Everyone wants to know “why?” Why do police officers do what they do? Why do community members respond in the way they do? Understanding and communicating the “why” can make an incredible difference in the process and outcome of a contact. Making positive contacts, even from initially negative situations, will help improve officer safety and community safety, building trust along the way.
At Lexipol Connect 2021, Sgt. Jason Lehman, founder of the “Why’d You Stop Me?” program, presented on procedural justice, strategic communication and police-community trust, offering insight from his experience as an officer and a trainer. Understanding how these come together to improve the safety of everyone involved in every contact possible is critical for all law enforcement professionals.
Understanding Procedural Justice
Procedural justice is about having a fair process from start to finish. The outcome matters, but the process itself is incredibly important to the concerns of officers and community members. Sgt. Lehman reviews the key tenets of procedural justice that will help officers operate safely and effectively:
Provide opportunity and space for others to be heard and truly listen to what they are saying. Seek to understand their point of view. While we must be able to control voice and maintain control of the scene, ensure others know their voice matters.
Operate from a place of fairness.
Hold regard for the rights, feelings, traditions and wishes of those you interact with. Remember that they are individuals with a unique perspective on the situation.
Through your actions, ensure trust in the process itself and the people who are carrying it out.
We must take time to answer and understand the “why.”
Building Police-Community Trust
Maintaining the tenets of procedural justice, you can develop greater levels of police-community trust. Through actions and explanations, you can ensure the process is both fair and perceived as fair. Strategic communication is crucial in building this trust. This can include communicating “why.” Communication also factors into de-escalation attempts. When employing the tenets of procedural justice and emphasizing communication, you can build relationships within the community, building necessary trust and improving safety overall.
Sgt. Lehman’s discussion on procedural justice and police-community trust allows us an inside look into officer and community training – and how to make the most of both. With communication, de-escalation, use of force and other topics central to police reform at the forefront of today’s conversations about law enforcement, seriously considering how we can improve and make operations safer is necessary. We must take time to answer and understand the “why.”