In this podcast, I spoke with hosts Xander and Erik to try to unpack the tensions surrounding police and our communities. First, just because it’s a really big issue doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about it. But the complexities of the issue extend not just to what we see in the media, but to entire communities who feel underserved. They’re unhappy with the way they’re being policed. They feel that every time there’s an incident involving the police, the community, the city, or the police department only react afterward. They were hoping that body cams would work, but sometimes that equipment isn’t working. People are hoping to be believed that they are being heard in their expression of ill-ease with how they’re being policed.
On the other side of the issue are the police themselves, who are buckling under the need for social services in cities that do not have the infrastructure to support people in so many compromised positions: mental illness, social services, domestic violence, homelessness, drug abuse. Very often law enforcement officers are in positions for which they have no training, and they’re walking into domestic situations which heated where people are angry and disenfranchised. These officers are experiencing what Chief Sylvia Moir of Tempe, AZ PD called, “the corrosive drip of the profession.” What I think she means by that is the violence which is occurring, year after year, corroding away the good intentions of some of our police officers.
So what does the country do? Again, we shouldn’t do anything just because it’s a big problem. What we’ve learned in our work with departments and with communities around the country is that a core issue is training. We believe that with proper training, on both sides, communities can heal. In fact, communities can even heal from the worst types of tragedies. This goes for the officers as well, who are in our communities by and large to protect and serve for the greater good. When we combine the ethical code of peace officer and with associated training for both sides, we can bring the community and law enforcement together to overcome biases, stereotypes, misperceptions, true perceptions, and have them see and build common ground.