The State of Policing in America
What an exciting time for policing in the United States. Never before has there been a clearer mandate for how our communities want us to serve. We should be purpose driven in our leadership of police organizations. Trust, transparency, openness, accountability, caring, and legitimacy are all words we are hearing over and over again. We have spent many years talking about what we do in our profession and now it is time to talk about why we do what we do. Important questions police agencies and leaders should be prepared to answer have moved from crime rates and crime data to what is our purpose and why were we originally called to this profession? The decision making process comes from a deep understanding of purpose and we must continually go back to the place of why we exist as police organizations. Clarity of purpose is extremely important in ensuring we create a culture that fully supports protecting and serving all segments of our community. If we are not intentional in our leadership of police organizations we will become distracted by the many demands facing our departments.
We are in the human business. Displaying values such as respect for all people, recognition of the dignity of each individual we encounter, and being open and transparent in the way we do business will create trust and generate respect and support for our agencies.
In order to have police legitimacy, law enforcement agencies must operate in a procedurally just system that recognizes all people have a voice regardless of whether they are a victim or suspect in a crime. Each person we encounter should see fairness in how we do our work; that doesn’t mean they will like the outcome of the decision but they will at least know we considered all possible outcomes before taking action. We must also ensure that we operate procedurally just organizations where employees are treated fairly, have opportunities to be involved and are treated with respect regardless of their position in the organization. If our internal culture is one guided by procedurally just processes, we have a greater chance of employees operating in the same manner when they are in the community.
If law enforcement agencies are procedurally just, and operate in a fair and impartial way we will gain the legitimacy we need to effectively police our communities.
There have been many firsts for law enforcement over the last year. Real conversations around trust and transparency are occurring; recognition that implicit bias exists in all of us and the courage to talk about these realities; and acknowledgement of failed systems used in the past by police organizations and the impact on minority communities by police actions. One of these firsts was seen at the International Association of Police Chief’s conference in San Diego when the president of the association acknowledged changes that have been happening and received a standing ovation by hundreds of police leaders from across the country.
We are at a time in our history; in our profession where leaders need to be courageous and stand up for what is right so we can move forward. I am proud to lead a purpose driven organization with many courageous people.
- Chief Ronnie Roberts