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Dated: Saturday December 02, 2006


National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers Offers Recommendations For Change

First, and foremost, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc wishes to extend its warm and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Sean Bell. While no amount of good will and best wishes can mitigate the hurt and remorse that you must now bear, we hope you will take solace in the knowledge and belief that, as an organization In the community&FOR THE COMMUNITY, we are here should you need us.

The spectre of law enforcement use, and abuse, of force has been ever present from the days of the first inception of the institution of policing. Legal statutes everywhere, including the State of New York, provide for the use of force by police officers, including deadly force, in the course of their duties. This use of force, however, is presumptive upon the officers additional use of both common sense and adherence to the various training precepts of his or her agency.

Yet the occurrence of police shootings in communities of color has risen exponentially during the past decade. And it must at once be recognized and accepted as a matter of record and fact that the frequency and consistency of these occurrences happen in no other community, regardless of its locale.

And so we must ask, are these occurrences caused by ineffective training, total failure to adhere to the training procedure, ineffective or faulty policies and procedures or the failure, or refusal, to adhere to them, or something infinitely worse?

We must also recognize and accept as fact that, while the profession of law enforcement has made numerous and dynamic strides to improve the manner in which it is practiced, the institution of policing is, and has always been, inherently biased towards those living in poor and low-income neighborhoods, particularly communities of color. And it is with this in mind that we offer the following recommendations for both institutional and systemic change.

1. The development of training regimens that teach and enhance police officers ability to both recognize and master their own fears and their line-of-duty judgments based upon those fears. The system of policing teaches officers to react rather than to think, but fails to teach them how to control and master their fears. Thus, we continuously deploy men and women in uniform whose judgments are impaired because of those fears. We must veer away from sole reliance on testing mechanisms which only gauge the logical, mathematical and verbal abilities of police applicants but not the forms of emotional intelligence which is much more relevant to the skills and behaviors needed to successfully perform their duties.
2.A revision of departmental policies concerning the methods and situations by which non-uniformed members may engage in vehicle-related stops, both felony and misdemeanor. Had a more prudent-minded policy dictating that plainclothes officers be required to utilize a uniformed unit to conduct the stop of Sean Bell and his companions, it is highly possible that this tragedy might not have occurred.
3.Changes in state statutes to more uniformly correspond with the preponderance of agency guidelines concerning the use of force towards persons in vehicles. While it must be recognized that the departmental policy of the New York Police Department goes somewhat beyond the norm in precluding officers from firing at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the police officer or another person present, by means other than a moving vehicle, this policy is directly adverse and contrary to state laws which both allow, and seemingly encourage, the opposite. We believe that the agency policy is a more accurate, sensible, ethical, and humane process. We must also insure that policy and statutory reforms favor substance not image, which lends itself greatly to political ineptitude and ethical miscarriages.
4.Strengthen training initiatives to safeguard BOTH law enforcement and community interests. These initiatives should, and must, include increased levels of training in dealing with and recognizing culturally diverse issues and more effective methods for handling situations where those issues are present.
5.Upholding and enforcing the Rule of Law. Law enforcement officers, regardless of their race, should not be protected by the system of sovereign immunity where gross negligence is found. We deem gross negligence to be the continuous refusal or inability to adhere to departmental policies, procedures and command directives. We also deem this to occur when supervisory personnel fail, or are unable, to properly provide sound, reasonable, and ethically correct leadership, both at the command and administrative level.
6.A full and completely transparent leveling of the playing field for law enforcement investigations of these incidents by including constituency involvement, independent review, and timely disclosure of information, thus improving the law enforcement process and insuring public accountability.

We believe that these measures will strengthen the relationships between community and police; provide for more professionalism in the manner in which law enforcement services are rendered; and greatly assist in stemming the tide of what can only be considered as the perceptualization of black and latino communities as "combat zones".

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc, a 501.(c).(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.

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