By Ronald L. Davis, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice
s the Office of Community Oriented Police Services (COPS Office) enters its 20th year of outreach and assistance to the field of law enforcement, I am honored to have been designated by the attorney general of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to lead this valued component. Heading into my fourth month with the COPS Office, I’ve quickly come to realize the incredible network of support offered to the office and the philosophy of community policing. It has become quite clear that the support of so many stakeholders—like the IACP and its membership—has helped establish a strong foundation for this important work, and despite shrinking budgets, political differences, and other challenges, the COPS Office has solidified its role as the DOJ’s voice of local law enforcement.
While the COPS Office has long since completed its initial goal of increasing the size of local law enforcement agencies, we remain committed to delivering the programs and funding opportunities that have institutionalized the concept of community policing. Those programs—hiring additional officers, developing new technologies, strengthening public safety on tribal lands, and advancing community policing strategies—have become appreciated resources and valuable investment opportunities for the DOJ. We pledge to continue working with stakeholders of all types—elected officials, local law enforcement, and federal partners—to establish consistent offerings from our office, and expand the level of services into other crucial areas.
Over the last two decades, we have seen an increasing level of latitude for the COPS Office, expanding our purpose far beyond the limits of annual grant dollars. This is a trend that has been beneficial to law enforcement agencies experiencing a range of challenges, from crippling fiscal distress to costly use-of-force investigations. While the availability of resources aimed at increasing the size of an agency’s force and adding new technologies to the field is always beneficial, the opportunity to provide a full range of technical assistance, collaborative reform, and critical response services has become equally important.
Agencies across the country aspire to be community policing agencies, but find themselves challenged by the ongoing need to meet traditional demands. In many cases, these demands are reactive in nature, rather than proactive, and do not go to the root of crime and violence. With more than 25 years of law enforcement experience and sensitivity to the challenges chiefs are facing, I want to continue working to advance community policing to become the core strategy in reducing crime and violence. As Attorney General Eric Holder has stated, “We can become both smarter and tougher on crime.” I believe the COPS Office will play a critical role in helping law enforcement achieve this goal. Another advantage to constitutional policing is avoiding lengthy, formal investigations and saving precious financial resources. Too many of our major metropolitan areas are currently either under investigation or under the authority of a federal designee. That loss of control equals the loss of local funds, which can total hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per city. A proactive, collaborative, and transparent approach can help address critical issues, keep the local authority in place, and save vital resources that can, in turn, be used for important hiring, training, and equipment needs.
The ideas mentioned here will be directly tied to upcoming solicitations from the COPS Office. The 2014 COPS Hiring Program will include a focus on building communities of trust and encouraging departments to recruit and hire officers who recognize the sensitive relationship between law enforcement and the communities served and who will work to improve engagement, communications, and public safety procedures.
In a similar fashion, COPS encourages agencies to consider the COPS Office Community Policing Development grant program to supplement locally successful public safety practices and expand those efforts to a national reach. In past years, the COPS Office has supported efforts related to working with communities of color, addressing homelessness and mental illness, promoting officer safety, and establishing critical responses for challenged departments. We will maintain that effort in 2014 with an open solicitation this spring, looking for impressive ideas and unique opportunities to partner with local law enforcement.
More details on all 2014 COPS Office programs and initiatives will be released soon. In the meantime, I will continue to reach out to IACP and its membership, strengthening old relationships and building new ones for the purpose of improving our work and deliverables. The feedback we receive from the men and women leading and serving in law enforcement has put the COPS Office in the position to play an incredible role in the growth of our departments over the last two decades. The potential now exists to broaden our scope of work and the menu of resources available, and the COPS Office once again calls on our partners at IACP and throughout law enforcement to help set the course for the next 20 years. ♦
Please cite as:
Ronald L. Davis, “COPS Office Expands Its Services and Resources: Striving for Collaborative Reform and Constitutional Policing,” From the Director, The Police Chief 81 (March 2014): 20.