Oakland, Stockton, Salinas police departments to implement procedural justice-based law enforcement training
Following an amendment made to Assembly Bill 1118 (AB 1118), California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced on April 17 the results of a 90-day review of the police training that will now focus on implicit bias and use of force.
Over the past two years, the Oakland, Stockton and Salinas police departments underwent new law enforcement training that was centered around procedural justice. AB 1118, which aims to support procedural justice-based training across California, was introduced by State Rep. Rob Bonta on Feb. 27. The bill was amended twice, on March 26 and April 16. The revisions will incorporate community-oriented policing by following the Chicago training example of promoting procedural justice and police legitimacy. An act was added that focuses more on public safety and law enforcement.
Several community leaders and the California Partnership for Safe Communities (CPSC), have teamed up with local police departments to create the new curriculum.
Paul Figueroa, assistant chief of police at the Oakland Police Department, explained that the attorney general’s involvement spreads much needed change.
“The partnership with the attorney general’s office really gives us a wide reach and connection that we would not have had otherwise, so that’s why [Harris’] leadership is so crucial…because of how she can get it implemented statewide,” Figueroa said.
According to Figueroa, procedural justice emphasizes four tenets — giving people a voice, treating them with respect at all times, being neutral parties and being trustworthy in the process.
“There’s been decades of research about procedural justice and the positive effects it can have,” Figueroa said. “The more procedurally it is fair in the organization it perceives, the more it leads to higher levels of police legitimacy… [which encourages] higher levels of voluntary compliance with the law. At the end of the day, that’s really what we’re going after.”
Police legitimacy, which is the trust and confidence that citizens have in the police and the community’s acceptance of police authority and belief in law enforcement’s fairness, is a major component of the new training.
About a year and a half ago, the Oakland Police Department felt the need to address issues that were occurring between the police and the community. As a result, they began following the training model of Garry McCarthy, the current superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
In August 2011, McCarthy’s recognition of the mistrust that existed between law enforcement and communities of color led to collaboration with the Chicago department’s education division and training division. The joined efforts of these groups resulted in training based on police legitimacy and procedural justice.
“We went to Chicago as a team…as Oakland police officers and professional staff, and managers went to Chicago and looked at the training. Our community members helped us build the training so that it fit Oakland and brought in the Oakland community voice,” Figueroa said.
According to Figueroa, over 600 officers have already been trained under the new curriculum.
“[The community members] actually co-instructed the course with us …and it’s been really, really powerful,” Figueroa said.
Training was separated into three phases — planning, orientation and delivery.
According to Joe Silva, public information officer of the Stockton Police Department, part of the curriculum was to reach out to the community through surveys that recorded how citizens felt about the police department.
“During this training class, the officers have open dialogue and discussions on the community expectations of the police force, and what we’ve learned from the community…[is that they] want the officers to be really good, active listeners… meaning a lot of the problems don’t lead in arrest to help solve the problems, it’s more of just listening and helping the person get the types of resources that they need,” Silva said.
The goal of this new training is ultimately to promote voluntary compliance to the law through increased community involvement and police legitimacy.
“On the flipside, it also talks about what the police expects from the community in turn, and that’s to be cooperative and also compliant,” Silva said.
The Oakland, Stockton and Salinas police departments approached the training in different ways. Stockton and Salinas made teams that were exclusively composed of police officers, making officers responsible for training other officers. The Oakland Police Department wanted to incorporate the community to create a partnership-based training.
“In Chicago, the training is taught by police only, basically officers teaching officers. We added in community instructors with us because we felt that it was a really important voice in our training,” Figueroa said.
In a press release provided by the CPSC, improvements resulting from the new training include the establishment of the first certified implicit bias and procedural justice training in the United States, the creation and implementation of the first Department of Justice policy on implicit bias and racial profiling and the training of all of the division’s command-level staff to train special agents on Fair and Impartial Policing and Implicit Bias.
There was also the adoption of new body camera technology, the expansion of the pool of candidates for special agents and trainees and the development of a 21st century working group made of sheriffs, chiefs and various law enforcement officials.
Harris expressed in her April 17 press release that California is leading the way by releasing a review of special agent trainings on implicit bias and the use of force.
“These actions are being taken with the goal of increasing transparency and with the expectation that California’s law enforcement agencies will use this work as a roadmap to review their own policies,” Harris said.
Serving as a blueprint for other police departments, the new training seems promising.
“The sacred trust between the men and women of law enforcement and the communities we serve is essential to a strong and safe California,” Harris said.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.