Safe Policing = Knowing Everything You Can About the Subject in Front of You

By Dan Cadman on March 3, 2015

A friend and former colleague has brought to my attention a report recently released by a presidential policing "task force". It is called "Interim Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing".

Let me put my bias right out front: I am inherently dubious about reports that, at the same time they are publicly released and trumpeted, carry weasel words like "draft" or "interim" in their title. It suggests that the authors want it both ways — to give their recommendations and be sure they reach the widest possible audience, while at the same time avoiding at least some of the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism by saying something along the lines of, "Well, as is obvious from the title, this isn't the final report, is it?"

Despite the futuristic implication of the title, at least one of the recommendations is distinctly antiquarian in outlook, which I'll get to in a moment. But first the task force: It consists of the usual round of suspects, in a certain sense. This is because it is the president's task force as opposed to, for instance, a legislatively authorized commission that would be bipartisan and include a range of views. It was brought into existence by ... wait for it ... executive order. (That phrase, like "executive action" has become distinctly Orwellian under this administration.)

Thus the selectees for this task force might be expected to — and pretty much do — maintain outlooks acceptable to the president and the attorney general. So this must be considered when looking at the recommendations of the interim report, but the only one I'm focusing on in this blog has to do with that unique place where immigration law enforcement and policing intersect.

Specifically, this "task force" in its interim report recommends that the segment within the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) known as the "immigration violator file" be deactivated and deleted. Given this administration's bent over the past several years toward destroying immigration controls of any sort, the recommendation cannot come as a surprise. Still, to follow it would be fundamentally stupid. I can quickly and easily think of a couple of dozen reasons why eliminating the file will be seriously injurious to immigration enforcement, and thus homeland security as well, but I won't dwell on those.

Think, instead, of state troopers on our highways, or of cops on the beat in our cities. Don't they deserve to know everything that they can possibly know about the occupants when they pull over a vehicle; about the suspects standing in front of them when doing gang suppression duties in metropolitan areas? In this technological age, when that information can be so quickly and readily made available to them through the immigration violator file, why remove it?

As I said, antiquarian — and dangerous to the police, the first responders of whom we expect so much in these times of asymmetric threats. Such a move is to look backward through the rearview mirror. It most certainly doesn't represent 21st century thinking.