What is your Definition of Community Policing?

(Response to Request from Ed Hargis, Chief of Police, City of Frederick, Maryland)
Mike Morse & Sea Raven

Community, Shared Responsibility, and Reciprocal Trust is the matrix within which pro-active, rather than reactive policing takes place.

Start with the word “community.” We assume this means mutuality and shared responsibility among the members of the community, and cannot be achieved without a high degree of mutual trust within the community itself. So the basic task is to address the fundamental questions that are related to building community, enabling mutual trust and calling out the highest levels of responsibility on the part of citizens and our colleagues who live in our community as our trusted friends and neighbors in the police department.

We assume further that within this matrix such attributes as compassion, empathy, and the deepest concern for individual circumstances – including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious background – are paramount in all interactions. This includes all members of the community, including the police who are also members of the community.

So far, the term “law enforcement” has not appeared. That is because in a matrix of Community, Shared Responsibility, and Reciprocal Trust, “enforcement” of “law” is not the issue. Rather, the emphasis is helping people to be the best people that they can be – including the police officers who are charged with ensuring public safety.

At the risk of sounding naive about living in a sometimes dangerous society, none of this suggests that strong measures should not be taken within the context of crisis situations. But it does suggest that the arc of justice needs always to tilt not in the direction of the escalation of anger and violence, but in the direction of non-violent resolution of conflict and ultimately the care and concern of all those involved.

All of this is a tall order, challenging all of the assumptions that we have made about “law enforcement” in our society. Yet the crises that are obvious in our midst demand imagination, creativity, and bold action.

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