This is how to respond to the current crisis in policing
Police officers are becoming targets for violence and parts of the American public are losing their faith in law enforcement
Did the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge make you angry? Of course they did. We can’t, however, let that anger dictate how we police.
So where do we go from here?
The Hostage Situation
I suggest you look at the current dangerous situation you find yourselves in. Imagine it as a standoff with a barricaded gunman holding hostages. Picture yourself on the perimeter. The suspect calls out, "I hate you pigs! I’m going to kill you all!"
We don’t get angry like the Hollywood cops and shout in response, "You are the disease and I am the cure! Come get some!"
In the real world, if the suspect presents an imminent threat we most certainly will address it. But if the suspect allows for a chance to negotiate, we try to resolve the situation peacefully using our most effective communication skills beginning with "I am Officer (insert your name) and I’m here to help." That statement is not only for the sake of the hostage taker, but for the hostages as well.
In the current situation consider the would-be cop killers, anarchists, criminals and murderers as the hostage takers.
The hostages are the good citizens of the communities we protect, some of our elected officials, peaceful protesters and even some in the media. Due to "Stockholm syndrome," some of the hostages are even sympathizing with their hostage takers.
Police officers are becoming targets for violence and parts of the American public are losing their faith in law enforcement. American peace and freedom greatly depend on how we in law enforcement react to this current crisis.
Where Do We Solve It?
The damage done to all law enforcement nationally will not be solved on the national level. The efforts need to be made by every chief, sheriff, officer, deputy and trooper.
What Do We Do To Solve It?
One interim step should be for every sworn officer to reach out more overtly than ever to reintroduce themselves to the people on their beat. If you're stuck on where to start, just use the words of that crisis negotiator by saying with great sincerity "I am Officer (insert your name) and I’m here to help."
Find ways every chance you get to have positive contacts with the people on your beat. That sends the message that you care. We have a tendency to believe that keeping a finger on the pulse of the beat is done by just knowing the criminals on the beat, as well as their patterns and behaviors. This is extremely important to effective policing, but the true pulse of a beat can’t be known unless you also know the people you protect. Take this opportunity to get to know as many of the good people who live and work on your beat as possible and truly listen to what they have to say.
Now is also the time for all levels of the agency to engage in a discussion to determine how these current national incidents have impacted, or may impact your jurisdiction.
These discussions should help your agencies plot a realistic course to help pull this nation, one community at a time, back from this dangerous precipice.
We Must Break Up Our Tunnel Vision
As you plan your course of action there is something you can also do in the meantime, considering the dangers that do exist out there. Every time you get out of your squad car, cross a parking lot, enter a restaurant, leave a call, or keep peace at a demonstration, regularly break up your tunnel vision. You have all been taught that this act is one of the steps after firearms combat. You do it by looking left, right, behind, up and down.
Tunnel vision doesn't only occur after combat — it also occurs daily. We focus on the obvious that lies directly in front of us, unaware of what is happening to the left, right and behind us. I encourage you to constantly break up your tunnel vision to identify and engage potential threats that exist all around you before they become actual threats. This is imperative for your physical survival.
You should also break up your tunnel vision for your emotional survival. Take the time on your beat to identify the outpouring of positive emotion and support for police that exists right now in your own community. You do not want to take for granted someone telling you "I appreciate your service," nor miss even one wave and a smile. Look left, right, behind, up and down.
The noble calling that is American law enforcement brings officers in contact with the worst elements in society — that will never change. But it is important to remember to break up your tunnel vision and see that in this process we also come in contact with the best this country has to offer.
In closing, stay safe, stay strong, stay positive and always be proud of the fact that you are Officer (Insert Your Name) and you are here to help!