It’s been a bad couple of years for law enforcement. Conflicts over officer actions, including officer-involved shootings, have strained relations between U.S. police and the communities they serve, giving rise to responses such as the Black Lives Matter movement. According to a 2016 survey by Gen Forward, two-thirds of young black people and 4 in 10 Hispanics say they or someone they know has experienced violence or harassment at the hands of the police. Officers have been baited, stalked, and ambushed, and the number of officers killed in the line of duty is rising precipitously. Law enforcement has been under a microscope before—the field experienced similar scrutiny and criticisms in the 1960s.
In both instances, law enforcement re-emphasized the way officers are trained (e.g., greater and more formal training on officer safety, sensitivity and cultural diversity, and the First Amendment) and endured FBI investigations of departments, presidential pronouncements, lawsuits, and trials. The current period of high scrutiny has also led to mandates for body cameras in some jurisdictions and new community outreach initiatives. Many of these initiatives are good, some not so much, and others are just counterproductive.