CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color released its 2021 report and recommendations today.
The task force is comprised of Penn State and local community leaders. Over the past eight months, the force said they’ve assessed data, procedures, and practices in local law enforcement that could contribute to bias.
According to the report, the State College Police Department and Penn State University Police have improved in a number of areas since the first recommendations in 2016.
“The departments extended their networking efforts and collaborations with local organizations, student groups and businesses; increased recruitment efforts through outreach and improved recruitment materials to better reflect communities of color; introduced mandated officer trainings, including diversity, mental health and mental disability trainings; provided community training including education on civilian rights; participated in Campus Community Unity meetings, Special Olympics and more; and continued publishing data online related to police and community interactions,” said a press release from the Borough of State College.
The reports recommends local law enforcement focuses on five key points this year:
- Examine reported data and reporting practices more thoroughly
- Diversify police departments
- Create consistency among data collection/reporting practices
- Provide training tailored to community needs
- Continue and expand community engagement efforts
The borough said the clear objectives will ensure quality work continues.
“We’re very fortunate here to have Penn State attract such diversity and we want to make sure that our agencies are doing a job of making sure to assess and understand what their needs are, and that’s where the data really came in,” said Douglas Shontz, assistant to the manager of the State College Borough.
Shontz said the public is invited to attend the State College Borough Council meeting on July 19 to hear the direct objectives from the chair of the task force.
“You want to be pointed, you want to have it in a way that really leaves direction, doesn’t leave any area of ambiguity for the implementation,” said Shontz.
According to the report, several other agencies not included in the original 2016 report have launched programs to improve their relationships with communities of color.
For 2021, four additional agencies including Ferguson Township, Spring Township, Patton Township, and Bellefonte supplied data to develop the recommendations.
“There’s a desire amongst the community and the task force to continue that work, to make sure that it’s not just a report that’s put on a shelf and gathers dust, that it’s a living document,” said Shontz.