Across America, many neighborhoods are confronting the challenge of improving community-police relations. Police-involved shootings and aggressive tactics have increased attention to some longstanding issues between law enforcement and communities of color.
For the FPD in North Carolina, a series of traffic stops and police-involved shootings during the late 2000s contributed to a culture of mistrust between the African American community and the police department. In addition, violent crimes within the city increased 48% between 2000 to 2010.
In response to rising community tensions and concerns for violent crime, both the FPD and the city manager’s office commissioned reports by independent organizations to identify recommendations to improve policing in the city.
In 2010, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) analyzed policies and procedures to determine if racial profiling practices occurred within the department. Key recommendations from this report changed FPD’s traffic stop data collection process and implemented car cameras for patrol vehicles. Also in 2010, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) evaluated FPD’s policies on crime prevention, crime enforcement and operational structure. PERF identified policing best practices within FPD, while also making recommendations on enhancing the use of community policing and intelligence-led techniques to address crime and quality of life issues effectively.
While these evaluations took place, crime continued on an upward trend and by the end of 2012, the violent crime rate in Fayetteville had risen to its highest level in a decade.
Harold Medlock was appointed Chief in 2013. Under his leadership, the FPD began the long process of restoring the pillars of community policing and addressing crime and community-police relations within the city. To achieve community safety objectives, Chief Medlock enlisted assistance from a broad range of partners with specific expertise, including the Diagnostic Center. Chief Medlock requested the Diagnostic Center’s help in two areas: (1) Strategies to address violent crime among youth and (2) Enhancing community-police relations.
The timing of his request coincided with two critical points in Fayetteville: historical tension between the community and police and a momentum for change and collaboration from the community and police.
The Diagnostic Center coordinated with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) to respond to the FPD’s request. The Diagnostic Center was responsible for evaluating qualitative and quantitative data to develop strategies for addressing violent crime and improving community- police relations while the COPS Office focused on evaluating the internal policies and practices relating to police misconduct. This coordinated effort offered the FPD a customized response to its request and ensured a tailored outcome to address its needs.