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If You Know Criminals More than the Citizens-That’s a Problem!

Through effective police-community relations, the police can execute strategies to better address peace and order with citizens playing their part too.
by Maham Zaidi Updated on October 21, 2021

Communities rely on police departments to "protect and serve," and the police, in turn, rely on community support and cooperation, but the relationship is not always harmonious.  

Strong relationships of mutual trust between police agencies and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Police officials rely on the cooperation of community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods and work with the police to devise solutions to crime and disorder problems. Similarly, community members’ willingness to trust the police depends on whether they believe that police actions reflect community values and incorporate the principles of procedural justice and legitimacy. 

When incidents occur, law enforcement organizations must respond quickly to establish trust in their communities. While taking immediate action is imperative, it is equally important to provide crucial communication to the public, politicians, and civic groups keeping a close eye on unfolding events. 

What is the relationship between the police and the community? 


The relationship between law enforcement organizations and their communities is often seen as unidirectional: Police officers work within their organization to create outcomes in their communities. A healthy connection between police and community requires reciprocal input from the community. 

The mission drives department policies in law enforcement organizations, which help administrators select and provide necessary training. Training is one of the most important factors shaping officer behavior, while behaviors ultimately drive community outcomes. 

It is true that community outcomes ultimately stem from the mission of the law enforcement agency serving them. However, this linear approach can create a sense of disconnect within the community. Citizens may feel they have no say in the outcomes—and police personnel are further removed from community needs. 

Closing this disconnect between police and community requires involving the community from the start. 

Why is the police-community bond important? 


Through effective police-community relations, the citizens can learn about their roles in crime prevention and what to expect from the police. In the same way, the police can better understand the people they serve and execute strategies to address peace and order issues better. 

The police are part of the community they serve, and without community support, they cannot be as effective as they could be with that support. It is on to ensure good community relations, but it is up to the police to make sure that they are the ones who are at the forefront of that. It cannot be a “one and done” that too many chiefs or sheriffs believe will be the solution to making the relationship better. 

It must be an ongoing process that is top-down driven inside the agency. If the chief or sheriff does not believe in such a thing, neither will their officers or deputies. Each officer/deputy represents their agency for better or worse. When a controversial incident occurs, a community must also realize that demanding “justice” hours after the event is neither productive nor helpful. Let the investigation run its course, as peace officers are afforded the SAME rights as everyone else under the law. Also, realize that the use of force, the most controversial police action, is predicated on the suspect’s ACTIONS. Suppose a suspect complies with the orders of the police with no power. If force is used on a compliant suspect and proven unnecessary, that agency needs to take that action under the law to deal with that officer. But what people believe is “brutality” is most of the time a legal application of force. 

What can help people understand this more is the continual dialog between the police and public about these matters in different venues and inviting public members to force simulator training to show them actual events police have been involved in to see how they unfold. It takes time, effort, and money. That is why too many chiefs and sheriffs hope a “one and done” event does the trick. It does not. It is a laborious and ongoing process that must be part of the agency's culture first and foremost. 

How can we improve the relationship between the community and police? 


Law enforcement agencies constantly engage the community through their interactions and responses. However, proactive community engagement through forums, events, meetings, and participation in community functions is also an important activity at the leadership and community level within policing.  

The most important thing law enforcement can do when building police-community relations is co-create your mission with those you serve. 

“Choosing the right mission focus for a police department has to start with the community,” says Vidali. 

While developing your mission alone creates polarization, working together allows departments to address community concerns, preventing future controversy preemptively. But your collaboration shouldn’t end there. Departments should gather community input on the needs and values of the people they serve and work to instill those insights into their core. 

  • Increasing police transparency 


Communities need to be able to see the shared mission throughout the cycle. Law enforcement agencies are only transparent about their mission, leaving the community to guess what happens between mission and outcomes. 

In addition to establishing a mission that truly serves the community, departments must show that the shared task guides the entire policing process. 

Three ways to increase transparency at each stage of the cycle include the following. 

  1.     Maintaining accurate records of police conduct through internal affairs case management 

Departments must quickly respond with facts and documentation when questions about an officer are at the heart of an incident. Clear documentation of training and records of past conduct (including accurate reports of misconduct) can demonstrate follow-through on the department’s promises to the community. And a robust internal affairs case management system is crucial to answering these inquiries effectively. 

  1. Openly sharing your policies 

With new transparency initiatives, policy creation is a joint effort. Many departments are developing transparency portals to share and facilitate dialogue on important issues such as use-of-force policies. 

  1.   Rapidly sharing body camera footage and other evidence of officer behavior 

Artifacts such as body camera footage and official police/witness reports of an incident will help contextualize the events for the public, provide an important perspective on the situation, and prevent exaggeration or conjecture that could easily spiral out of control if left unaddressed. 

  • Acknowledge and discuss with your communities the challenges you are facing 


Police should consider establishing “duty to intervene” policies and other strategies for ensuring that if one officer engages in misconduct, additional officers will step in and stop it. Ideally, such interventions will occur immediately, given community members, the community leaders said, because people may not trust police agencies’ internal affairs of complaint investigation systems. Still, they will trust their own eyes when they see – either in person or on a YouTube video – officers not hesitating to stop wrongdoing by a fellow officer. 

  • Take steps to reduce bias and improve cultural competency 


Many civil rights leaders and police executives also recommend that officers at all levels receive training on diversity, implicit bias, and cultural competency. Many cities and towns have communities with various racial and ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and officers need to communicate effectively with and understand the cultural norms of these different groups. The President’s Task Force also underscored this need on 21st Century Policing, which recommended that police agencies provide recruit training and in-service training on implicit bias and cultural responsiveness. Research shows that individuals who are made aware of their implicit biases are motivated to implement unbiased behaviors. 

  • Maintain focus on the importance of collaboration, and be visible in the community 


It is important for the police to be visible in their communities and know their residents. Many people do not interact with the police outside of enforcement contexts. This can result in people developing negative associations with the police – for example, if the only contact they have ever had with police consisted of receiving a traffic citation or calling the police to report being the victim of a crime. Finding opportunities to interact with community members in a non-enforcement context helps reduce bias on community members and police officers. Getting to know community residents helps both groups to break down personal barriers and overcome stereotypes and allows officers to learn which residents of a neighborhood are law-abiding and which ones are not. Police executives often report that law-abiding residents of high-crime communities resent it when police seem suspicious of everyone in the neighborhood and, for example, make pedestrian stops of young men who are on their way to work or to school. Personal interactions between police officers and community members build mutual trust, essential to addressing neighborhood problems and reducing crime. 

  • Interact with people in non-enforcement situations 


I believe that we have become disconnected from those whom we police. Policing using statistics and data-driven initiatives removes the human element from policing. If you know more criminals on your beat than citizens you protect, that’s a problem. 

Administrators helped create this problem with productivity logs. What are you more likely to focus on if you are rewarded for the number of citations, you write rather than for the number of non-enforcement citizen interactions? 

Interaction other than being a cop, like normal residents of a neighborhood, is an important part of policing because you better stay more connected with the citizens and are aware of their daily routines. You can connect to their level better and give them a sense of trust. This helps in making relations better and the community safer. 

  • Volunteer in your community 


I cannot say enough about the importance of volunteering in the community you police. Volunteers are active in their communities and are the people we need to spread the truth about our profession. Being a public servant should not stop when you take the uniform off – volunteering keeps you connected to the community you are policing. 

Beyond Community Relations 


Community relations are essential, but how it is made better with technology is something we need to ponder. VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) can help with that. VIDIZMO DEMS provides a broad set of features to enable and facilitate public safety and law enforcement agencies for managing digital evidence in a source and centralized system. VIDIZMO makes digital evidence management painless and manageable, making life for law enforcement agencies easy. It ticks all the checkboxes that one keeps in mind for efficient and improved law enforcement, video surveillance, public safety, insurance, law enforcement, commercial security. Public evidence submission and others. 

Recognized in IDC MarketScape*, VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) streamlines the process of securing, managing, searching, analyzing, and sharing ever-increasing digital evidence.

 VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) is a protected and gadget freethinker computerized proof administration framework deployable on cloud or on-premise that empowers public wellbeing and law authorization organizations to store, oversee, investigate and share always expanding advanced proof gathered from various sources like body-worn cameras, dashcams, CCTV cameras, call chronicles and other sources while guaranteeing the most significant level of consistency like CJIS and FedRAMP. Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) is trusted for its protected and rich sharing alternatives, AI and redaction, proof access the board, adaptable arrangement choices, compliances, and reconciliations for proof ingestion. 

VIDIZMO offers features like the complete chain of custody reports, public portal, internal affairs portal, etc., to increase community safety and flexible deployment options for all the mass data storage gathered from video evidence gadgets that are frequently used and in trend. Digital evidence management plays a crucial role when it comes to community safety and making policing better. 

Digital evidence software for police has become essential in the advancing digital era. As we saw above, VIDIZMO provides the best solution to setting aside conventional policing methods and getting on the field to bust some criminals fast and efficiently. Way to go, VIDIZMO! This system provides the first line of defense for the chain of custody and evidence integrity. VIDIZMO is a fully secure and industry-compliant solution for law enforcement agencies. It ensures efficient, accurate collection and storage of physical and digital evidence. Further, the system solidifies chain-of-command, manages convenience copies of forms and reports, metadata analysis, and reporting. In short, VIDIZMO DEMS provides tools to help you improve your workflow for managing evidence and related assets through an easy, user-friendly process. 

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Posted by Maham Zaidi

Maham Zaidi is Technology Content Strategist at VIDIZMO which is a Gartner recognized enterprise video content management system, to stream live/on-demand media to both internal and external audiences, on-premise, Azure or AWS cloud. VIDIZMO solutions are used by enterprises, government, local, state government, healthcare, law enforcement agencies, justice, public safety, manufacturing, financial & banking industry.

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