WXIN Fox 59 Indianapolis January 31, 2023
What American policing needs is a culture change to Peace Officer according to Police2Peace
The “horrific” and “alarming” police beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols which lead to his death in Memphis after a traffic stop earlier this month underscores the need for change in American policing, but not the change most people would think. That’s the view of the 501 (c)(3) organization Police2Peace which is actively training police departments in the mindset of ‘Peace Officers’. According to Police2Peace, a shift in policing from a law enforcement mentality to a ‘Peace Officer’ mentality is needed, where the use of unreasonable force to subdue people wouldn’t even be considered.
“To get anyone in any profession to act in a rightful manner is not something you can legislate or mandate with laws or policies,” said Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee, Senior Servant of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Instead, you have to find a way to instill in people of all professions that there are things which they should do, which they desire to do. And to do that for policing, what you need is police culture change”.
Laws which mandate that officers shouldn’t do things is no guarantee this type of incident will be prevented. The 2022 Memphis Police Department Policy and Procedures includes a policy which prohibits officers from the use of unnecessary force.  But that didn’t prevent the incident from happening.
“This is because having laws and manuals which state that officers shouldn’t use unnecessary force is no guarantee. The only thing which will prevent future incidents like this from occurring is police culture change,” said Chief Jim Bueermann (ret.), a 40+ year veteran of policing, retired police chief and past president of the National Police Foundation, now called the National Policing Institute.
What Chief Bueermann is referring to is the police culture which encompasses every aspect of every police agency—including all of the people hired, promoted, rewarded, retained and disciplined.
“Culture eats policy for lunch every day. To change American policing, we must shift the mentality of all agencies so the use of unreasonable force to subdue people wouldn’t even be considered”, continued Bueermann.
According to Police2Peace, that is exactly what the Peace Officer mindset is all about— and its virtual ‘Peace Officer’ training platform is currently being used by departments and police personnel around the nation to do just that.
Police2Peace is reframing police officers as ‘Peace Officers’ because words matter.
“Law enforcement – or better yet, enforcing the law – is an important, even primary, component of what we do, but it’s not all we do,” says Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff Leon Lott. “Keeping the peace is key, and it’s a component part of our culture at RCSD. The communities we serve see that through our branding as peace officers. In fact, early police and law enforcement agencies across North America, 200-300 years ago, were widely known as peace officers, and they were so because they knew then as today that keeping the peace was and is tantamount to enforcing the law.”
Police2Peace is changing the lens through which both police and the nation sees policing. But it’s not just about calling cops ‘Peace Officers’.
Lott adds, “Culture creates a mindset which drives behavior, so that deputy sheriffs and police officers unconsciously say to themselves when confronted with perhaps the baser side of human instinct or reaction, ‘We wouldn’t even consider doing that.’”
National attention is already being focused on the program which was recently awarded the National Certification Program Seal of Excellence by IADLEST, a national association of law enforcement standards and training managers and leaders whose primary focus is criminal justice standards and training.
Police2Peace sees this new training and certification as a simple, nationally scalable way to change the approach and culture of policing for all police departments.