law enforcement careerGrowing and developing police-community relationships is a two-way street. And that two-way street requires both open-minded members of the community and open-minded members of law enforcement. With police-community relationships becoming an increasingly urgent matter of public interest, it’s necessary to have healthy conversations about how each person can play their role in moving police-community relations in a positive direction.

Whether you’re interested in a law enforcement career or simply passionate about the subject, there are steps you can take to be an advocate for positive change. Here are three different instances where unity is promoted by allowing law enforcement and community members to work together:

1. An Evolving Police Department

In 2008, Stockton, Calif., was hit hard by the recession. With a quarter of the police force laid off, an unemployment rate of over 20 percent and a new title as one of America’s 20 most violent cities in 2011, the Stockton community struggled.

However, with a new police chief and a force back to its former size, trust is now being re-built between the police and the Stockton community.

“Traditionally, we’d go into a neighborhood with a highly visible police patrol and zero-tolerance enforcement,” Chief of Police Eric Jones stated in an interview.1 “That did reduce crime – but only for a brief time and at great cost to community trust.”

Now, Stockton is one of six American cities taking part in a new experiment funded by the Department of Justice. The experiment involves incorporating programs to promote racial reconciliation, address racial biases and gain the community’s trust using an idea known as procedural justice, or legitimacy of law through the way in which people are treated. The law is perceived as more legitimate when people are treated in a way that is fair and equitable, rather than personal and prejudicial.1

After Jones implemented these different approaches in his force’s tactics, improvements have been steady in the community, including civilians asking police officers for help or advice and law enforcement having positive, pleasant interactions with members of the community.

2. National Police Athletic Leagues, Inc.

One organization is set on improving police-community relationships across the nation through athletics. The National Police Athletics/Activities Leagues, Inc. (National PAL) was created to help prevent crime and violence among youth by providing athletic, recreational and educational opportunities.

In Detroit, National PAL has implemented a Team Up program that partners police officers with a sports team for an entire season. The officers not only attend practices, but also have discussions with the athletes about the importance of leadership and developing life skills. They discuss that ultimately, as professionals with a law enforcement career, they are working to help these athletes move through adversity to gain such skills.2

These programs are set in place to allow the most disenfranchised members of the community to build productive and positive relationships with law enforcement.

3. Coffee with a Cop

All over the nation, the Coffee with a Cop program is making its way into communities large and small, and it’s arguably more important now than ever before.

With support from über-coffee-chain Starbucks, this program hit the ground running and has been a positive force in encouraging communication between law enforcement and civilians around the country.

At an event with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Major Cities Chiefs Association, Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz stated:

“Starbucks has always served as a gathering place for communities across the country to come together – including law enforcement and the people they serve and protect. The ‘Coffee with a Cop’ program builds on a tradition that began in our stores and continues to grow each day. We are pleased to host meetings in our stores across the U.S. where police and the community can meet and share experiences to foster greater understanding and empathy.”3

This program is designed to allow those with a law enforcement career to get into the community and do their job: serve, protect and build meaningful relationships.

What it Means to Have a Law Enforcement Career in 2017

Tensions may be high, but the need for passionate, caring individuals to take on a law enforcement career is even higher. Through innovative programs like these happening across the nation, police-community relationships can grow and thrive in diversity. Studying criminal justice and entering the law enforcement workforce means dedicating your career to positively impacting your community.

At Grantham University, you can prepare for your own law enforcement career with instruction from a variety of faculty members who are experts in their field and bring different perspectives from their unique walks of life.

Ready to start your journey and make a positive impact? Contact us today.

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