A few weeks ago, I had my first real encounter with the police during a traffic stop. Despite the details of what happened, it got me thinking about the relationship between the police and the community. It made me wonder, “What can we do to better this relationship?”
One adjustment that could be made on law enforcement’s side is to be more present in areas where trust between law enforcement and the community is low. I personally feel the distrust is because there is no connection. As a community member, how many officers do you know by name? As an officer, how many of these families have you introduced yourself to? To improve that answer, I suggest there be social events to bring the two together.
The job of a police officer is to protect and serve the community. I feel this job would be better carried out if the trust between the two was stronger. Another suggestion is that there is more community outreach. This community outreach does not always need to be extremely organized. It could be as simple as an officer going out and randomly visiting a school, church, park, etc.
On the other side of things, the distrust between the community and police has been passed down. Our communities sometimes draw law enforcement out as the bad guy. While in some cases that is true, it does not apply to every officer. As a community, we should break the chain. Instead of holding on to the fear we are told we should have, we need to be more open to trusting. We need to work just as hard to mend this relationship. Law enforcement officers are dedicated to protecting and serving the communities we love and we should allow it.
One program that that I have heard about is the Teen and Police Service Academy (TAPS) Center in Houston. I plan to meet with Dr. Everette Penn, TAPS co-founder and Criminology Professor at The University of Houston-Clear Lake. On the TAPS Academy website, Penn states “TAPS Academy is research based and operates with a goal to change the way teens think about police, as well as how police think about at-risk teens. Misunderstandings come from the lack of communication and interaction. TAPS allows for greater understanding and the opportunity for both groups to act upon their new understandings.”
In the next weeks I will be looking for community partners to help in my efforts to improve our relationship between communities and police.