Developing Positive Community-Police Relationships Step by Step

The Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers recommendations for building relationships of trust between law enforcement officers and the community. Highlights include: initiating positive nonenforcement activities, creating opportunities for officers to regularly interact with neighborhood residents, and scheduling regular forums where all community members can interact with police.

louisvilleThe Louisville Metropolitan, Kentucky, Police Department makes a special effort to build trust and legitimacy. The department recognizes that exemplary community policing requires actively building of positive relationships with members of the community. It is vital that the community sees law enforcement as allies and not just as enforcement. Some of the ways the department builds positive relationships with the community is through the Chief’s Peace Walks and 21st Century Policing Community Forums.

Chief’s Peace Walks


Once a week, Chief Steve Conrad, along with the assistant chief, division major, officers, and 15-30 community members, walk through hot spot neighborhoods, which are areas with a high rate of investigative and enforcement involvement, and discuss issues, concerns, and generally get to know each other. The Peace Walks give members of the department and the community an opportunity to interact and engage with each other one-on-one in a nonenforcement capacity.

The walks started in July 2016, and have included Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, Mayor Greg Fischer, local clergy, neighborhood watch groups, the Shawnee Neighborhood Association, and the Chickasaw Neighborhood Federation. In the winter months, Chief Conrad moved the walks into shopping malls to reach out to more people. The Chief’s Peace Walks send a message to the community that the department and its officers are committed to working with residents to improve conditions in the neighborhoods. 

21st Century Policing Community Forums

cops-imageAnother example of how the department expresses its commitment to working with residents is through monthly 21st Century Policing Community Forums.  Each forum discusses one pillar of the 21st Century Policing Task Force. The forums are led by the chief, who starts with the recommendations and then summarizes the pillars and what they mean to the department and the community. Officers then discuss programs and activities that are related to each pillar and how the department is implementing each recommendation and action item. The forum ends with a question and answer session where community members can voice their opinions and concerns.

The forums are advertised through the department’s Facebook page and are open to anyone in the community. The department also livestreams the events, which have been viewed approximately 70,000 times.  The forums began in September, starting with the first pillar and have continued with the remaining five pillars each month. The 21st Century Policing Community Forums allow the community to learn about the methodologies behind each of the department’s actions in a transparent and positive way. The department gets to advertise the positive steps they are taking and connect with the community that they serve.

The two key elements of community policing as stated in the 21st Century Task Force Report are mutual trust and cooperation. Those elements are not possible without positive nonenforcement interaction and engagement with the community. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department successfully develops mutual trust and cooperation through positive relationship building with the Chief’s Peace Walks and civil dialogue and transparency with the 21st Century Policing Community Forums.

 This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. Louisville is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.


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