We are a safer society when citizens support law enforcement. It is no secret that anti-police sentiments are rampant in our divided nation. It is easy for those of us who support our heroes in blue to cast off those who don’t as "backwards" or "thugs." Whichever side you fall on, the fact still remains that a lot of people in this country have lost faith in the police. It is our duty to listen, understand and find common ground. We must reassure them that the clear majority of police officers are honorable, virtuous people worthy of our utmost respect and gratitude. In the end, we are a safer society when those who protect us feel supported and appreciated by those they protect. We must also acknowledge that mending this divide is by no means a one-way street. Detroit is one of the MANY departments across the country that is actively making a difference, proving that their critics' concerns, whether founded or not, are being addressed and that fundamental changes are being made to improve relations with their communities.
“Community” or “Neighborhood Policing” is an umbrella term used to describe systems that police departments put in place to improve channels of communication, trust, accessibility, and transparency with their communities. One such measure is the common assignment of NPOs (Neighborhood Police Officers) to designated areas where they can develop relationships with their citizens, become familiar faces and foster a friendly police presence available for non-emergency, quality of life concerns. This in turn results in greater efficiency to address emergencies when they do arise as police now have the personal trust and involvement of their citizens. “Community policing” is not merely a morale tactic, but a practical one. When citizens know and trust their local police officers, they are more likely to aid them during investigations. Citizens are the eyes and ears of a department and, as any officer can attest, their support can make a critical difference.
Playful interaction is another tactic often associated with community policing. For the average citizen, interactions with police are commonly negative. Nobody likes to see flashing lights in their mirror. When a department is able to offset these associations with positive ones, like police officers playing basketball with kids or holding regular events such as field days, parades, etc., it can go a long way in reversing public perception. One exemplary way in which the Detroit Police Department has managed to reverse public perception is through the use of video. DPD’s Facebook and Youtube channels are filled with fun, light-hearted videos showing police officers dancing, celebrating and having fun. Through social media, they are able to reach and capture the delight of millions. Detroit police know that “humanizing the badge” is critical in a time when police are more commonly associated with controversial shootings.
Challenge accepted. #RunningManChallenge Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Chicago Police Departments, you've been challenged.Posted by Detroit Police Department on Monday, May 23, 2016
In addition to boasting their enviable dance skills, Detroit Police Department also uses videos to keep their citizens informed and combat misconstrued news stories by "controlling the narrative." Today, social media makes it easier than ever for departments to maintain transparency. Chief Craig himself regularly hosts Facebook Live broadcasts to address citizens’ concerns in real-time, as well as provide updates on ongoing investigations. The internet offers access to a much wider audience than an in-person town hall ever could.
Since implementing its efforts in community policing, the Detroit Police Department has seen a dramatic decline in crime and an overwhelming boost in support from the community. Dozens of departments across the nation have seen the same, making strides not only in the lives of their local populaces but in reversing the widespread distrust of law enforcement. We know that, for the vast majority, police officers represent the best of us. Most of them are equally frustrated by the unfortunate few who give them a bad name. It is our duty to make THAT the narrative, to see that concerns are being addressed and that the valiant efforts of these departments across the country are being recognized. We are one, united nation caring for a common people. Badge or no badge, it is up to each of us to make the difference.
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