Amid public discussion over deadly police encounters nationwide, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison is studying a preliminary report by President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. "The chief is reviewing the report," NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble told Gambit. "It's too soon to respond to the recommendations of the task force ... [but] training is high on the chief's list."
Formed in December after mass protests against police shootings of young black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere, Obama gave his 11-member commission 90 days to produce initial recommendations to reduce crime and bridge (in the panel's words) "the police/citizen divide." The panel's 109-page interim report, published March 1, contains sweeping recommendations, ranging from "empathy" training to helping police peacefully resolve encounters with the mentally ill and the creation of separate national data banks on police deadly force and police line-of-duty injuries.
Retired NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand submitted testimony to the panel. Serpas, who teaches at Loyola University at New Orleans, spoke as an advisor to a Chicago nonprofit advocating that violence be treated as a disease.
"Serpas recommended training on the effects of violence not only on the community and individual victims but also on police officers themselves, noting that exposure to violence can make individuals more prone to violent behavior," the interim report states. Normand and four other witnesses submitted written testimony in February, advocating police leadership training, starting with recruits and continuing through "online leadership and character development."
Harrison has twice traveled to Washington in recent weeks to participate in White House workshops on police body cameras and public access to police data. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who oversees the NOPD's federal consent decree, recently said the department is "ahead of the curve" on police body cameras.