Sue Rahr, the executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, was named Thursday to President Obama’s task force on building trust between police and communities throughout the country.
Rahr, the former King County sheriff who in 2012 took over the commission and its training academy for police agencies throughout the state, captured widespread attention for shifting the academy from training officers in a military mold to a model emphasizing a “guardian” approach.
“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to serve my country and contribute to the process of building public trust in the police,’’ Rahr said in a statement. “I’m excited to share the ideas and research my extraordinary team has been developing at the academy.”
Rahr will join a group named to Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created this month in the aftermath of national upheaval over grand-jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y, to not indict white police officers in the deaths of two African-American men.
The 11-member task force has been asked to present a report and recommendations by March to bolster the relationship between police and the public and reduce crime. It will hold its first meeting in Washington, D.C., in mid-January.
Obama earlier selected Charles Ramsey, the police commissioner in Philadelphia, and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University who previously served as an assistant attorney general, to head the task force.
In an interview with The Seattle Times last year, Rahr explained the changes taking place at the state Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien, which trains all officers in the state except the State Patrol.
“This is not about preparing soldiers to go to war. It’s a different role,” said Rahr, who has served more than 30 years in law enforcement, including as King County sheriff from 2005-12.
While recruits still learn the basics of police work, such as handcuffing, writing reports and handling firearms, the academy has placed an increased emphasis on expressing empathy, following constitutional requirements and treating citizens with respect and dignity.
Plans for the task force were outlined Thursday in a conference call with Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser, and Ron Davis, director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
“We all recognize these problems will not be solved quickly” or prevent controversial events, Jarrett said, while citing a “sense of urgency” to develop recommendations.
Noting what she described as the diverse makeup of the task force, Jarrett said she expected the members to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
Rahr, while sheriff, introduced a new training program in 2011 called L.E.E.D. — for listen, explain, equity and dignity. Ultimately adopted by the Sheriff’s Office and the Seattle Police Department, it put a premium on verbal skills and de-escalation techniques.
At that time, Rahr noted research had shown that despite better training of law-enforcement officers and lower crime rates, public trust in police still lagged. People need to tell “their side of the story,” she said, and police officers need to better explain what they are doing and why.
When she moved to the training-commission job, Rahr made L.E.E.D. a central element of the academy’s curriculum, reflecting her belief that “listening to someone is the most effective way to demonstrate respect.”
Here is the full list of task-force members provided by the White House in a news release:
Charles Ramsey, Appointee for Member and Co-Chair, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Charles Ramsey is the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), a position he has held since 2008. Since 2010, he has served as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum. Commissioner Ramsey began his law enforcement career in 1968 as a cadet with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Over the next thirty years, he held various positions with CPD, including Commander of the Narcotics Division, Deputy Chief of the Patrol Division, and Deputy Superintendent, a role he held from 1994 to 1998. In 1998, he was named Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC), where he served until early 2007. In 2007, Commissioner Ramsey served on the Independent Commission on Security Forces of Iraq, leading a review of the Iraqi Police Force. In addition to his current role at PPD, he also serves as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Commissioner Ramsey received a B.S. and M.S. from Lewis University.
Laurie Robinson, Appointee for Member and Co-Chair, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Laurie Robinson is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University, a position she has held since 2012. She served as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2009 to 2012. Prior to that, Ms. Robinson served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for OJP and Acting Assistant Attorney General for OJP. Previously, she was a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team. From 2003 to 2009, Ms. Robinson was the Director of the Master of Science Program in Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. From 1993 to 2000, she served her first term as the Assistant Attorney General for OJP. Before joining DOJ, Ms. Robinson spent over twenty years with the American Bar Association, serving as Assistant Staff Director of the Criminal Justice Section from 1972 to 1979, Director of their Criminal Justice Section from 1979 to 1993, and as Director of the Professional Services Division from 1986 to 1993. She is a Senior Fellow at the George Mason University Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, and serves as co-chair of the Research Advisory Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Vera Institute of Justice. Ms. Robinson received a B.A. from Brown University.
Jose Lopez, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Jose Lopez is currently the Lead Organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY), a Brooklyn-based non-profit community organization focused on civil rights, education reform, and combating poverty. He became Lead Organizer of MRNY in 2013. Mr. Lopez began his career in 2000 as Youth Organizer with Make the Road by Walking, which later merged with the Latin American Integration Center to form MRNY in 2007. He continued to serve as Youth Organizer with MRNY until 2009, when he became Senior Organizer. Since 2011, Mr. Lopez has represented MRNY on the steering committee of Communities United for Police Reform, a New York City organization advocating for law enforcement reform. From 2001 to 2004, he was an active contributor to the Radio Rookies Project, an initiative of New York Public Radio. He received a B.A. from Hofstra University.
Bryan Stevenson, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Bryan Stevenson is Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to directing the EJI since 1989, he is a Clinical Professor at New York University School of Law. He previously has served as a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law. Mr. Stevenson has received the American Bar Association’s Wisdom Award for public service, the ACLU’s National Medal of Liberty, and the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award Prize. Mr. Stevenson received a B.A. from Eastern College (now Eastern University), a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.P.P. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Brittany Packnett, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Brittany Packnett is currently Executive Director of Teach For America in St. Louis, Missouri, a position she has held since 2012. From 2010 to 2012, she was a director on the Government Affairs Team at Teach for America. Ms. Packnett was a Legislative Assistant for the United States House of Representatives from 2009 to 2010. From 2007 to 2009, she was a third grade teacher in Southeast Washington, D.C., as a member of the Teach For America Corps. Ms. Packnett has volunteered as Executive Director of Dream Girls DMV, a mentoring program for young girls, and was the founding co-chair of The Collective-DC, a regional organization for Teach For America alumni of color. She currently serves on the boards of New City School, the COCA Associate Board, the Urban League of Metro St. Louis Education Committee, and the John Burroughs School Board Diversity Committee. Ms. Packnett received a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. from American University.
Susan Rahr, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Susan Rahr is Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, a position she has held since 2012. From 2005 to 2012, she served as the first female Sheriff in King County, Washington. Ms. Rahr spent over thirty years as a law enforcement officer, beginning as a patrol officer and undercover narcotics officer. While serving with the King County Sheriff’s Office, she held various positions including serving as the commander of the Internal Investigations and Gang Units, commander of the Special Investigations Section, and Police Chief of Shoreline, Washington. Ms. Rahr received a B.A. from Washington State University.
Tracey Meares, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Tracey Meares is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale Law School, a position she has held since 2007. From 2009 to 2011, she also served as Deputy Dean of Yale Law School. Before joining the faculty as Yale, she served as a professor at The University of Chicago Law School from 1995 to 2007. She has served on the Committee on Law and Justice, a National Research Council Standing Committee of the National Academy of Sciences. She was appointed by Attorney General Holder to serve on the inaugural Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Science Advisory Board. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Joyce Foundation. Ms. Meares began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Harlington Wood, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She later served as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice. Ms. Meares received a B.S. from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from The University of Chicago Law School.
Constance Rice, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Constance Rice is a civil rights attorney and Co-Director of the Advancement Project, an organization she co-founded in 1999. In 2003, Ms. Rice was selected to lead the Blue Ribbon Rampart Review Panel, which investigated the largest police corruption scandal in Los Angeles Police Department history. In 1991, Ms. Rice joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and in 1996, she became Co-Director of the Los Angeles office. She was previously an associate at Morrison & Foerster, and began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Ms. Rice received a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.
Roberto Villaseñor, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Roberto Villaseñor is Chief of Police for the Tucson Police Department (the TPD), a position he has held since 2009. He joined the TPD in 1980, and has served as Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and as Assistant Chief from 2000 to 2009. Chief Villaseñor was named Officer of the Year for the TPD in 1996, and has been awarded the TPD Medal of Merit three times. He also received the TPD Medal of Distinguished Service. Chief Villaseñor is the incoming President of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and a Board Member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). He received a B.S. from Park University and an M.Ed. from Northern Arizona University.
Sean Smoot, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Sean Smoot is currently Director and Chief Counsel for the Police Benevolent & Protective Association of Illinois (PB&PA) and the Police Benevolent Labor Committee (PBLC), positions he has held since 2000. He began his career with PB&PA and PBLC as a Staff Attorney in 1995, before becoming Chief Counsel of both organizations in 1997. Since 2001, Mr. Smoot has served as the Treasurer of the National Association of Police Organizations, and has served on the Advisory Committee for the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Rights Center since 1996. From 2008 to 2009, he was a policy advisor to the Obama-Biden Transition Project on public safety and state and local police issues, and was a Member of the National Institute of Justice and Harvard Kennedy School of Government Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety from 2008 to 2011. Mr. Smoot served as Police Commissioner of Leland Grove, Illinois from 1998 to 2008. He received a B.S from Illinois State University and a J.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Law.
Cedric L. Alexander, Appointee for Member, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Cedric L. Alexander is the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety in DeKalb County, Georgia, a position he has held since late 2013. Dr. Alexander is also the National President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. In 2013, he served as Chief of Police for the DeKalb County Police Department. Prior to this, Dr. Alexander served as Federal Security Director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from 2007 to 2013, and from 2006 to 2007, he was Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. From 2005 to 2006, Dr. Alexander was Chief of the Rochester Police Department (RPD) in Rochester, New York, where he previously served as Deputy Chief of Police from 2002 to 2005. Before joining RPD, Dr. Alexander was a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center from 1998 to 2002. He began his career as a Deputy Sheriff in Florida from 1977 to 1981, before joining the Miami-Dade Police Department, where he was as an Officer and Detective from 1981 to 1992. He received a B.A. and M.S. from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida, and a Psy.D. from Wright State University.