"There's a sense among new recruits that police work is about soldiering," my friend lamented. "And we don't discourage it. In fact, we encourage it -- when (in reality) about 90% of what we do is community relations."
He's right. Law enforcement isn't about kicking down doors. It's about building and maintaining relationships.
Police officers have the power to either make their job simpler or more difficult. If they treat people well and build relations, people will cooperate. They'll have leads, witnesses and informants. But if they see the people they're supposed to "protect and serve" the way an occupying army sees the native population, they're going to encounter resistance, suspicion, defiance and other things that make their job harder. That's a recipe for chaos.As a former SWAT officer, I understand the need for police agencies to be adequately equipped to handle a variety of situations. That sometimes means very dangerous looking assault rifles, body armor and the occasional armored vehicle. But the employment of resources like this should be rare.
Crime suppression is much more effective when then citizens being protected are partners in the effort. There is a line in the Declaration of Independence that says:
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.The public is much more likely to give their consent if they feel like government, in this case the police, are public servants working on their behalf to make their community safer. This means that they have a say in determining our priorities and our methods. It doesn't mean they entirely dictate these priorities and methods, but, it does mean that we need to have a dialog with them about it. That's what a partnership is.
What are you doing to partner with the community you serve?