California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 35

ant for such conversations between police and civilians to occur in a place where everyone feels safe to speak their minds. WHAT WE HAVE NOW AND WHY IT’S NOT ENOUGH Officers on patrol rarely have the time or the appropri- ate environment to have lengthy, detailed discussions with community members on topics that are often divisive and complex. These conversations, however, are an essential pillar in repairing police and community relationships. Officers need not only to be brave in the face of physical danger, they also need to be trained in discursive engage- ment, and provided time to have courageous conversa- tions. Courage in these conversations is often manifested in vulnerability, empathy and affinity. Intergroup settings offer an opportunity for these exchanges. Programs such as Coffee with A Cop have provided some valuable platforms for police and community engagement; however, spaces need to be created for civilian community members and police to engage in a bilateral, facilitated dialogue on topics that are often tense and divisive in nature. Topics such as implicit bias, immigration enforcement, and use of force policy are at the pinnacle of public debate. Police officers who patrol neighborhoods need to be at their community’s table for this conversation. As implicit bias is increasingly part of our daily dia- logue, opportunities for intergroup contact have shown promise in reducing even unconscious bias (Saad, 2016), with affinity being an essential characteristic for creating necessary bonds between police and public. Relatedly and many decades ago, August Vollmer, a reformer from the Professional Era of policing, identified sympathy as a special quality required of a police officer (Vollmer, 1936). In this vein, he wrote: The citizen expects police officers to have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, the strength of Sam- son, the patience of Job, the leadership of Moses, the kindness of the Good Samaritan, the strategical train- ing of Alexander, the faith of Daniel, the diplomacy of Lincoln, the tolerance of the Carpenter of Nazareth, and finally, an intimate knowledge of every branch of the natural, biological, and social sciences (p. 222). The term, social contract, has been used to describe the consent civilians have given police in an effort to achieve a greater level of safety than if police protection did not exists. When segments of the public begin to doubt they are safer with police protection than without, the legitimacy of law enforcement begins to erode. In discussing the loss of net gain by the public in this contract, Jeffrey Reiman (1985) wrote that “… if law enforcement threatens rather than enhances our freedom, the distinction between crime and criminal justice is obliterated” (p. 241). As tense pressures are placed on the hinges of this social contract, increased intergroup dialogue promises to help redefine how law enforcement communicates with the public, and restores legitimacy where it has been lost. FORGING CULTURAL CHANGE Non-traditional events, formal and informal, are begin- ning to surface which demonstrate cultural shifts in how law enforcement engages with the communities they serve. Recently, in an editorial for the Santa Barbara Independent, community member, Matt Lowe (2017), wrote about a Sun- day morning gathering of two congregations, Jewish and Christian, which were joined by four police officers in an intergroup setting, focused on law enforcement and people of color. When describing the outcome, he wrote: “…rela- tionships were built with folks who might not usually cross paths: Jewish folks with Christians, Christians with Police Officers, Jewish and black folks, black and white folks. This was great. There was dialogue; the ice was being broken, something great was being built.” Another example provides evidence that police accred- itation agencies are embracing the value of intergroup con- tact between law enforcement and community members. Recently, California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified a course, Aligning Percep- tions (Adaptive Policing), in which officers are embedded in a Santa Barbara City College Justice Studies class with students, and as stu- dents. The students and officers engage in intergroup con- Programs such as tact as they work Coffee with A Cop together through a critical thinking have provided some exercise where valuable platforms for they are required police and community to act as a judge and sentence a engagement… convicted person. The groups (ingroup and outgroup) must form a consensus on the court sentence, using California Rules of the Court emphasizing mitigating and SPRING 2017 | California Police Chief 35