President’s Message: The Institute for Community-Police Relations: Guiding Law Enforcement’s Effort to Build Trust and Connect with Communities

As law enforcement leaders and professionals, we know that having the support of our communities is absolutely essential to productive and sustainable crime prevention efforts. While there are law enforcement agencies that have meaningful and transparent relationships with all segments of their communities, it is fair to say that there are other agencies that need to further enhance relationships and build trust within their communities, particularly among disenfranchised segments.Additionally, any unrest or feelings of distrust that occur in one community often seep into neighboring cities, towns, and states. Each incident that calls into question law enforcement’s actions in a particular community is like a flash point that explodes around the globe. An incident that occurs in one jurisdiction is now causing protests in an area over 2,000 miles away and igniting a dialogue that transcends beyond one incident or location. Therefore, law enforcement has the collective responsibility to work together with each other and with community members and groups to strengthen community-police relations around the world. Without a united effort, we will be stuck in the status quo or worse.

In that vein, the IACP has created the Institute for Community-Police Relations (ICPR) to help provide law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to build and sustain a culture in policing that values transparency, accountability, and community engagement and increases community trust. The ICPR was launched in May 2016, with support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice.

The IACP was fortunate to receive a very generous donation of $1 million in support for IACP’s ICPR from NBA owner, Hall of Fame member, and global basketball star, Michael Jordan, in July 2016. Thanks to the support of Michael Jordan, the ICPR will increase its ability to identify and develop leading practices for building and enhancing trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve through a long-term commitment to 21st-century policing strategies, particularly those that can improve police leadership and culture, community engagement, procedural justice, officer safety and wellness, and policy and leading practices.

The work of the ICPR will be guided by an advisory panel of law enforcement practitioners, community leaders, civil rights advocates, and academics. Recognizing the universal nature of the issues being addressed by the ICPR, the advisory panel will also include representatives from multiple nations and regions of the world.

The ICPR will focus on several key elements, including the following topics.

Police Leadership and Culture: Each law enforcement agency has a culture that has been shaped by the men and women who have served in these agencies, the agencies’ past and present leaders, and the events the agencies and officers have responded to over the years. These cultures often represent the finest aspects of policing—duty, loyalty, service, and bravery.

However, there are other cultural elements that can be problematic and undercut an agency’s relationship with the citizens it serves and weaken the strength of the vital community-police partnership. These elements can include a resistance to change; an insular perspective; a lack of accountability; and the adoption of an “us versus them” mentality in community-police relationships.

Leadership and culture are paramount to improving community-police relations because without those two elements, the value of training programs, policies, and other reform efforts is minimal. Leadership and culture determine the success of the relationship between police agencies and their community. An organization that mirrors the community it serves and progresses with community intentions and evolving law enforcement practices will drive the future of the agency and the caliber of recruits that are drawn to it.

Community Engagement: In order to be truly effective, law enforcement agencies must have the support of every facet of their community. Building and maintaining relationships and partnerships within the community, establishing transparency, and working to form a mutual understanding and build trust with diverse communities are all cornerstones of progressive policing.

IACP will work with agencies to enhance their ability to connect with the communities they serve. In order to contribute to successful connections with communities, leading and best practices of community engagement will be highlighted and showcased through various avenues. Additionally, IACP will pilot creative ways to engage potentially disenfranchised communities and work to build trust and legitimacy through open and honest dialogue.

Procedural Justice: A community that is engaged with its law enforcement agency is likely to be more supportive of the agency and officers. That support can translate into the community providing the resources necessary for law enforcement to do its job, which, in turn, contributes to the community’s economic strength and viability. Indicators of strong relationships with the community include community members who provide critical information and intelligence to the police during investigations, as well as those who are willing to testify in criminal cases when necessary. As stated in an IACP report on community-police relations:

Since the advent of community policing in the 1980s, law enforcement agencies have implemented community policing strategies to promote a collaborative approach to crime between the community and the police. These community policing efforts are rooted in the promise of building legitimate authority through mutual trust and respect between the police and the public.1

Policy and Leading Practices: IACP has a long history of assisting law enforcement agencies in the critical and difficult task of developing and refining law enforcement policies. The IACP’s Law Enforcement Policy Center creates model policies for agencies to use as starting points for policy development. Each model incorporates research findings, the input of leading subject experts, and the professional judgment of the members of an advisory board who have combined this information with their extensive practical field and management experience. The ICPR will leverage the work of the IACP Law Enforcement Policy Center to highlight leading practices and exemplary policy models.

Officer Safety and Wellness: Officer safety and wellness is deeply woven into the concept of legitimacy; therefore, it not only is the responsibility of an agency but relies heavily on the community the agency serves.

If all segments of the community believe that the police are engaged in activities that are intrinsically fair, just, and impartial for the purpose of promoting public safety, social equity, and justice, then the community will be more supportive of law enforcement’s efforts, thus promoting greater officer safety through voluntary cooperation, among other things. But, given that the well-being of an officer does not rely on the community alone, agencies need to focus on the values of safety, health, and wellness as they impact officer performance, both on and off the job. The IACP ICPR, with the assistance of the IACP’s Center for Officer Safety and Wellness, will strive to ensure that law enforcement professionals have the resources they need to remain healthy and safe so that they can be of the greatest service to their communities.

Within each of these five areas of focus, the IACP will be developing and collating resources and tools for law enforcement professionals at all levels to assist them in their roles and their daily interactions with their communities. Many of the ICPR’s products, tools, resources, and trainings are currently being developed with the intent of building a foundation of solutions and tools that can be interwoven into any agency, no matter the size or geographic location. Additionally, there are resources that are available for all levels of law enforcement, which will help ensure sustainable solutions for agencies as they work to build strong and lasting relationships with their communities.

As products and resources are rolled out, we will continue to update the ICPR website at www.theiacp.org/icpr, as well as notifying the field. ♦
Note:
1International Association of Chiefs of Police, IACP National Policy Summit on Community-Police Relations: Advancing a Culture of Cohesion and Community Trust, January 2015 (accessed August 22, 2016).

From The Police Chief, vol. LXXXIII, no. 9, September 2016. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 44 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.