“To effectively and impeccably serve others…”
A couple of issues have popped up during the past few weeks on this site. Some have suggested that I am being too “mean” to police by only reporting misdeeds and not the good work police do.
In response, I would offer that my post, “Why Police Matter” (March, 2013) remains the most popular on this site with over 17,000 viewings. In it, I argue that police highly matter and are essential to the functioning of our great society. Here’s a piece from that post:
“In… a positive police environment, citizens can go about their daily work and interactions knowing that should trouble arise, their police will fairly and effectively ‘sort it out;’ that order and justice will always be well-served by fair and effective police officers, and that police leaders will always be cognizant of our society’s ‘big picture.’
“A lofty ideal? I hope so. I have always believed we in America should have extremely high expectations of our police. This is how excellence is nurtured in other areas of our social and civic life: on the athletic field, in the classroom, during the conduct of business, and how we go about governing one another. We should have as high a set of expectations for our police as we do in these other important and necessary functions…
“For those of you who are police, or considering becoming one, these are the standards to which you should aspire. It might take another 50 years, way beyond your career as it did mine — but I am convinced it will eventually happen if you do not lose your way or sight of the goal to effectively and impeccably serve others.”
There are enough “Back the Blue,” “Thin Blue Line,” and “Blue Lives Matter” sites. What is needed is not “hurrah-hurrahs” for our men and women in law enforcement but an honest and open approach; to help them regain community trust and support from all citizens which will not only make them safer, but more effective.
And that comes to the second issue — that I spend too much time on racial matters. I would respond that I don’t think I spend enough time on this. The point being that most of what police do, their contacts, and about 40% of their arrests involve people of color – policing in urban America is for the most part policing black and brown people.
So, when I read national polls regarding citizens’ confidence in police, I find that white folks are quite confident and happy with their police, but not so for everyone. When I look at what Black and Hispanic citizens have to say, they paint a much different picture; many do not trust their police.
I would say this today to young police officers and aspirants: You need to understand diversity in our society, be fair and respectful to everyone you encounter, and the result will be that your job will be amazingly easy. When your colleagues are not doing this, you need to stand up and speak out. If you get defensive and angry when you sense you are not trusted or respected you will never get to where you need to be to be an effective police officer in our society. Period.
So my point is this, police officers must take the first steps toward building trust in poor neighborhoods of color. Police are doing well in white America (and that’s encouraging), but they need to work on how they are interacting with and treating persons of color. This is not “rocket-science;” in fact it follows the principle of Emotional Intelligence. In short, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your emotions AND to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.
If we combine high emotional intelligence (and it, unlike our I.Q., can be improved!) with the practice of Procedural Justice (being fair in resolving disputes and allocating resources), into the developing college-educated, well-trained, emotionally-controlled police officers, we will come a long way in provided high-quality police services to everyone in America and raising the trust of our police.
It is important that police have these skills. And important that someone like me who knows and has experienced policing, suggests improvements when some police fall short of the high expectations we have of them.
America’s police are able to meet this standard they days of ‘dumb” cops have long past.
Today’s police can raise the bar.
In the meantime, I will continue to highlight errors and offer solutions and, at the same time, acknowledge the good and compassionate work that is daily performed by hundreds of thousands of police in every town, city and county in our nation.
And as I have frequently said, improvement in fairness and respect will not be accomplished by politicians or police oversight boards but rather by good cops and their leaders setting the standard, intervening and correcting colleagues when necessary, and holding themselves accountable to the communities they serve.