9: Enhancing Law Enforcement and Adjudication Initiatives
Law enforcement and the courts are the most visible parts of the criminal justice system in the community. These institutions have an enormous impact on how residents view the quality of life in their neighborhoods, the criminal justice system, and the law. OJP is working to promote innovation in law enforcement and adjudication in the day-to-day policing and operation of the courts, as well as long-term projects to improve the structure of the justice system in neighborhoods. In addition to programs such as community prosecution and drug courts described elsewhere in this report, OJP also worked in FY 1999 to improve relationships between police and communities, increase access to the justice system for indigent defendants, and support the day-to-day operations of law enforcement.
ENSURING FAIRNESS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
Recent years have seen increased attention to issues of fairness in law enforcement, with issues such as racial profiling in traffic stops and police use of force becoming more prominent. Although community policing has resulted in improved police-minority relations, some residents lack trust and confidence in the police. Ongoing research by NIJ and BJS seeks to provide the perspective, insight, and factual data needed by police and others to address this problem constructively. The goal of this research is to assist law enforcement agencies in protecting the public, enhancing the safety of the community and officers, and building widespread support among those they serve.
In June 1999, BJS and COPS released Criminal Victimization and Perceptions of Community Safety in 12 Cities, 1998. The publication reported findings from city-level surveys of victimization, citizen perceptions of crime, and attitudes toward local police and community policing. Cities selected for the survey project had police departments that represented varying stages in the development of community policing. The surveys found:
To collect more comprehensive data on citizen interaction with the police, BJS added the Police-Public Contact Survey as a supplement to the 1999 National Crime Victimization Survey. The police-public survey probes respondents about traffic stops and other types of contacts between citizens and the police and identifies those encounters in which the respondent was threatened with a use of force or force was actually used. The survey was used in interviews with approximately 90,000 U.S. residents aged 16 or older. BJS anticipates using data from this survey as part of the required annual report to Congress on use of excessive force.
In June 1999, the President issued an Executive Memorandum on Fairness in Law Enforcement. The directive requires federal law enforcement agencies to examine public contacts to ascertain the presence of bias-motivated conduct by federal officers. BJS worked with law enforcement agencies in Justice, Treasury, and Interior Departments to develop a plan for gathering data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of citizens who federal law enforcement officers encounter. This plan was submitted to the White House at the end of FY 1999.
NIJ and BJS released Use of Force by Police: 1998 Summary of National and Local Data. The report describes what is known about police use of force, details current research and data collection projects, and gives suggestions for future research. It found:
ENSURING COMPLIANCE WITH CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS
OJP's Office for Civil Rights actively enforces civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination by agencies that receive federal funding. OCR has initiated a number of investigations into complaints against various police departments alleging discriminatory traffic stops and searches, or other forms of racial profiling. When complaints are sustained, OJP takes administrative action to remedy civil rights violations, from requiring changes in policy to suspending funding. Even when no violation are found, OJP often recommends changes in policies and practices to help law enforcement alleviate perceptions of bias and build community trust. OJP also works with agencies to promote the full and equal participation of women and minority individuals in employment opportunities, and investigates complaints of employment discrimination.
IMPROVING INDIGENT DEFENSE
Between 80 and 90 percent of all people charged with criminal offenses in America do not have enough money to hire a private lawyer. In these cases, it is the constitutional responsibility of the government to provide counsel, to ensure that criminal proceedings are fair and constitutional, and to protect the innocent. There are vast disparities, however, in the extent to which jurisdictions around the country are fulfilling this mandate. Some states and counties maintain adequately funded indigent defense systems, where defenders have manageable caseloads and provide quality representation, and work with other criminal justice agencies. But in others, defender caseloads are far in excess of national standards, and the quality of legal services is subordinated to considerations of cost and speed.
To help improve the quality of justice in America, OJP focused on indigent defense in FY 1999 by sponsoring conferences, awarding grants, and providing training and technical assistance.
In February 1999, OJP and BJA sponsored a National Symposium on Indigent Defense for more than 275 participants, primarily members of the indigent defense community. The symposium was the first Justice Department-sponsored national event on indigent defense since the early 1960s. Participants explored practical ways in which those representing indigent criminal defendants can improve representation by forging partnerships within and outside the criminal justice system, without compromising their roles as advocates in our adversarial justice system.
BJA, in conjunction with Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, is sponsoring a series of Executive Sessions on Indigent Defense Systems to develop plans for improving the quality and efficiency of indigent defense in the American criminal justice system. Issues to be discussed include institutionalized racism within the criminal justice system, under-resourced programs, and disparate charging and sentencing practices.
In February 1999, BJA awarded seven grants of up to $80,000 each to indigent defense offices to improve case management practices and utilize technology. BJA also awarded funds to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and the Vera Institute of Justice to provide training and technical assistance to indigent defense practitioners.
SUPPORTING LAW ENFORCEMENT
Lightweight body armor has been widely available for use by law enforcement for more than 20 years. In that time, there has been a dramatic reduction in officer homicides. In the 1960s and 1970s, NIJ and its predecessor agencies sponsored the initial research into bullet-resistant vests for law enforcement use. NIJ continues to work to improve on body armor technology today, with the goal of making bullet-resistant vests more effective, as well as lighter and more comfortable to encourage their use.
A new program in FY 1999 improved the safety of law enforcement and corrections officers nationwide. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership, administered by BJA, provided more than $41 million to over 3,500 jurisdictions to help them purchase bullet-resistant vests to protect more than 92,000 officers. The entire application and payment process took place online through an innovative Web-based application, described in Chapter 8. Funds covered up to 50 percent of the cost of vests meeting NIJ standards.
More than 3,300 local jurisdictions received Local Law Enforcement Block Grants (LLEBG) totaling $472 million in FY 1998 to help them reduce crime and improve public safety. The funds can be used to hire police officers, improve security in and around schools, purchase law enforcement equipment and technology, enhance the adjudication of violent offenders, and for other public safety efforts.
BJA's Edward Byrne Memorial Formula Grant Program provided a total of $505 million to all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia in FY 1999. Byrne funds are awarded to state governments for projects to improve the criminal justice system at the state and local level. States make subawards to local agencies. The funds must be used in accordance with 26 legislatively authorized purpose areas, including multijurisdictional drug task forces, criminal justice records improvement, crime prevention, and drug treatment and education.
The Police Corps is designed to address violent crime by helping police and sheriffs' departments increase the number of officers with advanced education and training assigned to community patrol. The program, which operates within states that submitted an approved state plan, is designed to motivate highly qualified young people to serve as police officers and sheriffs' deputies. It offers federal scholarships on a competitive basis to college students who agree to serve as police for at least four years. Participants become full members of state and local police departments in geographic areas that have the greatest need for additional police officers. All serve on community patrol. Upon graduation from college, participants must complete a 16 to 24 week residential Police Corps Academy in the state where they will serve as police officers. This academy emphasizes ethics, communication skills, weaponless arrest and control procedures, physical fitness, leadership, and problem solving in multicultural settings.
In FY 1999, OJP's Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education provided $40 million to 25 participating states for the Police Corps program. Police Corps graduates are employed in 149 jurisdictions in the participating states. State, county, and local law enforcement agencies that have hired Police Corps graduates are extremely positive about the quality of these officers, and indicate a desire to hire more Police Corps graduates.
The Public Safety Officers' Benefits program is designed to offer peace of mind to men and women seeking careers in public safety, and to make a strong statement about the value American society places on the contributions of those who serve their communities in potentially dangerous circumstances. The PSOB program provides financial benefits to survivors of police officers, firefighters, and emergency response personnel killed in the line of duty, and to those who are permanently and totally disabled in the line of duty. The program, administered by BJA, also collects information on line-of-duty deaths, which is used to enhance public safety officer training. In FY 1999, the PSOB program awarded more than $29 million in death benefits to the surviving families of more than 200 public safety officers.
In September 1999, the Justice Department extended further support to the families of public safety officers by amending the regulations governing the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents' Assistance (FLEDA) program. The program, also administered by BJA, provides higher education financial assistance to eligible survivors of those whose death or permanent disability resulted while in the line of duty. The changes extended the program's benefits to include the families of state and local public safety officers, as well as federal public safety officers. With the inclusion of state and local officers, BJA changed the name to the "Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program.
MANAGING STRESSFUL JOB CONDITIONS
Stress is an occupational hazard for law enforcement and correctional officers of all ranks, including their families and co-workers. Stress among law enforcement and corrections officers can be seen in a high incidence of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide. To mitigate the effects of stress, NIJ sponsors research, evaluation, and demonstration projects that address stressful conditions experienced by law enforcement and corrections officers. NIJ's efforts take into account the varying concerns of police and corrections management, labor organizations, and family members. In FY 1999, NIJ funded five new projects, bringing the number of awards since the program's inception to 30.
ADDRESSING INTERNATIONAL CRIME
There is increasing evidence that domestic public safety in the United States is being jeopardized by crime that emanates from beyond our shores. Increases in international trade and communication also facilitate criminals' ability to commit crimes that transcend national borders. In addition to drug trafficking, international crime today includes terrorism, trafficking in women and children, transnational organized crime, and cybercrime. NIJ's International Center is working to develop a better understanding of crime that crosses national boundaries by analyzing crime policy and research with global dimensions.
In FY 1999, NIJ continued to expand its international activities. The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM), which interviews and tests for drug use persons detained in police lockups, expanded to six international sites. The International ADAM, or I-ADAM, program seeks to build knowledge about transnational drug use and drug distribution patterns.
NIJ has also formed partnerships with the Ukrainian Academy of Law Sciences, the Home Office of the United Kingdom, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Israel's Bureau of the Chief Scientist to study crime issues affecting different countries. NIJ is also sharing information through the World Justice Information Network, as well as an Internet studio for conducting training sessions in remote locations throughout the world.
Back to OJP FY 99 Annual Report