P.O.Box 225081, San Francisco, CA 94122

call us415-534-1200

Police Community Relations Are Fundamental to Homeland Security, Would you say something if you saw something?

By:Martin Alperen

SUMMARY: Police-community relations are necessary for effective law enforcement, and for homeland security. The slogan, "If You See Something, Say Something," has meaning only if those who see something are willing to say something. Civilians will see something before the police do, and they must feel comfortable talking with them about it. Increasing trust and rapport will help law enforcement in general and will open up a vast source of potential homeland security information.

We have a tremendous challenge ahead, but police-community relations are fundamental! Improving relations is a mutual responsibility - both civilians and police are needed to make it work. A simple and cost-free step we can take is interacting with and getting to know each other. Say “hello.”

There must be rapport. Civilians know what is going on in their community. Police are the natural conduit between civilians with potential homeland security information and those that can do something about it. This vital link is dependent on people’s willingness to talk to the police. Police community rapport is thus fundamental for homeland security.

It is undisputed that effective police-community relations are necessary for effective law enforcement. Police rely on local citizenry for both information and witness testimony, which explains why we cannot effectively prevent/solve/prosecute crimes without community cooperation. “When the public trust and respect police they are more likely to call on them for help, to cooperate with them in critical situations, and work together to solve community problems…”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), law enforcement is an integral part of homeland security. They are the “backbone of our domestic defense against terrorist attacks. They are this country’s first line of detection and prevention…”

DHS is only half right. Law enforcement may be America’s uniformed first line, but civilians will be there first. Civillians will detect something wrong before the police do. While there are 330 million Americans, there are only 650,000 law enforcement officers. We need those 330 million eyes and ears.

The average citizen cannot access institutions that receive homeland security information such as intelligence agencies, fusion centers, and federal law enforcement. Similarly, information the average citizen has, is not accessible to federal law enforcement. The public could connect with these vital agencies through their local police - if they trusted them.

We must improve police-community relations to the point where citizens want to talk to the police. The slogan, "If You See Something, Say Something," is perfect. This is precisely what we want people to do, but it has meaning only if those who see something are willing to say something.

The police must be honest, open, trusted, and approachable. So must the citizens. The police must be more guardian, and less warrior. So must the citizens. The police must understand the complexity of individual communities within their jurisdictions and be able to relate to them. So must the citizens.

One way to increase this police-community rapport is acknowledge another human being. “Good morning.”

Rapport: “a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapport.

The literature has several names for this concept, including: rapport, relations, relationship, and partnerships.

“Importance of Police-Community Relationships and Resources for Further Reading,” U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Service Toolkit for Policing. Undated. https://www.justice.gov/crs/file/836486/download

“No single factor has been more crucial to reducing crime levels than the partnership between law enforcement. agencies and the communities they serve. In order for law enforcement to be truly effective, police agencies cannot operate alone; they must have the active support and assistance of citizens and communities.” “Community-Police Relations,” Issue Overview, The International Association of Chiefs of Police, undated. https://www.theiacp.org/resources/critical-issues-community-police-relations

“Responder News: Strengthening Community Policing,” DHS, Science and Technology, Jan. 12, 2015. https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news/2015/01/12/responder-news-strengthening-community-policing

Please read the following two quotations together.

“The elements of what is required to do so have been brought together in the concept of procedural justice: that law enforcement organizations must demonstrate to the public they serve—both in word and deed—the fairness and impartiality of their processes; must treat individuals during those processes with dignity and respect; and must give the public the opportunity to participate…” “Strengthening Trust Between Police and the Public in an Era of Increasing Transparency.” Testimony Before the Republican Policy Committee Law Enforcement Task Force, United States House of Representatives, October 6, 2015, Brian A. Jackson, The RAND Corporation, p. 3. https://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT440.html

“Research demonstrates that these principles [of “procedural justice”] lead to relationships in which the community trusts that officers are honest, unbiased, benevolent, and lawful. The community therefore … is more willing to cooperate with and engage those authorities because it believes that it shares a common set of interests and values with the police.” Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015). Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, p. 10. https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

“Strengthening Trust Between Police and the Public in an Era of Increasing Transparency.” Testimony Before the Republican Policy Committee Law Enforcement Task Force,United States House of Representatives, October 6, 2015, Brian A. Jackson, The RAND Corporation, p. 2. https://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT440.html

“Law Enforcement Partnerships,” Department of Homeland Security, last published date: September 7, 2018. https://www.dhs.gov/LEP-overview

U.S. Population Clock, April 15, 2021, https://www.census.gov/popclock/

Crime in the United States, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees, Table 25, FBI 2016. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-25

Determining the actual number of sworn law enforcement officers depends upon who you ask.

According to the “National Sources of Law Enforcement Employment Data, in 2012, there were 750,340 sworn officers in the US.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Table 1, April 2016, NCJ 249681, Revised October 4, 2016. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/nsleed.pdf

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were 662,390 “Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers” as of May, 2017. US Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes333051.htm

Statista reports “In 2019, there were 697,195 full-time law enforcement officers employed in the United States.” “Number of Law Enforcement Officers in The U.S. 2004-2019,” Undated. https://www.statista.com/statistics/191694/number-of-law-enforcementofficers-in-the-us/

Audio Podcast. “Police-Community Relations,” Rand 2016 “…In this [podcast] our panel of experts discuss

  • fair and impartial policing of different minority and ethnic groups;
  • technologies like body cameras aimed at making policing safer and more transparent;
  • how behavioral health training for officers is working;
  • how officer-involved shootings are handled in the courts.

One hour long. https://www.rand.org/multimedia/audio/2016/05/05/police-community-relations.html

Are police officers Guardians, or Warriors?

"A cop is a servant who protects the public from evils (guardian) while also having the skill and courage to fight in battles (warrior)" " Police.One.com “The Science of Training,” with David Blake, July 12, 2016, https://www.policeone.com/community-policing/articles/197064006-Guardian-vs-warrior-The-many-roles-of-a-police-officer/.

“In Plato’s vision of a perfect society — in a republic that honors the core of democracy — the greatest amount of power is given to those called the Guardians. Only those with the most impeccable character are chosen to bear the responsibility of protecting the democracy.” “From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals,” by Sue Rahr and Stephen K. Rice. New Perspectives in Policing Bulletin. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2015. NCJ 248654, citing Nila, Michael and Stephen R. Covey, The Nobility of Policing, West Valley City, Utah: Franklin Covey Publishing, 2008: 7. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248654.pdf Cr

“The goal of the guardian officer is to avoid causing unnecessary indignity,” said Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former police officer in Tallahassee. “Officers who treat people humanely, who show them respect, who explain their actions, can improve the perceptions of officers, or their department, even when they are arresting someone...Not everyone is on board. Some accuse [followers of the guardian model] of promoting a “hug-a-thug” mentality that risks getting officers killed...

… Samuel Walker, a national expert on police training, said the two approaches have long been present in American policing. But the debate over which should dominate has intensified… “There is war going on for the soul of policing in America,” Walker said. “The outcome is uncertain.””

“Creating Guardians, Calming Warriors,” by Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post, December 10, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/12/10/new-style-of-police-training-aims-to-produce-guardians-not-warriors/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.48ecad287bf5

"Cops need to be more than law enforcers. They need to be equipped to deal with the social problems of the communities they serve…The failure of most police organizations is that they have equipped their personnel with the capacity and skills only to enforce laws and not the ones they need to deal with social problems...When officers can demonstrate the ability to solve problems and not just make arrests, this will resonate with communities more than anything else." by Samuel Johnson Jr., Governing, December 15, 2015. https://www.governing.com/gov-institute/voices/col-police-guardians-warriors-social-services.html

[For a legal analysis, see] “Law Enforcement’s “Warrior” Problem,” Harvard Law Review, June 6, 2019, by Seth Stoughton, Assistant Professor of Law, University of South Carolina School of Law. 128 Harv. L. Rev. F. 225, https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/

[Research Study about Guardian vs. Warrior] "...The team found that warrior and guardian models are two distinct approaches to policing. However, officers were able to adopt both mentalities. They also found officers who scored higher on the guardian measure were more likely to value communication, while higher scores on the warrior measure revealed greater importance of physical control and more favorable attitudes toward excessive use of force. McLean said the warrior mentality often leads to more use of force, making it more likely that the officer or the citizen gets injured…

Research has shown the guardian mentality has very positive outcomes," McLean said. "While we recognize that you can hold a guardian and a warrior mentality at the same time, if you're not already emphasizing guardianship in some aspects of your work, you're not doing it to the best of your ability and possibly to the detriment of community relationships and well-being." “Data-driven evidence on warrior vs. guardian policing,” Science News, February 26, 2019, Florida State University, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190226155011.htm

“Strong relationships of mutual trust between police agencies and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Police officials rely on the cooperation of community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods, and to work with the police to devise solutions to crime and disorder problems. Similarly community members’ willingness to trust the police depends on whether they believe that police actions reflect community values and incorporate the principles of procedural justice and legitimacy.”

… It is imperative that police agencies make improving relationships with their local communities a top priority.”

“Importance of Police-Community Relationships and Resources for Further Reading.” Community Relations Services Toolkit for Policing, U.S. Department of Justice, community Relations Service, undated, accessed 05/23/2019. https://www.justice.gov/crs/file/836486/download

“…it is important for a police force to reach out to the community, to interact with a cooperative spirit, to listen and act with respect and fairness, and to understand the value of fostering trust day in and day out, so that trust doesn't break down when there is a crisis…We need a police force that's not coming into the community to manage it, but rather work with it.” (Pittsburgh City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, chairman of the city's Committee on Public Safety Services and vice chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Board) “Examining Police, Community Relations,” Rand Corporation, The Rand Blog, May 8, 2015. Emphasis added. https://www.rand.org/blog/2015/05/examining-police-community-relations.html

“Neighborhood Relations, 4 ways officers can improve neighborhood relationships,” Booker T. Hodges, PoliceOne.com, Jan. 16, 2019. https://www.policeone.com/community-policing/articles/482665006-4-ways-officers-can-improve-neighborhood-relationships/

Back to Top