In the past couple of years, we’ve seen the conflicting tension between police and citizens.
Protests and cries from the public echo a sentiment of necessary police reform as select police departments across the country have made headlines for controversial actions. But there is a way to solve these law enforcement issues: improving police-community relations.
Police-community relations are precisely that – the relationship between law enforcement and the people/community they pledge to protect. In many cities and states, police-community relations are not in the best place due to public perceptions.
The best way to improve police-community relations is through improved communication. When police are able to interact directly with citizens, they can answer questions, resolve issues, and help assure the public of their intent to serve and protect their community.
Why communication between police and citizens is important
Police-community relations are critical to law enforcement in three significant ways: trust, credibility, and increased cooperation from the public.
Currently, public trust in the police department has decreased over the years. Thanks to technology and the fast-moving world of social media, news of one police officer’s actions can quickly spread all over the internet. This can, unfortunately, put the entire police system in a heavily negative light.
When a local police department takes the time and effort to communicate and listen to citizens, people will have more trust and confidence in the police. The initiative to rebuild relationships with the community proves that the local precinct genuinely cares about the safety and livelihood of its citizens.
Secondly, good police-community relations give the department more credibility. We all know that the role of law enforcement is to serve and protect. Yet, without clear communication between police and citizens, the perception can be otherwise.
That’s why it’s essential to communicate with the public constantly. You not only make yourself trustworthy but also reliable. Citizens can depend on you to do the right thing and serve the community.
Along with trust and credibility, improved police-community relations will lead to increased cooperation – from both parties. Recent events have resulted in many people losing their trust in law enforcement. So when people are confronted and questioned by police, they become skeptical or refuse to cooperate. A lack of cooperation could put themselves and others at risk.
Improved relations and communications may aid in clearing up misconceptions and concerns many people may have. Conversing with citizens will allow police to ensure peace of mind and understanding, making it more likely that citizens will cooperate when they are approached by police or during investigations.
How to establish better communications between police and the community
Where do we start when building better communication between police and the public? Here are several ways to improve police-community relations.
There’s a difference between police-community relations and community policing.
Police-community relations are about the overarching idea and theory of maintaining communicative ties between law enforcement and citizens.
Community policing is a practice where officers are assigned to solve issues in specific local areas. In other words, the former is about improving attitudes towards police, while the latter is about finding and creating actionable solutions.
Community policing is a great place to start forging deeper relationships because it builds stronger bonds between the police and local citizens. Officers who serve a specific area are much better at understanding what solutions a particular community truly needs and will be able to prevent crime more effectively. In addition, seeing law enforcement out in the community and collaborating with citizens sets a positive tone for everyone involved.
Host town halls
Another way to improve communications is by hosting town halls. A public conference where people may join and participate in constructive discussions effectively strengthens law enforcement relations with the community. In this setting, the police department can listen to and understand the concerns and issues that people have in their area and the department’s style of policing.
Conversely, it’s a way for law enforcement to inform citizens what’s happening from the police side. For example, officers can use town halls to provide details about a developing event or clarity about any incidents. At these events, law enforcement can answer any questions that citizens may have so that they receive accurate, factual information.
In all communications, police officers must always be transparent. People who sense that police are hiding or withholding information are less likely to cooperate. So be direct and clear when giving out information.
One way of doing so is by providing any details about an incident when it occurs. It lets the people know what they should be concerned about and allows them to assist your investigation.
The second way is to lay out the police department’s action plans. Inform the public about how law enforcement will respond to the situation. This gives people peace of mind that they’re safe and secure.
Improve cultural competency
In places where there are various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, it’s essential for police officers to learn and understand the different traditions people have. As a solution, many civil rights activists recommend implementing a training program to reduce implicit bias (a type of bias that unintentionally clouds judgment).
There have been many incidents involving POCs, which has led to distrust in law enforcement. But when the police department takes the time to educate themselves about the different cultural lifestyles, they’ll be able to make better decisions and judgments when policing.
Communication between police and citizens is more important now than ever. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the police department to maintain constant connections and relations with the people.
One of the best ways to do that is through the UCP Police app, where citizens can contact police departments quickly and directly. Police departments may also utilize it to send important updates to keep citizens informed. This open line of communication will help improve police-community relationships and help citizens stay safe.