Obama task force: Feds should be told of all police shootings

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Police departments should take advantage of new technology such as body cameras as they seek to build trust with the public, the White House’s task force on policing said Monday in a new report.

The panel also recommended that all officer-involved shootings be reported to the federal government, a step that has been demanded by community groups who want greater oversight of law enforcement.

“There’s no reason for us not to have this data available,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who co-chaired the task force.

{mosads}The president formed the Task Force on 21st Century Policing in the wake of several high-profile controversies involving police officers last year, including the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York.

President Obama praised the task force’s recommendations at an event Monday morning and said he hoped that law enforcement agencies “recognize the moment is now to make these changes.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the recommendations would help law enforcement agencies “be more effective as they do their job but also allow their officers to do their job more safely.”

The task force does not explicitly endorse requiring body cameras to record interactions between officers and the public, and stressed that civil liberty concerns must be taken into account before new technology is adopted.

“Law enforcement agencies and leaders need to be able to identify, assess, and evaluate new technology for adoption and do so in ways that improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and evolution without infringing on individual rights,” the authors of the report said.

Saying that technology is “never a panacea,” they called for the federal government to establish national privacy standards for the use of new technology by law enforcement.

The task force said all officer shootings that result in injury or death should be investigated by independent authorities unaffiliated with the officer’s police department.

Activists have criticized the Ferguson Police Department for investigating Brown’s death, arguing the investigation into officer Darren Wilson should have been handled independently.

The task force’s report carries other echoes of the events in Ferguson, which was the site of mass protests in August.

The authors said police departments should be careful about the way that they handle mass demonstrations, and avoid using military tactics and equipment if possible.

Earnest said federal law enforcement agencies are reviewing the report to see if any of the recommendations would apply at the federal level. He said the president is encouraging the formation of public-private partnerships to help law enforcement follow the recommendations.

The Obama spokesman said the administration would take into account whether a state or local agency was following the recommendations when considering grant applications.

“[T]he president has asked the Community Oriented Policing Services Office at the Department of Justice to take responsibility for advancing the work of the task force, including prioritizing grant funding to law enforcement agencies that meet appropriate benchmarks that are related to these recommendations,” Earnest said. 

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