The world has changed. The public’s trust in and respect for police has diminished, reducing police effectiveness. Political, polarizing calls for police defunding compound the problem even further. Without change, the future of law enforcement as we know it is in doubt, putting the safety and security of our communities at risk.
Law Enforcement agencies must reestablish trust and respect from the public by migrating from reactive ‘police forces’ to proactive ‘police services’.
But what does this mean?
Police / community engagement is the development of positive, proactive relationships, including trust and respect, with community members in a non-stressful, non-enforcement, non-confrontational context. Well defined and executed community engagement programs will strengthen community support for law enforcement, improve police effectiveness and enhance legitimacy and credibility.
Examples of positive community engagement initiatives may include:
- Community walks
- Teen police academy
- Community service projects
- Police ice cream trucks (really!)
And many, many others.
Community engagement initiatives are not just one person’s responsibility. They should be reinforced throughout the department, and everyone can play a role. Further, they should be part of a comprehensive strategy to re-imagine what effective policing is and how our departments can achieve it.