Law enforcement agencies across the United States are continually working to rebuild the relationships they have with the communities they serve. Incidents of police brutality etc. have taken control of how the public perceives law enforcement officers and how they perform their duties. While there are still many issues and concerns to overcome, police and community leadership are continuing to work together to rebuild the trust and mutual respect that may have been damaged in the past.
In order for the relationship between the community and law enforcement to begin building trust, both must be fully present. Police departments across the country, including those in New York, South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, and California are implementing programs like the Police Athletic League. PAL organizations are able to provide kids with opportunities to participate in sports instead of just roaming the streets.
In PAL organizations, many of the coaches are local police officers who have made a commitment to give back to their community. The best way to do that is to build solid relationships with local youngsters who may not have other role models. With this type of community engagement, children are taught to respect the police and turn to them in times of trouble.
Local police and sheriff’s departments can help communities be more proactive by helping them to establish neighborhood watch programs. In addition to having a patrol officer drive through the area on a regular basis, residents can choose a community leader and begin to receive training so that they are better able to protect both themselves and their neighborhood. Police leadership can play an active role in helping communities feel more secure simply by supporting their efforts and reinforcing a positive relationship between the two groups.
In addition to Neighborhood Watch programs, local police departments can prove authenticity by working to maintain a transparent relationship. By sharing information and encouraging community engagement, several steps can be taken to improve the safety of the community and its residents.
The key to building trust and mutual respect is to be available. Community leaders rely on local law enforcement agencies to be available for local events, for both security reasons as well as to show the community that police officers are readily available whenever they are needed. Being available when a devastating event occurs shows empathy and gives the community a chance to see the positive side of the police officers who serve them.
Being available to residents when public safety is threatened or when they are faced with uncertainty is a must. Many residents get to know the local patrol officer who polices their neighborhood. This constant availability is a reminder that the police are there when they are needed. This builds a sense of security among the residents and deters criminals from trying to ravage the neighborhood.
Trust Begins With Communication
Trust begins with communication. Knowing that you can speak to local law enforcement about your concerns shows that you are both aiming for the same goal. Townhall meetings and gatherings between community leaders and law enforcement agencies are the best ways to minimize violent crime in neighborhoods and also eliminate the rumors that are often behind police brutality claims.
The Edmund Burke School shooting is just one of many where communication was the key in relaying information to the public and keeping the community up to speed. Once rapid gunfire had been reported, the police took quick action all the while working with community leaders to get things taken care of as expeditiously as possible.
School shootings are never an easy thing to report on. It is the type of event that brings both community members and law enforcement officers together. It is truly a time when trust and mutual respect are needed and can show the unity between the two groups. Open communication is the best way to ensure that the public has the information they need to feel secure during a very trying time.
Even though it was unpleasant, many people are commending MSU police inspector Chris Rozman for consistently relaying information about finding the body of Brendan Santos in the Red Cedar River. His many communications with the public maintained the open communication the public needed during the difficult time. The same is true for the Grand Rapids police chief when he chose to release the bodycam footage of the police shooting involving Patrick Lyoya and GRPD officer Christopher Schurr. Although the police chief was hesitant to release the officer’s name, he did so in an attempt to show transparency so that both sides could better understand what happened.
If the goal is to build a solid relationship between the community and local law enforcement agencies, then the key is for both sides to come together in open and honest communication. It’s important for the community to remember the risks each officer takes when they put their badge on every day. By the same token, police officers must remember that residents may be hearing rumors and misinformation from social media that they believe is the truth.
In order for a positive relationship to be established, both sides must agree to open and honest communication in which both sides can express their concerns. Once the concerns are identified, it will be much easier to find valuable solutions that both sides can agree with. Neighborhood Watch programs allow for both community policing as well as patrol officers to come together so that the entire community feels more secure.
Consistent, Quality Police Services
Law enforcement agencies must be able to provide residents with consistent, quality police services at all times. A county sheriff and local police chief are both committed to meeting the needs of the public at large. Both have dedicated their careers to community service. It is the local police and patrol officers who establish and strengthen the bonds between the public and the peace officers who work so diligently to protect them.
Every police officer takes an oath to protect and serve the members of the community. Most officers take that oath to heart and remain in service even while they are off duty. These are the officers you find coaching at your neighborhood PAL sports complex. They are also the officers who offer their services during local events to help provide a security presence. This is the consistent, quality police service that shows the public the heart of their law enforcement agencies.
Community Engagement Opportunities
Both the community and local police departments can look for community engagement opportunities in which both can participate for the greater good of everyone in the area. One of the best engagement opportunities can be found in corporate challenge events. Corporations and other local businesses put teams together to challenge one another in various types of athletic events. Police and fire departments also participate in the event. This is a great way for members of the community to get to know one another on a personal level.
Building Trust One Call/Contact at a Time
In addition to all of the community engagement opportunities, law enforcement officers can work to establish trust and respect with each call they respond to. Showing empathy and sincere concern for those they serve is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of compassion. Relating to each individual they interact with on a personal level is what being a public servant is all about. Reaching out to lend a helping hand or to stop and throw a few free throw shots with neighborhood kids are ideal ways to bring residents and local law enforcement together.