George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and countless other unarmed individuals who have been killed by police have hit a tipping point spurring protests and calls to action.
Initially the protesters are calling for the officers involved in the deadly George Floyd assault to be charged with murder. The movement grew to encompass other pertinent issues. There is now a call to change laws governing police, like law 50-A which shields police records from performance evaluations and for promotions. Also there is a call to defund the police departments-which have already resulted in some units being disbanded.
The response from law enforcement and city officials is an attempt to turn the tide by getting involved and socializing with the communities where these tragedies have occurred. Law enforcement budgets are being scrutinized and funds are being reallocated to community programs and social services.
Other police departments are rebuilding their ranks and re-training officers since public safety and police are a necessity. The question is how do we focus on improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve?
If you know more criminals on your beat than citizens you protect, that’s a problem – Booker T. Hodges
Booker T. Hodges, is a law enforcement professional who has held many positions and is currently serving as assistant commissioner of law enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. According to him there are four ways to maintain great connections with the neighborhood.
Live where you work
Living where you work allows you to know more people in your community than criminals. It also allows members of your community to know you outside of your law enforcement capacity.
Interact with people in non enforcement situations
Law enforcement officers have become disconnected from those whom they police. Administrators helped create this problem with productivity logs. If you are rewarded for the number of citations you write rather than for the number of non-enforcement citizen interactions, what are you more likely to focus on?
Volunteer in your community.
Being a public servant should not stop when you take the uniform off – volunteering keeps you connected to the community you are policing.
Don’t read, watch, or surf the internet for news.
If you believe what is written in the media is reflective of public sentiment you are gravely mistaken. The majority of the public supports law enforcement officers and what we do. The next generation of police officers will be successful if they become fully immersed in their communities. It is much harder to hate up close!
These are all relevant points but do not address systemic racism, de-escalation imperatives and what the rules of engagement for officers should be which all play a huge role in the police and community interactions.