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The hallmark of a healthy and flourishing nation is where law enforcement and the public share a healthy and harmonious relationship. Sadly, over the years, this dynamic has been breached due to malpractice, hate and a weak approach toward contributing issues related to law enforcement. If we look at the behavior and opinion of the American citizen toward the police force, it is mostly driven with skepticism, anger and uncertainty. This is due to actions instigated by officers who did not know how to execute their duty with diligence.

The relationship between law enforcement and the public in the United States can be depicted in the form of a rubber band being stretched from both corners. Protests help raise awareness for the broader issue, but it is also being used as a platform to degrade and belittle the police force that is doing their duty with diligence. Subsequently, this opposition is only repelling the younger generation from pursuing law enforcement as a profession.

As the rubber band stretches from both ends, it is only a matter of time before it breaks, leading to more unrest and disorientation. So, that being said, what do we do? How do we work toward improving police-community relations?

The solution is to find a common ground, a middle point where both law enforcement and the general public have their voices heard.

Enhance Transparency and Accountability:

The cornerstone of trust between the police and the general public is transparency. Law enforcement agencies should prioritize maintaining transparent operations. This includes police activities, releasing data, use of force incidents and disciplinary actions. There is an underlying ambiguity and unsaid friction between those in power and the public, hence public skepticism is only natural. When law enforcement shows the public that there is nothing for them to hide, that’s step one checked off when it comes to cultivating a good relationship between the police and the general public.

Community Engagement and Collaboration:

There must be meaningful discourse and engagement between the community and law enforcement. There is nothing that communication can’t resolve. Hence, here, it is up to the law enforcement agencies to reach out and actively seek input from members of the community. They should make the public feel heard and involved in the decision-making processes; after all, we are in a democracy.

This feat can be achieved by organizing town hall meetings, advisory councils, and collaborative problem-solving initiatives. Involving the community in the overall decision-making processes, the police have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment and loyalty toward the public trust and the communities they serve.

Implement Bias Training and Cultural Competency Programs:

Promoting cultural competency as well as addressing implicit bias among law enforcement officers is vital to mitigate disparities in policing and build trust with communities. To put this into practice, the police department must provide ongoing education and training on topics such as de-escalation techniques and racial profiling, conflict resolution and trauma-informed care.

Prioritize Community-Oriented Policing:

Law enforcement must also prioritize community-orienting policing. (COP) Community-oriented policing comprises building strong partnerships between the community members as well as the police, as the two parties collaborate to address disorder and crime. Deciphering crime is a team effort as the police -proactively collaborate with local residents in order to identify the root cause of social problems and crime itself. This approach also involves incorporating problem-solving strategies such as community engagement initiatives and neighbourhood-based policing efforts, which are specifically tailored to the communities needs.

Support Alternatives to Traditional Policing:

It should also be understood that not every solution requires a “law enforcement” response. Communities must explore and invest in alternative measures to policing and conflict resolution. This may include access to mental health services, housing assistance and substance abuse treatment. Reform is only achieved when we are open to new ideas and initiatives. Times have changed, and the society has certainly changed along with it. Hence, law enforcement should implement diversion programs and community-based violence prevention strategies which divert the reliance on punitive measures, promoting healing and accountability among communities.

Acknowledge Historical Injustices and Promote Healing:

One of the very first steps in building a strong relationship and trust is to acknowledge the pre-existing conflicts so they can be worked upon. Police departments should take initiatives that require acknowledging the historical injustices that have occurred, and the various traumas that have compromised the relationship between the public and them.

These include truth-telling processes, reparative efforts to acknowledge past harms and apology ceremonies. These community-led initiatives will promote engagement and healing, fostering solidarity and understanding.

Celebrate Positive Interactions and Success Stories:

It is very much in fashion to highlight any shortcomings from the law enforcement point of view. But the public should also understand that law enforcement officers are, indeed, human too. They also get demotivated when they see their successes not being celebrated and their hard work unrecognized. Sure, it is crucial to point out what is wrong, but that makes it equally vital that we acknowledge all that is right.

Overall, a key factor in improving police-community relations, efforts should be made by both sides. Implementation from the authorities can only impact the agenda so much. The public also must keep an open mind and know that change does not happen overnight. There will be obstacles and shortcomings, but the key is consistency and mutual respect. Top of Form

Raising awareness on the matter, there is one man who wishes to build America from the ground up. Author James W. Buie Jr., a man who has also served the nation for 30 years, pens a revolutionary book that aims to reconcile the fragile relationship between law enforcement and the public.

From the Ground Up, available on Amazon.

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