August 25, 2020

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Balancing the Relationship Between Police and Community

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.  

Today, I’d like to talk to my younger friends’ law enforcement. We’re counting on you to accomplish two very important tasks and to find the right balance for us. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, stick with me and I’ll explain. 

We believe it’s possible to both build relationships with community members and demonstrate consistent and reasonable officer safety tactics. 

In the not too distant past, we valued “officer safety” so much that we often gave up trying to build relationships. It wasn’t really our fault, it’s the way we were trained in the academy. It’s what our field training officers emphasized. We were taught to develop a mindset that everyone in every situation was going to try to cause us harm. Sometimes we could develop a sense of paranoia that remains in our policing culture today.  

I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just saying this is the way it is. And now we’re living with the results. You may have noticed that police/community relations aren’t so great right now. You know the details. I won’t rehash it. But let’s cut to the responses that affect you directly. Many years ago now, law enforcement reaffirmed the importance of relationship building through community-oriented policing 

More recently, there has been a push toward procedural justice and police legitimacy. Again, these concepts promote relationship building by giving people a voice, demonstrating neutrality, and being respectful and trustworthy.  

Here’s my point. You are being pulled in two different directions. Our law enforcement culture tells you to focus on safety. Our community culture tells you that you must be kind, respectful, and courteous. I must admit that we’re having a difficult time figuring out the right balance. 

And this brings us to the two tasks I mentioned earlier. Your first challenge is to help us figure out the right balance between officer safety and respectful kindness. You must be safe, think things through, and practice officer safety tactics. But we also want you to continue being the respectful and kind generation you’ve shown yourself to be. 

Your second task is to show us what this looks like and teach us how to do it. We believe it’s possible to both build relationships with community members and demonstrate consistent and reasonable officer safety tactics. We’re just not entirely sure what that looks like when the balance is right. 

We need you to help us figure it out. Your generation is very good at building and maintaining relationships. My generation is very good at planning, strategizing, and coordinating events involving tactics. We need to find a balance between these two approaches, and we need to do this quickly. You are the people who can accomplish it.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.  

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