The recent mass shooting in Orlando and the territorial losses of ISIS in Syria and Iraq have lead to concerns that more attacks will be orchestrated in the West, particularly in the United States, either directly by the hardline militant group or by those inspired by ISIS’s ideology.
In response to the growing threat of violent extremism and the implications that it can have on the homeland, a new manual has been developed with the goal of recommending policies that encourage and build trust between the police and the communities they serve while effectively combating the expansion of extremist rhetoric and action.
The 39-page document, titled “Promising Practices For Using Community Policing To Prevent Violent Extremism,” is the result of a two-year study conducted by Duke University, the Police Executive Research Forum, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill between June 2013 and April 2015.
The purpose of the project was to determine the challenges police departments face in developing community-policing programs designed to prevent violent extremism, an ideological motivated violence intended to advance a political cause, and to identify promising practices that are being used by the police around the country.
The study used nationwide surveys and site visits involving police officials, as well as telephone interviews and focus groups with Muslim American community members. “There are many different communities whose members are at risk of recruitment to violent extremism,” said David Schanzer, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. “Our project focused, however, on the interaction between the police and Muslim Americans.”
The study’s findings led to the eight main recommendations that can be foundin the manual:
- Use a whole of community approach
- Establish trust by addressing the needs of the community
- Separate outreach and engagement functions form intelligence collection and criminal investigation
- Develop non-law enforcement intervention alternatives
- Provide cultural awareness and basic language training
- Hire a diverse workforce that reflects the composition of the community
- Partner with other local agencies and service providers
- Educate community members on law enforcement polices and practices.
“It is important to recognize that Muslim Americans have endured difficult experiences since 9/11,” Schanzer said. “Experiences including widespread societal discrimination, negative portrayals in the media, and an increase level of hate crimes,” Schanzer continued, “These traumatic experiences present an obstacle to police department attempting to develop a relationship based on trust.”
The manual also highlighted problems in police policy regarding community outreach in the past, concluding that a lack of trust and community engagement can have the adverse effect of further alienating communities.
Potential failures in effective community engagement can cause an increase in the spread of extremist ideology since recruitment to violent extremism can happen across a broad array of demographics and age groups.
“Fortunately, violent extremism is a rare occurrence in the United States,” said Jessica Toliver, the Director of TechnicalAssistance at the Police Executive Research Forum. “Outreach efforts will be more effective if they focus on issues that have the greatest impact on people’s lives.”