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RPC Law Enforcement Task Force works to build trust between law enforcement and communities they serve

May 17, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON--To mark National Police Week, the House Republican Policy Committee (RPC) Law Enforcement Task Force held its second hearing focused on ways to restore the vital relationship between police and communities.  The hearing, chaired by Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08), focused on best practices for building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“Over the past several years, I have watched as tensions between local police and the communities they serve reached a boiling point, eventually resulting in violence, abuse of property, and tragic fatalities. Unfortunately, this is becoming the new normal and I fear that our law enforcement officers and our neighborhoods will become less safe as a consequence. We, as a country, cannot let this continue. We must return to civility,” said Rep. Reichert. “I believe the diverse and informed set of perspectives we heard from our witnesses today helped give lawmakers, communities, and police departments ideas about best practices that can be adopted across the nation to regain civility and trust between our protectors and the people they serve.”

Witnesses who testified at today’s hearing included Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, Chief, Community Partnership Division, Baltimore Police Department; Mr. Steve McAdams, Executive Director, Office of Community Initiatives, Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD), and Mr. Marvin Charles, Executive Director, Divine Alternatives for Dads Services (DADS).

“Police hold a unique position within the community,” said Lt. Col. Russell. “When they use their authority compassionately, they have the best platform to restore the age old concept of ‘it takes a village…’ But, we are so out of balance right now.  We are great protectors, but we have to get back to the service piece of ‘protect and serve’.  My mission is to help our young police officers to get back to the mission of service.”

McAdams agreed that it “takes a village.”  In order to bring peace to Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, he testified that it took major coordination between the Governor’s office, the faith-based community, non-profits and private businesses for the community to begin to rebuild.

“The civil unrest last year in Baltimore calmed because of contributions from everyone who was willing to give of their time and resources,” said McAdams.  “As we rebuild Baltimore, it will take continued dedication from all of those groups, as you’ve seen from the public-private partnerships we’ve begun to develop.”

Marvin Charles of DADS testified about the importance of non-profit partnerships in high-crime communities.   His organization helps at-risk and formerly incarcerated fathers get back on their feet, pay backed child support, find employment and reconnect with their children.

“Law enforcement officers see first-hand the legacies of fatherlessness,” said Charles. “Children from fatherless homes often become casualties, victims or offenders themselves.  Then, they become challenges for our school systems, social-services programs, drug and alcohol recovery services, law enforcement agencies, and legal and court systems.  Our organization seeks to avoid that by working with fathers and their families.”

The House Republican Policy Committee’s goal is to assess what can be done at the Federal level to improve community-police relations throughout the country.  All three witnesses stressed the importance of Federal funding for community policing efforts like the Police Activities League, Officer Friendly and D.A.R.E.

“Holding this hearing, particularly during National Police Week, helps highlight the very real problem we are facing in this country: tensions between police and the public have rarely been higher,” said Chairman Messer. “But, I’m also encouraged by the witness testimony we heard.  It provided some real solutions for tackling the lack of trust between law enforcement and communities.  I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Reichert and the Members of the Law Enforcement Task Force to find ways the Federal government can support our officers in their mission to both protect and serve.”

Watch the entire hearing here on YouTube.

114th Congress