(Washington, DC) The Office of Police Complaints, the District of Columbia’s police accountability agency, recently hosted delegations from Norway and Sweden interested in the work of the office. OPC staff members met with the separate groups from Scandinavia on September 18, 2006, as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program administered by the US Department of State.
OPC’s executive director, Philip K. Eure, deputy director, Thomas E. Sharp, special assistant, Nicole Porter, and public affairs specialist, Melanie Deggins, first met with a seven-member Norwegian delegation that was visiting the United States to learn about strategies to combat racial profiling. The group included high-ranking officials from Norway’s Department of Justice and Police and National Police, as well as representatives of two Norwegian civil rights organizations. The large growth in that country’s immigrant population in recent years has resulted in more frequent complaints that the police are engaged in racial profiling.
The OPC representatives explained the agency’s role in persuading the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to collect and analyze data from police stops of motorists and pedestrians as part of an effort to identify any biased policing practices that may exist in Washington. They further discussed OPC’s work in the context of efforts around the country to limit racial profiling. The Norwegians had many questions, and said they came away from the OPC session with a clearer understanding of methods used around the United States to address biased policing.
Later that day, OPC also hosted two senior officials from the Stockholm bureau of the Swedish National Police, which is exploring the possibility of establishing an independent police oversight agency in the Swedish capital to handle citizen complaints. The OPC representatives for that session included Mr. Eure, Mr. Sharp, Chief Investigator Clifford Stoddard, Assistant Chief Investigator Kesha Taylor, and Ms. Deggins. They presented information on the role of OPC and the importance of similar agencies around the United States.
During their visits, the two groups planned to meet with other governmental and law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. The State Department arranged further meetings for the Norwegian delegation in Boston with a civil rights organization and a group of university researchers who have studied biased policing.
“Our agency welcomes the opportunity to share with others what we have learned in the developing field of police oversight, whether the inquiries come from the United States or from abroad,” said Mr. Eure. “These meetings also help to broaden our perspective on police accountability issues so that our agency can continue to develop and improve our practices.”
Over the years, the State Department has called on OPC to meet with delegations of police and governmental officials from around the world, including Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia, South Korea, and Uzbekistan.