The Force: Rebuilding Trust and Accountability in Law Enforcement
From the documentary “The Force”, Oakland police captain Leronne Armstrong said, “The minute you put that uniform on, you represent all of us. Your behavior has an impact on all of us. One police officer can affect the credibility of a department, of a city. One police officer can have an impact on this whole country.” This stood out to me when dealing with the topic of trust and mistrust in police because all police officers seem to be defined by several bad police officers who broke protocol.
It is important to have trust with the police because they are working to make the community a safe place to live and work.
From the journal “Predicting perceived police effectiveness in public housing: police contact, police trust, and police responsiveness” it states, “Regardless of the neighborhood, direct or indirect experiences with the police shape our perceptions of the police. Direct police experiences involve voluntary or involuntary contact with the police and can be citizen-or-police-initiated.
Indirect police experiences are those we learn about through others such as friends, family, or the media.” (Page 444). People stereotype the police off of experiences they only heard about, that did not even have anything to do with them. This really is a shame because every person in law enforcement is stereotyped and thought of just as bad as the select few who partook in racial profiling and police brutality.
The community should have trust in police officers because they become certified through specific training and they have experience as well. For example, they have to pass the police academy in order to become a police officer. As someone applies to become a police officer, they have to meet state and eligibility requirements. They also need to pass a detailed background analysis. The background investigation ensures candidates with criminal pasts or present involvements are cut out.
Police officers could gain respect if the public was more educated on the training that goes into becoming the best police officer they can be. For example, in the documentary “The Force” it shows a scene where the police officers are wearing a gas mask in a room where they cannot breath in. The officer then has to remove the mask, say a couple of words, then place the mask back on their face while remaining calm the entire time.
This scene shows one of the officers unable to perform the task. He runs out of the gas room in a panic and is gasping for air as he hits the outside. Watching this scene gave me major anxiety and I was not even the one who had to perform the tasks. I think if the people of the community saw more training like this, they will also gain more respect for law enforcement.
People tend to not trust the police because of police brutality and racial profiling. “Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it.
Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.” There have been several cases of police brutality in the past couple of years which is why some people do not trust police or law enforcement. The media also plays a role as to why trust is lost between police and the community. The media has been bursting with incidents of police brutality between the community and law enforcement.
Since the media chooses to focus their attention on the bad, it tends to paint a one-sided and negative picture for police officers. This then leads to the loss of trust from the public. “Racial profiling is the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.” Body cameras would eliminate this assumption because the crime would be caught on camera for the court to decide if it was severe enough to be punished for. Like I said before, all the facts from the video would be right there for everyone to see.
There are a number of options the police departments can do in order to gain back the communities trust. My recommendation to regain trust between the police and the community should start with body cameras rolling at all times, not just when the officer remembers to turn on their camera. This way, the entire incident is caught on camera. All the facts will be there for the community to see with their own eyes.
To save storage and money, the clips for the day that are not relevant can be deleted. Having the video surveillance will eliminate all the assumptions and will definitely cut down on the talk of police brutality and racial profiling. This will also help out the police officers because if they are put in a life threatening position, the last thing on their minds is to turn on their body camera.
Another way the police could potentially gain back trust from the community is to have departmental transparency. This not only will build trust, but also legitimacy. The community should be educated on the policies and procedures that are used by the police. This way, when the police follow those actions that are established, and are held accountable when they do not follow them, the community starts to trust law enforcement again. The public should begin to gain respect for police officers whose job is to protect and serve the community.
The police need to venture out in the community and engage with the people in non-law enforcement activities. People tend to forget they are normal people as well. This would also show they want to help the community and care about the people. From the journal “We never call the cops and here is why: A qualitative examination of legal cynicism in three Philadelphia neighborhoods” it states, “Scholars have long recognized the role of citizenry in the coproduction of police services, which is a role that has become even more central as many police departments embrace variants of community policing. Scaglion and Condon found that personal contact with police matters more than socioeconomic variables in determining attitudes toward the police.” (Page 448).
In a diverse community, law enforcement should reflect the population when dealing with race and cultural dispersion. This may call for employing a more assorted police force that backs up the race, gender, language, life experience and cultural background of the community they work for. From the journal “We never call the cops and here is why: A qualitative examination of legal cynicism in three Philadelphia neighborhoods” states, “Surveys conducted since the 1970’s have shown that African Americans are less likely than whites to trust the police and that whites are more favorably disposed to the police.
Although the attitudes of Hispanics to the police vary, they are usually more favorable than those of African Americans and less so than those of whites,” (Page 448). This is why it is important to have a diversity in police officers. A diverse community will feel more comfortable to interact with the police, especially positively, with a diverse law enforcement team. “As scholars investigate the casual mechanisms that explains attitudes toward police, increasing attention is being paid not only to comparative studies of African Americans, Hispanics, and whites but also to the community context of dispositions towards the police.
Community context seems to matter in two ways. First, residents of high-crime neighborhoods are more likely to be negatively disposed toward the police. Second, other studies have illustrated that community context matters, specifically insofar as police behave differently depending on the type of neighborhood they patrol. Variation exists along neighborhood context in terms of the likelihood of police using force; police are more likely to use force on suspects or engage in misconduct in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The emphasis Websdale puts on place-based encounters between police and citizenry as well as his attention to the actual experiences of his subjects underscore the importance ecological context to the understanding of dispositions to police. This study focuses specifically on the context of high-crime neighborhoods because they are so often the staging grounds for complex interactions between citizens and police and law enforcement.” (Page 449).
Police departments need to be strategical as to where they place their officers. Places that have a higher crime percentage should get the most diverse set of police officers. The community has the most interaction in these neighborhoods so the police department should be doing everything they can to try and regain the trust in these communities.
Law enforcement definitely has come a long way from decades ago but they for sure still have a long way to go. I strongly believe the first step to gaining back trust between the community and the police starts with body cameras. Actions speak a lot louder than words. “Actions are more revealing of one’s true character since it is easy to say things or make promises, but it takes effort to do things and follow through”.
All in all, police are not as bad as they are perceived. They need to work very hard to regain the communities trust because every police officer has been stereotyped as bad. It is pathetic a few dreadful officers ruined the character of every police officer in the country. These steps will help the change police officers reputation for the better.