Law enforcement agencies understand the importance of a true partnership with the community. Positive relationships with some segments of the community are easier to come by than others. Most communities in America are rich with many different cultures.
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However, it is because of this diversity that many organizations struggle to build trust and secure relationships that lead to success. Law enforcement agencies have an obligation to make proactive efforts to bridge the divide between the officers and community. Existing research demonstrates that when citizens in these communities believe there is a strong partnership with the local law enforcement agency, they feel safer and have a better view of police officers in general. This paper will articulate steps taken in a law enforcement agency to rebuild their image with diverse, but disadvantaged communities. Twenty-five officers will be selected for this detail to work with community leaders on this effort. Using the Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment (S.A.R.A.) problem-solving model, four tasks involved in this effort will be completed: (1) selecting the appropriate personnel from existing officers, (2) training the personnel selected, (3) selecting a site within each community so that service is targeted appropriately, and (4) arranging and scheduling meetings of community leaders. The ultimate goal is to begin a dialog, and help establish a positive relationship between the department and community.
Most cities in the United States today have a very diverse population. Many of these communities have their own culture and customs. Many have languages different from the larger population. Communities in America represent a mosaic or tapestry of diversity more than the traditional concept of a “melting pot” that many people thought of in the past (Shusta, Levine, Wong, Olson, & Harlow, 2015). Many times these communities are the most disadvantaged as it is in our city. An understanding and acceptance of our multicultural communities are vital in fostering positive relationships that will help in building trust and a true partnership between police and community members. I have been tasked with improving the relationships between the police department and disadvantaged communities within my jurisdiction. In this paper, I will articulate the steps in which I will attempt to make these relationships better and rebuild the trust and image of my organization in these communities. The Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment (S.A.R.A.) problem-solving model will be the process used to execute each task. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing promotes using the SARA model and writes that, “Police officers must routinely and systematically analyze problems before trying to solve them” (The SARA Model, 2018). Using these elements will help ensure that I stay focused on the task at hand.
Personnel for the New Detail It is imperative to have the right personnel involved in this new effort. I absolutely expect all of the officers in our department to act professionally when interacting with any member of our community. However, I will select personnel from our ranks who I believe will be a good fit for this detail. With the appropriate people involved we will have a greater chance of success. Scanning—Identifying and Describing the Problem The challenge with filling these positions is finding the appropriate officers for the detail. My intent is to select officers who have a strong desire to help rebuild the image of our police department. I must be specific in the qualifications required for these positions, and ensure that the officers understand what our goals will be. Analysis—Identifying Resources that will Help with the Problem I have always believed that our people are our greatest resource. That will be especially true in regard to this effort. I have identified certain qualifications that I expect from selected officers. They will be: (1) Excellent communication skills—Officers who are articulate writers and are comfortable speaking to diverse groups of the community. (2) Excellent interpersonal Skills—Officers who can clearly and thoughtfully communicate departmental points of view and explain law enforcement-related concepts such as use of force. (3) Excellent problem solving skills—Officers who have a proven track record of being creative, collaborative and involved in community issues in their beat. Reisig and Parks (2004) found that collaboration and engagement with the community result in positive perceptions of police and quality of life. I will look for officers who can most effectively engage with community members.
To find the appropriate officers, I will first discuss this plan with our supervisors so that they will understand the type of people that I am looking for. I will also be looking for recommendations for officers they believe would be a good fit. A departmental email will then be sent out promoting the openings, and supervisors can discuss the opportunity at briefings to encourage officers to put in for the position. Several selected supervisors and I will interview the officers who are interested in this position. I will select the officers who will be on the team. Assessment—Were the Desired Goals Attained? Are any changes needed? The assessment of personnel will be made on a continuing basis. I will be evaluating my selections through each step of this process. I will be looking for continued motivation, dedication and hard work to achieve our goals. Officers who are not working or who are not a good fit will be dismissed from the detail. Training the Personnel Selected Scanning—Identifying and Describing the Problem Sereni-Massinger and Wood (2016, p. 258) wrote that, “Law enforcement officers are experiencing greater challenges within their communities as a result of the growth of multiculturalism.” I intend to already have officers who have a strong interest in strengthening the relationships between the police department and our disadvantaged communities. However, I see an opportunity for helping them be more successful in dealing with these highly diverse communities. I believe that we lack the appropriate training and that may have been part of the problem that we are now attempting to correct. Analysis—Identifying Resources that will Help with the Problem / Response—Identifying a plan and Carry it Out Hennessy (n.d., p. 3) writes that, “Cultural awareness training attempts to educate police officers to be more sensitive to different ethnic groups, races, and lifestyles… and the very success of the many facets of community based policing is dependent on this understanding.” Officers selected for this detail will attend cultural awareness and diversity training well beyond what our officers have been attending each year. Having this additional training will make our officers more effective in all areas of our community. This additional training will be ongoing and attended in addition to their yearly training.
Assessment—Were the Desired Goals Attained? Are any changes needed? As before, assessment will be continuous throughout the program. I will look at if the officers are being effective with the community. Are they being innovative and engaging, and coming up with solutions that will help repair our image with the community? Training in this area will be continuous, as I believe the steady reinforcement will be beneficial to the detail. Selecting a Site Within the Community so that Service is Provided to the Targeted Community Scanning—Identifying and Describing the Problem I feel the main challenge here is finding somewhere our targeted community members would feel comfortable. A location that is both convenient and familiar to the very people we intend to reach. I think it is important for the venue to show that this is a law enforcement effort, and that we are the police, but be more comfortable and welcoming than the traditional police or government building. Analysis—Identifying Resources that will Help with the Problem / Response—Identifying a plan and Carry it Out For the reasons above, I am discussing with the city to have a sub-station in a central community park building. There are several reasons that this will be a good venue for this effort. First, the park and building are centrally located. Targeted community members will have very easy access to the site. Additionally, it is a large venue with offices for our team as well as an indoor kitchen and large meeting room. There is also a gym and large outside area, and a field where we can hold community events that I envision in the future.
Assessment—Were the Desired Goals Attained? Are any changes needed? An assessment of the venue will be realized when permission is received from the city to use the park resources, and we begin having a place where the targeted community members can be served. I truly believe this is the appropriate venue, but if people do not come then we will have to rethink the venue, or investigate ways to make the venue more appealing to the community, such as different staffing times to better accommodate people . Arrange and Schedule Meetings with Community Leaders. Scanning—Identifying and Describing the Problem It is very important that we get buy-in from our targeted community. One of the most effective ways to get engagement is to find people within the community who have influence over those we intend to reach. It may be very difficult if we do not find the appropriate people who can help initially bridge the gap between the community and police department. The Cato Institute reports that only 40% of African Americans have a positive view of law enforcement (Ekins, 2016). So clearly we are doing something wrong. Finding the right people to begin the dialog with will help us understand how to better address these negative attitudes toward police. Analysis—Identifying Resources that will Help with the Problem / Response—Identifying a plan and Carry it Out It is very important to select community leaders who also seek a better relationship with the police department. These people must also have the trust and respect of their constituents. For this reason, I will select local pastors and other faith-based leaders of our targeted community. I will first meet with leaders who I have already had a positive dialog with and expand from there, taking any suggestions for other community leaders that may want to assist with this effort. Directors of local community organizations, neighborhood associations and teachers will also be at the top of the list.
Assessment—Were the Desired Goals Attained? Are any changes needed? This assessment will begin at the initial meetings. I want to know if the chosen community leaders are truly on board with helping us repair our relationship with the community. I will discuss my ideas with them and take their input as well. Hopefully, I will be able to ascertain if they will be helpful with the effort. Beyond the first meetings, I will observe how well they can help get the community involved. If I feel we need more help, I will reach out to additional community leaders who may be interested. Conclusion The intent of this paper is to identify the beginning steps that I am taking to help rebuild the image of law enforcement in our community. I envision future community meetings and activities with our officers. Konz (2016) asserts that an area that is particularly helpful for local agencies is community conversation about race and police-community relations. With this effort, we can interact with our disadvantaged communities and address concerns and problems beyond short, traditional police responses. Hopefully, with this effort, these important segments of our community and police can come to a better understanding.
Ekins, E. (2016). Policing in america: Understanding public attitudes toward the police—results from a national survey. Retrieved from https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/policing-america
Hennessy, S. (n.d.). Cultural awareness training for police in the united states—a look at effective methodologies. Retrieved from http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@civilrights/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-149102.pdf
Konz, P. (2016). Building trust between police and the communities they serve. Retrieved from https://citiesspeak.org/2016/11/20/building-trust-between-the-police-and-the-communities-they-serve/
Reisig, M. D., & Parks, R. B. (2004). Can Community Policing Help the Truly Disadvantaged? Crime & Delinquency,50(2), 139-167.
Sereni-Massinger, C., & Wood, N. (2016). Improving Law Enforcement Cross Cultural Competencies through Continued Education.
Journal of Education and Learning, 5(2), 258. The SARA Model. (2018). Retrieved August 28, 2018, from http://www.popcenter.org/about/?p=sara
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