Aligning Police Values With Those of Our Nation

imagesAs we celebrate our nation’s birthday this holiday weekend it might be a good time to review what we as a nation stand for and say we believe — and how it relates to police.

A good place to start is with the text of our Declaration of Independence; particularly the second paragraph:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

How does our “style” of policing reinforce these values: especially equality, and “unalienable rights,” such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness?

We must never forget this is truly a revolutionary document, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government… as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

As I read this document and recall our history, it seems to me that change and reform are expected actions in the free society in which our Founders envisioned; therefore, our institutions, particularly our police, should be the first to make corrections and reforms whenever our nation’s “inalienable” rights are in danger of being compromised.

And that, my friends, is why I so passionately argue for police reform — the transformation that is needed in order to move our police out of the current crisis in which they find themselves and into a new era of (true) community-oriented policing which emphasizes the follow qualities:



Qualities of Police in a Free and Democratic Society

  1. Accountable: Police recognize the nature and extent of their discretionary authority and must always be accountable to the people, their elected representatives, and the law for their actions, and be as transparent as possible in their decision-making.
  1. Collaborative: Police must be able to collaborate, as appropriate, with community members and other organizations in settling disagreements, choosing policing strategies, and solving policing problems. This collaborative style must also apply to the way police departments are led and managed. This means police leaders must actively listen to their officers and work with them in identifying and resolving department and community problems.
  1. Educated and trained: All police officers with arrest powers should begin their career with a broad and advanced education in the sciences and humanities. Training should consist of rigorous and extensive training courses in an adult-learning climate that teaches both the ethics and skills of democratic policing.
  1. Effective and preventive: The mark of a good police department and the officers who work within it is that they continuously seek to handle their business more effectively and fairly, emphasizing preventing crime and disorder and not merely responding to it, and applying research and practical knowledge, using problem-solving methods, toward that end.
  1. Honest: Honesty and good ethical practice are essential. The search for and cultivation of these traits begin with the selection process and continue throughout an officer’s career. Only those police candidates who have demonstrated good decision-making so far in their lives should be selected.
  1. Model citizen: Police officers must not only be good police officers, but good citizens as well, modeling the values and virtues of good citizenship in their professional and personal lives.
  1. Peacekeeper and protector: The police role is, above all else, that of community peacekeepers, and not merely law enforcers or crime fighters. Their training, work, and values all point towards the keeping of peace in the community. As gatekeepers to the criminal justice system, police must see themselves as defenders and protectors of Constitutional and human rights, especially for those who cannot defend or care for themselves in our society.
  1. Representative: The members of police organizations must be demographically representative of the communities they serve, both because it reflects fair employment opportunities and because it enables the police to be more effective in achieving their objectives.
  1. Respectful: Police officers should treat all persons with unconditional courtesy and respect, and be willing to listen to others, especially to those without social power or status. Likewise, police leaders should treat their workers with courtesy and respect their employment rights.
  1. Restrained: The preservation of life should be the foundation for all police use of force. Police officers should continually prepare themselves to use physical force in a restrained and proper manner, with special training in its application to those who are mentally ill. Deadly force should be used only as a last resort and only when death or serious injury of the officer or another person is imminent. Less-than-lethal force should be preferred where possible.
  1. Servant leader: Every police officer, regardless of rank, must simultaneously be a good leader and a good servant, to the public and to the police organization. Servant leaders use their authority and influence to improve others’ welfare.

12.  Unbiased: Although some bias is inherent in human nature, police officers  recognize that they can and should train themselves to reduce their biases and deal with all people fairly and without regard to their race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic condition, national origin, citizenship status, or sexual orientation.

Read more HERE.