This week the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released a report with numerous recommendations as to how police departments across the nation can improve best practices to effectively fight crime, while building working relationships with the communities they serve. The Task Force was formed by President Obama in December 2014 to address these issues and featured collaborative work by members of law enforcement, technical advisors, youth and community leaders, and representatives from nongovernmental organizations.
The Innocence Project applauds the collaborative, hands-on approach taken by the Task Force, which issued 63 recommendations, after holding seven public hearings across the country that included testimony from over 100 people, and reviewing numerous written submissions, including a number of proposals put forward by the Innocence Project. We are especially pleased that the Task Force identified certain phenomena—which can play a role in preventing wrongful convictions—that need to be addressed, and issued the following recommendations:
Adopt eyewitness identification best practices: The report cites the National Academy of Sciences’ groundbreaking 2014
on eyewitness identification as good reason for police departments to implement scientifically supported eyewitness identification practices.
Address bias in policing: The report notes that both explicit and implicit biases are harmful in policing. Explicit bias is a conscious opinion or view about certain groups of people, whereas implicit bias is a bias people are not aware that they have. The Task Force recommends training for all levels of law enforcement to address implicit bias. This type of training is important because it would make officers aware of how implicit bias happens and give them the necessary education and training to address it. The training should help protect innocent people who are unfairly targeted by police because of implicit bias.
Perform peer reviews: Law enforcement agencies should create non-punitive peer review bodies that focus on improving practices and policies. These bodies would examine factor(s) that contributed to wrongful convictions, near-miss acquittals which illuminate problems with the original investigation and dismissals of cases, cold cases and more.
Establish a national crime and justice task force: The president should support and provide funding for the creation of a national crime and justice task force to review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system for the purposes of making recommendations about how to achieve comprehensive criminal justice reform.
You can read the report