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These meetings increase transparency and make officer misconduct public. Eric Lambert, professor of criminal justice at Wayne State University, told me that they have been a game-changer for community-police relations. "They are showing [officers] how and why these reforms work, that they are actually improving their image in the community," Lambert said, "which then improves their ability to interact with civilians. And everyone knows that the best crime control is when citizens are involved and they become the ears and eyes of the police department."
Another cornerstone of Detroit PD's recent success is its Civil Rights Integrity Bureau (CRIB), an internal unit of the Detroit PD in charge of auditing and investigating the department's practices. CRIB is required to conduct 26 audits a year. However, in an effort to give individual commands more specific information, CRIB conducts far more than that. In 2011, it carried out a total of 135 audits and did roughly sixty inspections.
Commander Jeff Romeo, who heads the division, told me this diligent oversight is central to the department's rapid improvement. "You can't just put out a policy and expect people to follow it," he said. "Some people will and some people won't. You need to inspect it, audit it, and wake people up to the new procedures in place. Let them know that this is how we do business now."
The Oakland Police Department has a similar unit, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), but it has been much less active than CRIB. In 2010, OIG conducted seven audits and investigations; in 2011, it did twelve; and so far this year, it's done five, according to Steven Tull, who heads the division. Tull said he hopes to do more than the bare minimum in the future.
How exactly that will be done, however, is unclear. Mayor Quan is looking into civilianizing the inspector general's office, although it's uncertain whether the department will have the necessary funding to do so.
Detroit PD also has a fully functioning computerized system for tracking police officer conduct — the Management Awareness System (MAS). MAS issues a red flag when an officer accumulates three or more complaints in six months. It is then policy for the officer's supervisor to set up a meeting, and, if necessary, intervene.
This system has become an integral part at ensuring that officers are held accountable for their actions. "Now we know the officers that may be involved in behaviors that put the city more at risk," said Godbee in an April interview with the Michigan Citizen. "And there are intervention strategies that have to be documented to show what we did to address the officer's behavior."
Oakland has a similar tracking system, the Internal Personnel Assessment System (I-PAS), which was born out of the NSA. However, I-PAS has been either nonfunctional or partially functional for years. Only in the latest monitor's report in July was I-PAS deemed up to speed, although serious technical problems remain (the department has circumvented these problems temporarily by requiring arrest data to be entered by hand into the system). OPD hopes to have the system fully functional in the next few months, but the monitors have expressed doubts that it will be used to its full potential.
Detroit PD's efforts to ensure accountability also have led to clear results. (When looking at all of the numbers below, bear in mind that Detroit's population is more than twice as large as Oakland's, and the city has roughly four times as many police officers. It has more officers because it pays each one a much lower salary on average than Oakland does.)
In Detroit, citizen complaints are down 41 percent from two years ago, and in all of 2011, the department counted just over 500 complaints. Meanwhile, OPD's internal affairs department classified 1,039 misconduct complaints related to Occupy Oakland alone.
In Detroit, use of force reports are also down. In 2010, the department recorded 1,479 uses of force. Over the past six months that number has fallen to 635, suggesting a considerable annual decline this year. In Oakland, these figures are on the rise. In the last three months alone there were 1,116 documented use-of-force incidents (which is equal to the projected number for all of 2012 in Detroit). That's an increase of 8 percent from the previous quarter.
In Detroit, officers are also much more hesitant to draw and point their firearms. In 2011, there were 261 such instances. During the same year, OPD counted 3,623 incidents of officers pointing their firearms (roughly ten a day). So far this year, OPD officers have continued to draw and point their guns at alarming rates, counting 925 incidents in the first three months alone.
At first glance, there appears to be one outlier to the statistics above. While Oakland PD has reported only nine officer-involved shootings since 2011, Detroit reported 29 cases last year alone. However, this data also suggests that Detroit cops use their weapons much more discriminately than Oakland's — and that they don't shoot to kill.