Building and maintaining community trust is the cornerstone of successful policing and law enforcement. The success of police not only depends on the development of their own capabilities and skills but also on the creation of competent community relationships. Community policing acknowledge that the police department succeeds in achieving their goals by incorporating both the operational assistance and political support of the community. Conversely, the community cannot have a decent, open, and orderly environment without professional and responsive police force. Therefore, the police force is a more reactive force for responding to the crimes already committed and proactive force that ensures community peace and adversely affect positively the quality of life of the community (Durose, 1999).
Maintaining the confidentiality of information from the members of the public. This is one of the behaviors that build a strong relation between the police and the community. Maintaining the secret report they get from the people creates a friendly environment whereby the people of the community feel open to share information to the police. This eventually results to a community policing among the community and the police force.
Police legitimacy is another positive behavior that reflects the belief that police ought to be allowed their authority in order to maintain social order and manage conflicts in their communities. Police legitimacy is shown in three aspects. The first is the public trust and confidence. The members of the community relate well with police when they have confidence in them and believe that the police are honest while doing their work of protecting the community against crime and violence. Second, police legitimacy makes the community obey the law and police authority and have a sense of responsibility to follow and accept the police authority. The third aspect involves the justification of police actions as appropriate by the community (Wilson, 1978). Police legitimacy is a behavoiur that makes the members of the community have the willingness to interact, comply with the authority and have trust with the police force. Therefore, community members gain confidence and trust for the police resulting in collaborative community relations amongst themselves.
Use of polite, respectful and complimentary language by the police while addressing the community enhance policy integrity and ethics that are fundamental for building trust within the communities Police force is notably known for using coercive, abusive language and threats while responding to the community. Practicing behaviour of using community-friendly language strengthens community relationships by enhancing procedural justice, reducing biases and fosters an interactive culture between the police and the community. Police-citizen encounters become interactive when the police officers use non-coercive language and exhibit a complementary language while dealing with the public.
Another behavior that enhances good community relation between the police and the community is practicing procedural justice in the police force. This ensures fairness and transparency in decision-making and it results to a procedurally fair hearing process for all parties (Wilson, 1978). Consequently, the public build trust and confidence in the police force resulting in an outcome of higher-quality interpersonal relations between themselves and the members of the community.
However, the police undermine their relationship with the community by their misconduct, use of coercive and verbal abuse when dealing with the public. Police misconduct involves impropriety of office. Their misconduct leaves the public free to speculate and make negative generalizations about the profession of policing as a whole.
Conversely, the act of misfeasance whereby the police force performs an improper action such as an unsafe operation of motor vehicles, aggressive reprimanding of innocent citizens and improper searching of the suspects makes the community generalize that the entire police force is a department full of harassment, discriminatory arrest and selective enforcement of the law (Hochstetler, 2002). This creates a gap between the community and the police relations. Additionally, corruption in forms of bribery, extortion and fencing stolen goods make the public lose trust in them by the fact that fair judgments are made on basis of bribery. The poor will always be victims of malicious prosecution due to their failure to pay the bribes.
Corruption in the police force lowers the confidentiality level from the members of the community. This is one of the most deadly vice that portrays the police force with a negative picture to an extent that the members of the community loses confidentiality and the transparency of their cases that are handled by the police. For instance, rich people who commit offences are always released on bonds whereas the poor are discriminated on basis of their willing power to raise some amounts of money.
Effective policing requires the endorsement by respective stakeholders who collaborate to maintain a good relationship between the lawmakers and to ensure that justice prevails for all the members equally. These stakeholders include a variety ranging from people to organizations. Examples include business leaders, neighborhood watch, youth and community-based organizations, community activist, state attorney, trade organizations, the faith community, and social service organizations.
The stakeholder’s point of view is to work together with the law enforcement agencies to enhance a sense of accomplishment by bettering the community and fulfilling an obligation of gaining recognition and respect both for the police force and the community at large. Additionally, non-governmental organization, civil societies, police commissions and the judiciary system are some of the key stakeholders who contribute a lot in the maintenance of discipline in the police force. They stipulate the counter measures to ensure that the members of the public are treated justly and their rights are not violated while the police are carrying out their routine responsibilities in the maintenance of law and order in the society.
Law enforcement is a key element in every society and therefore, the public cannot choose when to like the police. The police force is mandated to deal with the people behaving badly in the society. This makes the police use their mandate responsibly while dealing with the public. Close relation with the police will result in loss of trust and confidence from the community and therefore, they have to use coercive and threatening language to maintain their respect gap with the public. The civil order depends on the law enforcement officers in a way that instills public confidence in the rule of law thus making the police undermine the behavior of the community.
Use of undermining behaviors such as excessive use of force, brutality, and coercive language result to police detracting from their mission. It’s the duty of the police force to maintain law and order in the society. However, some situations may force them to use excessive power. For instance, police may use force to acquire information from a bomb maker whose bomb will detonate in two hours time.
Torturing the victim violates the rights of the person while at the same time provides for utilitarian calculus whereby the benefits of torturing the terrorist results to more benefits to many people as compared to his life alone. This action will make the police force achieve its goal and contrary result to detraction from their mission of offering services to all based on fairness and transparency.
Moreover, extra judicial killings are another behavior that detracts the police force from achieving its mission. Killing people with a history of vices such as robbery, murder and rape violates the rights of the victims. The police force is supposed to make arrest and take the violators of the law to custody rather than killing them mercilessly.
Chief administrators of the police department can manage behaviors of junior police through policy development, control, supervision and behaviour-modification programs implementation if the police force. Through the program, the chiefs can organize and take necessary steps to improve police operations within the community. Disciplining staff and lawbreakers in accordance with the state law will ensure that both the public and the police force maintain the right code of behaviors. However, due to inherent conflicts amongst the police and between them and the community, managing the behavior has become ineffective. Law enforcement unions have unique conflicts that have reverberations. This means that the conflicts of interest inherent in police unions pit the interest of public servants against the very public they serve. Notable inherent conflicts that arise among the police force include occupational hazards such as the line of duty deaths and work stress, abuse of power that alters the accountability within the force.
Community policing require full and fine turning of police practice to the philosophy that demands real commitment from the authorities, community stakeholders, and the police together. Police professionals need to be ethical to accommodate a range of motivations by using constraints and restraints to manage behaviour. Therefore, police and community relations can be improved by recognizing the importance and the need of improvement in diversifying personnel and improving community relation, training police officers to be more comfortable with the residents of different racial background and to invest in positive community relations.
Durose, Matthew R., Patrick A. Langan, Lawrence A. Greenfield, Steven K. Smith, and David J. Levin. (1999). “Contacts Between Public and the Police” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics). Print.
Hochstetler, Steven. (2002). “Community Oriented Policing Concepts: Increasing Community and Officer Involvement,” Law and Order.
Wilson, J. Q. (1978). Varieties of Police Behavior. Harvard University Press.