Strengthening Community-Law Enforcement Ties
Trust between law enforcement and the public is essential. Communities rely on police and prosecutors to protect them from crime and injustice. We, in turn, rely on community support and cooperation in ensuring safety. But in too many neighborhoods across the country, this vital relationship is strained.
Working with community members allows police and prosecutors to effectively reduce crime, protect communities, and ensure justice. Law Enforcement Leaders support agency practice changes to strengthen community relations. We support police departments’ collaboration with neighborhood residents in developing policies that identify community problems and implement solutions to produce meaningful results.
Similarly, we support prosecutors’ offices in adopting policies informed by community concerns on crime. To better understand these concerns, prosecutors should work within communities and encourage open dialogue on how best to serve neighborhoods.
To ensure effective implementation of these policies, Law Enforcement Leaders urges federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to train officers and prosecutors in procedural justice and police legitimacy to more effectively engage with community members.
Some successful efforts to strengthen community relations include:
- District of Columbia. In 2007, the Metropolitan Police Department implemented a new policing strategy to reduce violence by rebuilding the relationship between the police and communities. Instead of cracking down on minor crimes, hundreds of officers went into neighborhoods to get to know the people they protect and serve. At the same time, the department launched social media and public communication tactics to reach members of the community in a new way. By garnering trust with the community, the department has been able to increase the flow of information from the public and now receives more useful intelligence about criminal activity. From 2008 to 2012, homicides decreased by more than half – to a level the city had not seen in nearly 50 years. Connecting with police and communities reduced crime and built safe, thriving neighborhoods.
- Cook County, Illinois. Starting in 1998, the state’s attorney in Cook County opened five community prosecutor offices. Prosecutors encouraged neighborhood residents to work with them to deter offenses the community identified as concerning. The state’s attorney then focused resources on charging and prosecuting offenders of those crimes. A study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab indicates that those neighborhoods – which comprised 37 percent of the Chicago population – experienced a 10 percent reduction in murder, rape, and aggravated assault compared with non-program areas.