Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Bernard Melekian, U.S. Department of Justice
In Episode #20, Director of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office in the U.S. Department of Justice Bernard Melekian discusses how the fiscal crisis will change policing, “values-based policing,” bringing a local law enforcement perspective to federal policy-making, federal efforts to partner with local law enforcement, and more.
Bernard Melekian Interview Highlights
Melekian On How the Fiscal Crisis Will Change Policing:
“I absolutely think that five years, ten years out the delivery of law enforcement services in this
country will look profoundly different. The layoffs that you mentioned have been replicated in
cities and counties across the country. Pontiac, Michigan, a city of 66,000 people, is preparing to
close down its police department. The delivery of services is going to change in ways that I think
there are some things that we don’t even know that they’re things yet. But there is going to be a
fundamental shift. I think the use of, for example, a difference in patrol service delivery model, a
redefining of the role of what patrol officers are supposed to do, an increased role for community
volunteers are just a few of the examples that I think are going to sweep across the profession
over the next few years.”
Melekian on “Teaching Police Departments”:
“[The Teaching Police Department Initiative] out of Providence, Rhode Island is one of the most
exciting things to come down the road in a while, I think. It’s a training model that is based on
medical best practices. And the idea is to look at various aspects of training and instead of using
the kind of straight student-teacher model, uses a more Socratic-based method. For example, a
doctor who has a significant case will very often be required to present the facts of that case to a
group of doctors and to answer questions and probing inquiry on the part of his colleagues with
the idea that all of these people are going to contribute to that doctor’s ability to treat his patient.
One of the aspects of the teaching police department is to say well, why can’t we do something
very similar in homicide investigations? And suggest that a homicide detective might stand up
in front of a group of other homicide detectives and have this sort of group discussion. I think in
terms of law enforcement training it may be one of the most revolutionary things that has been
undertaken in quite some time.”
Melekian on Advancing Public Safety Through Community Policing:
"We have an obligation, I think, to help people understand that [the COPS office] really isn’t
just about grant making or about sort of a law enforcement jobs program. It really is about
advancing public safety -- and through community policing. I believe one of the things that’s
going to come from the economy is a recognition that community policing is going to become
more important and not less important. The fact of the matter is that public safety and the
achievement of community policing, which is really when you boil it all down, it’s nothing more
than building relationships and solving problems on a local, neighborhood level. I think we have
an opportunity to make our case that community policing is the future, particularly in the face of
what the economy is doing to local agencies."
The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.
The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.
Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.
You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.
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