Today, there is little trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. This lack of trust is drastically amplified by negative coverage in the national media that highlights hate and rage more than compassion and hope. Clearly, this environment is taking a toll. Many Americans are critical of law enforcement, even though they don’t understand the profession and would not choose to answer the call to serve.
I am the first to agree that some law enforcement officers give the profession a bad name and should not serve, but the vast majority of personnel join the profession to help people. In an era palpably on edge, it is easy to lose sight of why these brave men and women answered the call. It is easier to point the finger of blame than to offer assistance to improve a bad situation.
How do we turn the tide? The general public needs to understand law enforcement better. One way to achieve this is to invite citizens to request a ride along with their local law enforcement agencies. Riding with an officer or officers yields firsthand knowledge of what law enforcement deals with on a daily basis. I assure you, the experience is vastly different than the thirty-second clip that airs on the news. Keep in mind, law enforcement officers are people, and like all people, we sometimes make mistakes. We are not perfect. When you witness or hear about a disturbing incident, remember that an individual is responsible, not the profession as a whole.
That said, law enforcement needs to do a better job of weeding out the bad apples. We are the professionals, and we need to consistently act that way. It is our duty to restore the trust of our communities and country. When no one’s safety is at risk, we need to stop forcing compliance and instead work to gain cooperation. We need to remember why we joined the profession and ask ourselves how we are going to help the individuals before us, even when they are yelling, cussing, and being disrespectful.
My book Humane Policing covers real cases I worked and the techniques I used to gain cooperation from career criminals. These techniques gained me the thanks of 90% of the people I arrested. The individualized training approach I have developed, also called Humane Policing, teaches law enforcement officers how to relate to and appropriately interact with the individuals in front of them.
When you can genuinely relate to someone, they will begin to listen. When listening occurs on both sides, good choices can be made that improve rather than worsen a situation. Imagine how the public would view your agency if the majority of those who were arrested were appreciative of the treatment they received. The positive effects on officers would further encourage them to embrace this respectful and humane approach.
The men and women working in law enforcement need to mindfully work to restore the trust between themselves and the communities they serve. Every situation offers the opportunity to make life and relationships better or to make them worse. I choose to make them better, and I’d like to help you do the same.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Darron Spencer is the author of Humane Policing: How Perspectives Can Influence Our Performance and founder of Humane Policing – Transforming Police Culture. For more information, visit humanepolicing.com.