Officer and community safety depends on trusting relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. These building blocks of mutual trust and respect form a crucial foundation for healthy and safe communities. Having respect and trust prior to a crisis can bring a community together to heal after a crisis rather than allow the crisis to divide a community.
A lack of trust in law enforcement can cause resistance on the part of community members to report incidents, leading to feelings of fear and helplessness and making it more difficult for law enforcement to manage crime. At the individual officer level, systemic mistrust can escalate encounters with community members in a way that threatens officers’ immediate physical safety and long term mental health.
Open communication and transparency on the part of law enforcement can be the first step in strengthening relationships with community members. When they have a better understanding of what law enforcement officers do every day and how agencies operate, there is less fear and misunderstanding, opening the door to increased community engagement and reduced crime. Agencies can do this by educating and informing the public on:
- How and why officers do their job
- Why certain equipment and tactics are used
- How agencies develop policies and procedures
- How community members can help contribute to public safety
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Community of Oriented Policing Services (COPS) recently awarded the IACP a grant to increase officer safety through increased respect of law enforcement. To do this, the current Discover Policing website will get a fresh look. Adding to the existing resources for recruiters and job seekers, a community section will be added to promote better understanding of what law enforcement does and why they do it. The website will be enabled with translation and mobile friendly features in an effort to be accessible to the broadest audience possible.
The IACP will create podcasts, social media content, brochures, and a new blog series that address law enforcement functions, modern advancements in policing, and common misperceptions. Not only will these resources be available directly to the community, they will also be valuable resources for law enforcement agencies seeking to better connect with the communities they serve.
This blog post is part of a series highlighting community understanding and respect of law enforcement. This project is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.