Community Relations: What are we doing?

 

Right now I have, among other responsibilities, the duty of community relations in my organization.  The truth is, I am not entirely sure what that means anymore.  In a post-Ferguson world, it is hard to understand what, as police officers, we are supposed to be doing.

It seems obvious that engaging the community is the right course of action, and this has become very purposeful in recent years in hopes of repairing police-citizen relations. Some initiatives have been revived and new ones have been created, with officers spending more time in non-enforcement activities, and this is a positive thing.  Almost daily I see inspiring stories about officers doing wonderful things with members of the community, including charitable acts.  Pictures of these acts, often of officers interacting with children, are plentiful.  Like anyone else, I love to see these “feel good” stories.

But here is the proverbial rub; I can’t help but feel at times that the increased attention to these acts by officers feels staged.  And that is unfortunate because police officers have always done these things.  That we didn’t hear about every one of these stories, or see pictures about them, is because police officers never felt the need to share them.  In fact, it would have felt almost boastful just a short time ago to publicize acts such as this.  The truth is, I don’t think any of us ever realized we were supposed to keep score in this aspect of our job.  We really didn’t know that it “counted” in the tally of tasks that were expected of us on our jobs, like issuing citations or making arrests.  We just did it because it was the right thing to do.  We continue to engage our communities at an accelerated pace, but can we maintain our sincerity in this push to show the world that we really do care now, even though we always have?

Which brings us to this blog.  We need a voice in law enforcement, both collectively and individually.  From a broad nationwide perspective to a single member of a local department we need a platform to let everyone in our communities know that we have a genuine interest in them, and it is as sincere a part of our job as it always has been.  Because we are a part of these communities.  From special interest stories to crime prevention to educational pieces about why we do what we do and how it all works, this has to be part of our engagement with the community.  We hope to bring you this on this forum.

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