• 48°

Dekmar selected for national task force on policing

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar was selected to serve on a task force on policing formed by the Council on Criminal Justice, an independent, nonpartisan invitational membership organization and think tank.

The city announced Dekmar’s selection in a news release.

“The challenges of 2020 have brought an important message to the police profession, Americans want policing to change. I consider it a privilege and honor to be named to the CJC’s Task Force on Policing and I’m proud to help provide meaningful change,” Dekmar said in the release. “On this task force we will work to reduce violence, increase accountability and strengthen trust between police and the communities they serve.”

The task force represents a range of backgrounds including law enforcement officials, criminal justice academics, activists and other government officials.

According to the release, the task force will assess several issues around policing including hiring and training, use-of-force policies, technology, militarization, accountability measures and oversight. It will also examine and evaluate measures that would shift some law enforcement responsibilities to social service agencies or community led-safety initiatives. 

Dekmar, who is also former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said in an interview that he hopes the task force can provide evidence-based recommendations to legislators around the country about criminal justice reforms.

“It’s clear that there’s going to be a dialogue and an appetite for some sort of legislation,” Dekmar said. “Either one that enhances training, or creates mandates or requirements, or awards grants to ensure that these issues and concerns are addressed by law enforcement agencies.”

The task force comes in the wake of the nationwide protests and unrest that occurred over the summer, following the killing of George Floyd. LaGrange saw some peaceful protests around that time, but Dekmar said LPD’s challenges as it relates to the protest movements were minimal.

“That’s the result of having various community partners, deliberate and intentional community outreach, from the police department to the community and, reciprocally, by the community  to the police department,” Dekmar said.

What concerns Dekmar most about policing is that in “far too many” agencies across the country, there is a failure to recognize the importance of timely, transparent internal investigations, he said. 

zMany departments, he believes, have systemic problems due to a lack of accountability and discipline, as well as a resistance to modifying training and policy.

“Not every agency has a problem, but unfortunately, we’re dealing with the authority that police agencies have, you don’t need many that are problematic for there to be a significant problem,” Dekmar said.

Diverting responsibilities and resources away from police and toward social services is something that should be examined, but not done hastily, Dekmar believes. Such responsibilities include interacting with homeless people, mentally ill people, juvenile delinquents and domestic violence cases. 

About 70 percent of LPD’s calls have some sort of social work dynamic, he added.

Dekmar has “no difficulty with the notion of reallocating resources,” as long as it’s done “in a judicious fashion.”

“There needs to be an understanding that, before we start defunding the police, what services are going to be stood up? How are those services going to respond? Are they going to be able to respond 24 hours a day? And if not, what role will the police play? … What I think would be ill advised is, just cut [funding to] police and have some notion of a service taking care of this. Without there being a comprehensive approach to providing that service, what you’re going to end up with is chaos.”