How Do We Improve Police and Community Relations?
I think it’s fair to say that one of the biggest issues facing our country today is the issue of police and community relations. Many experts in the field have recently expressed concern that the racial conflict and tensions between the police and the public are the highest since the outbreak of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
There have been many recent discussions in the press and on social media regarding how to improve and solve the racial tensions and conflict between law enforcement and the public. This has especially come to light since the disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri (2014) and in Baltimore, Maryland (2015).
Experts and critics analyze and discuss the need for more community based policing. There is a need for more dialogue, more restraint by law enforcement and more de-escalation of force. Also more training, more accountability, more transparency, and a host of other issues that law enforcement needs to do to improve these relationships.
A COMMON TREND
As I analyze the facts of the various officer involved shootings and other tragic events that have unfolded, I see several common denominators that no one talks about. Yet they explain the causal factor for a huge majority of these incidents.
After examining the facts and peeling back the rhetoric, I see the following trends:
The majority of these encounters start with a call for service (not self-initiated contact by the officer) that involves a victim of a crime. Someone who has been threatened, or suspicious actions by the suspect/party in question.
Once law enforcement arrives on scene or conducts a traffic stop they are met with non-compliance (not obeying lawful orders and commands). In addition they are met with verbal abuse, and physical resistance by the suspect.
The suspect is usually armed (gun, knife, etc.) or attempts to disarm the officer of his or her weapon.
The suspect attempts to flee or initiates an attack on the officer. This usually dictates how the encounter and incident will progress.
Unfortunately, the officer must take drastic action to protect himself against the suspect. The above mentioned issues, such as more dialogue, more training, more restraint etc., are important and necessary considerations. But none of them will correct or eliminate the violent behavior and aggressive actions taken by the suspect. More times than not what is in question is the officer’s response to this challenge. Not the actions or behavior of the suspect.
Some treat these incidents as if the officer arbitrarily engaged the suspect without cause or did not have a valid reason to defend himself. This is absolutely mind boggling! Where are the morals, values, and common sense of society, and most importantly of our leaders and public figures who comment publicly about these incidents?
We need to be careful regarding our expectations of police officers. We need to be aware of reality when dealing with human beings who are asked to do one of the hardest jobs on a daily basis. No other occupation is so heavily scrutinized. No other occupation is asked to be as transparent that deals with one’s life and liberty in a civilian setting. Dealing with people on one of their worst days of their lives, who exhibit unpredictable behavior in deadly situations, is an inexact science.
We must not forget this no matter how great the political or public pressure.
Especially, if we want to attract and retain people to the profession. People who have the ability, desire, ethics, judgment, and common sense to be a first rate law enforcement professional.
Cops are not perfect. When an officer or agency is out of line they need to be held accountable and criticized. To the contrary! We have a major problem as a society when we criticize an officer for defending themselves. Defending themselves against someone who is trying to take their duty weapon from them and they are trying to stay alive during the attack. Should we not be holding those individuals who fail to comply and exhibit violent behavior and aggressive action, accountable too? #PoliceCommunityRelations, #UseOfDeadlyForce, #LawEnforcement
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Bill Weiss is a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He has worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. In addition, he has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Latest posts by Bill Weiss (see all)
- How Do We Improve Police and Community Relations? - September 7, 2016
- The Ferguson Effect: Is It Fact or Fiction? - August 23, 2016
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