The Only Way to Properly Address the Police Abuse is through Collaboration

Posted By Mark Baer || 26-Oct-2015

Last night, I was interviewed by Jan Stevens on KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO - CBS Los Angeles. The topic was what must be done in order to properly address the police abuse issue and establish trust between the police and the citizens they are employed to serve and protect.

I was appalled over the weekend, when I read articles which stated that law enforcement officers are not able to properly perform their job because of the "scrutiny and criticism of police officers" and their "fear that citizens will film their actions and use it against them."

According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the "constant filming of police officers is impacting their judgment." Meanwhile, the F.B.I. believes that it has resulted in "an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive."

Although law enforcement officers are employees of whatever department happens to employ them, their job is ultimately to protect and serve the public. Due to the manner in which officers are traditionally trained and the culture within the department in which they are employed, there is often an "us versus them" mentality and approach to the fulfillment of their job duties. This, in turn, results in distrust and negative attitudes between them and the community they are supposed to serve and protect.

Citizens are constantly filming police officers because they don't trust them and for good reason. That "problem" will only be resolved if police are able to rebuild trust with the communities that they are employed to serve and protect.

A number of police departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the Cincinnati Police Department have found great success with a concept known as "community policing." The concept and approach of community policing is based on police having a collaborative relationship with the community.

It should be noted that we live in a diverse society and communities consist of many sub-communities of race, ethnicity, class, age, religion, gender, gender identity, ability, and sexual orientation, among others. Through collaboration, law enforcement officers develop a better understanding of the interests and needs of the communities and sub-communities that they are meant to protect and serve.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement officers cannot effectively perform their job without a common understanding as to what is needed to effectively and skillfully identify, prevent and solve the problems that fall within their job description. Needs and interests differ from community to community, from sub-community to sub-community and even within any given sub-community. Collaboration is a mutual success for both law enforcement and the communities they police.

It's also essential for law enforcement officers to learn mediation techniques. A mediator is a conflict intervention specialist. Law enforcement officers by definition deal with conflict; therefore, doesn't it make sense that they should know how to properly de-escalate it? Hostage negotiators use mediation techniques when negotiating with hostage takers. If hostage negotiators conducted themselves in an adversarial or aggressive manner, the hostage takers would almost certainly kill the hostages.

The tragic consequences of traditional policing play out in the news day in and day out. Moreover, in 2010 alone, the costs associated with civil judgments and settlements related to police misconduct were $346,512.800, according to the CATO Institute.

By the way, the same is true of traditional lawyering versus mediation and collaboration. Traditional lawyering is adversarial and therefore tends to exacerbate conflict and increase distrust in order to obtain a result. The damage caused by traditional lawyering is to interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, and draining of finances, among other things.

As I keep saying, outcomes are typically determined by the way in which the "game" is designed.

I am very pleased to report that after hearing the interview, media expert Michael Levine sent me the following email:

"I just heard you on KNX and you were f—king fantastic! Wow.

Great, great spot. And long, too.

Super-Bravo.

So proud of you."