Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Baltimore Police Department change at the top

Perhaps the biggest lesson in the death of Freddie Gray as a result of misfeasance on the part of Baltimore Police Department officers while he was in their custody is that the problem of police department conduct isn't specifically an issue of race, given that the majority of Baltimore City's leadership and much of the top command of the Police Department is African-American.

Today, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired the chief, Anthony Batts ("Mayor replaces Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts," Baltimore Sun).

The issue then becomes, who do you replace him with?  How do you find a change agent who can appropriately change the culture of the department (see "How "Police Departments" Become Corrupt").  And can they change the department?

In DC, we have that issue with the fire department ("DC's fire department is in the same situation as WMATA in terms of the necessity of a redesign of culture and behavior through a human factors approach").  I was surprised when the Bowser Administration announced that Gregory Dean agreed to become chief, as he led the Seattle Fire Department, including their national best practice EMS section, for more than 10 years.  It will be interesting to see if he is successful in changing the culture of the DC fire department.

I have three nominees for Mayor Rawlings-Blake, all from California.

1.  Kenton Rainey, chief of the BART Transit Police Department, which became infamous as a result of the killing of Oscar Grant by a police officer at the Fruitvale Station, when Grant and others were returning from New Year's Eve festivities, and were allegedly involved in a fight that BART police officers were responding to.  A movie was made on the incident and BART let the film crew use the station for filming, something most government agencies wouldn't have done.

Rainey was brought in to improve the agency and by most accounts, he has ("Auditor Finds Improved BART Police Force Since Oscar Grant Shooting," CBS San Francisco).

2.  Chris Magnus, chief of the Richmond, California Police Department ("Northern California Chief's New Approach Revitalizes Force," New York Times; "Police Violence Is Not Inevitable: Four Ways a California Police Chief Connected Cops With Communities," Yes Magazine; "Chief's joining the demonstrators sends a message," Contra Costa Times). 

He received a lot of publicity lately when he also took part in a demonstration, holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign.  The local police union was not pleased.

In any case, he's considered a model of a police chief focused on re-engaging the police department with the community and reducing inappropriate use of force by officers ("Richmond police chief admits to stealing - good ideas," AP).

3.  Captain Phil Tingirides of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is one of the leads managing the city's Community Safety Partnership in association with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles ("Los Angeles police department "Community Safety Partnership").

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