- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Fayetteville police will spend the next year and a half working to implement 76 recommendations to help their department reform in areas ranging from the use of deadly force to the implementation of industry practices, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The report was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and detailed at a news conference at a local park dedicated to military veterans.

“I am confident the department will see great improvement in its law enforcement policies,” said Ronald Davis, director of the COPS Office. “The recommendations presented today benefit not only this department, but can serve as a guide for other police agencies across the country facing similar challenges.”

Among the report’s 49 findings was that the department’s record keeping for tracking citizen and department complaints about use of force was insufficient. In addition, the report said, a lack of information sharing between the department and the State Bureau of Investigation has hindered investigations.

The report also said that although the racial disparity between the number of blacks and whites halted for traffic stops has declined, a gap remains. COPS recommended that the department continue to monitor activity for additional disparities in treatment.

The report calls on Fayetteville police to improve its policy regarding use of force and interactions with the community. It also called on the department to improve the quality and transparency of deadly force investigations from a criminal and administrative perspective. Also, the report suggested the department improve oversight and accountability for use of force, traffic stops and pedestrian stops conducted by officers, and it calls for improving community engagement at all department levels, especially with communities of color.

Police departments across the country will have access to the report to determine whether they need to make policy changes based on the assessment of Fayetteville, according to Davis. COPS also has reviewed police departments in Las Vegas, Spokane, Washington and Philadelphia.

“I had a new police chief approach me about a chance to advance his department,” Davis said of his encounters with Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock before the launch of the COPS review of the department. Medlock attended a number of conferences on the COPS program to glean information that ultimately would lead to a review of his own department.

“I’m glad we can help Fayetteville, and that’s a great thing, but my obligation at the Justice Department is to help 16,000 police departments. So everything that happens there helps the other agencies as well,” Davis said.

Medlock said the department has already begun working on the recommendations made in the COPS report. He said the report didn’t contain anything that surprised him.

“We have a long way to go,” Medlock said. “And I think that if we finish with the recommendations from this report, and we say Fayetteville Police Department is good, we have nothing else to do to improve our operations, improve our engagement and collaboration with the community, then in three more years, we’re going to find ourselves right back where we were.”

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