outcomes in the department:

“Violent crime in Camden is down 24%. Murder is down 47%. Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 %. The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes. And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there. And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust. Building trust(Remarks May 18, 2015).

While Camden’s police-administrative system does not have the same longevity of the Compstat program in the New York Police Department, initial findings suggest a heavily urbanized area experiencing high crime rates would have more success in a Camden policing model. The Economist reported an increase in police officers getting to know the names and individual residents in Camden (2014). Residents have moved past initial suspicion of the program to become more trusting of police in the city, even with an influx of new officers (Maciag 2014). More eyes on the street and the support of local residents contrasts markedly with the use of patrols and militarized police units and a militarized department culture.


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WFAA Staff (12 June 2014). Video shows Fort Worth police raid that left man dead. WFAA. http://www.wfaa.com/story/local/2015/05/30/14226554/ Retrieved May 30, 2015.

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