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The Importance Of Community-Law Enforcement Relations

community and law enforcement

In order to provide and maintain both the public’s safety and effective policing, the relationship between community and law-enforcement must consist of both healthy relationships and trust.  In an effort to better perform their duties, many police agencies rely on the public to provide critical information about any type of crimes that are committed in their neighborhoods.

However, this relationship will only thrive fs there is trust on both sides, which is fueled by the belief that law enforcement actions in and of themselves are a reflection of community values, procedural justice, as well as legitimacy.

The legitimacy of the police, and their actions, has recently been called into question.  This is due to an increase in incidents that show law enforcement using undue force.  In the last few months, many regions of the country have been swept up in large-scale protests and demonstrations, which in turn led to massive riots, brought on by the public’s perceptions of misconduct and excessive force used by law enforcement.

In this day in time, it is even more crucial that the relationship between law enforcement and its local communities remains a top priority in the minds of all involved.  To this end, a national meeting between law enforcement and community leaders, from all over the nation, was held.  In this day-long discussion, the primary topic was the discussion of setting up strategies that will work towards shoring up the trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve to protect.

Those present offered guidance and possible solutions as to how law enforcement can build trust by demonstrating an understanding of community issues.  The following are some issues that were identified that may play a key role in aiding communities and law enforcement in their striving to move forward.

Acknowledge And Discuss

The use of force in a controversial manner can only lead to straining, if not damaging, the relationships that currently exist between law enforcement and the community.  For example, what is perceived as a severe act of misconduct in one city, can have a rippling effect that can reach out to other cities, as well as states. This not only proves to led to a relationship damaged on a local level, but it then spreads out to a national level, and trust as a whole is then left in question.

Law enforcement needs to admit to and acknowledge when they have failed to follow the proper procedures and protocols.  This is even more so present when it comes to the marginalization and misconduct of minority and ethic groups in particular.  Following the occurrence of a critical incident, communications are crucial.  Law enforcement needs to reach out and communicate with both social media and the community so that the correct information is provided early on in the situation thus preventing any misinterpretations.

Transparency And Accountability

Transparency is perhaps the most crucial element when it comes to communication between law enforcement and the community.  When a controversial event occurs, law enforcement needs to make the effort to release as much information about the situation as soon as possible.

In this way, the community will not be left to feeling that they are not getting the whole story or the entire truth.  However, it is vital that although the information is presented, it is also necessary that it is preliminary and that an emphasis is placed on the fact that the investigation is ongoing.

Remove Bias Improve Competency

Through mandating training at all levels in diversity, bias, and competency, communication with those within the community can be strengthened.  America is a melting pot of multiple nationalities, beliefs, and cultures, and the community as a whole and law enforcement need to be able to communicate on an even level.  To achieve this, there needs to be an understanding of the different cultures and their norms.

Law enforcement agencies need to implement a training course for those newest recruits that take a look at in-service training.  Again, the emphasis on this training needs to be based on bias and responsiveness to the community.  Studies have shown that when you make an individual  aware of their bias, then they are more motivated to change those same bias and behaviors.

Collaboration And Visibility

It is of utmost importance and goes a long way to maintaining relations, that law enforcement is both visible in their communities and to its residents.  Outside of those events that require the enforcement of the law, many residents do not generally interact with law officials.  As a result, this can more often than not lead to relations of a negative tone with police.

With the working towards developing a healthy relationship with their communities, such barriers as stereotypes will more easily broken down, which in turn aids law enforcement in becoming more familiar with those in their communities who are law abiders and those who are not.

The interactions between community and law-enforcement are vital  built on a two way street of communication, which is the foundation for the building and maintaining of necessary trust.  However, if not handled appropriately, and this crucial trust is not built between the two, then there is going to be continual distrust and confrontations existing.

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