Search This Blog

Monday, May 10, 2021

US Policing: Decentralized and Mostly Small-Scale

At WP, Mark Berman reports that police reform is tough because policing is decentralized and most departments are small.
According to a federal survey in 2016, there are more than 12,200 local police departments nationwide, along with another 3,000 sheriff’s offices. And most of those don’t look like the New York Police Department, which employs more officers than Brooklyn Center, in suburban Minneapolis, has residents.

Nearly half of all local police departments have fewer than 10 officers. Three in 4 of the departments have no more than two dozen officers. And 9 in 10 employ fewer than 50 sworn officers. Brooklyn Center, which has 43 officers, and Windsor, which reported a seven-member force, fit comfortably in that majority.

Experts say that while smaller departments have their benefits, including being able to adapt to their communities and hire officers with local ties, these agencies also are typically able to avoid the accountability being sought as part of the national movement to restructure and improve policing. These departments’ often limited resources and the decentralized structure of American law enforcement complicate efforts to mandate widespread training and policy changes, experts say.

“You want to change American policing, figure out how to get to … the departments of 50 officers or less,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based group that works with police departments. “How do you reach them? How do you get to them? … That’s what the American people keep wondering.”