By introducing the words “PEACE OFFICER “ on public safety vehicles or uniforms, a new framework is available to the department that positively shapes both the community and the police. It’s a community policing initiative that doesn’t diminish any of the reform changes which a department may have underway or planned, nor does it diminish any of the work its officers are doing to control crime. Instead, it’s framework through which every policy and practice can be filtered, including recruiting, hiring, training, promoting, rewarding and retention.
The external components are the PEACE OFFICER markings which are used to signal to the public that the department intends to change. The internal components are the tools which the department uses to convey the meaning of PEACE OFFICER and how officers’ jobs will or will not change as a result. For example, the way police work is done is unlikely to change; but the way officers interact with citizens is likely to be transformed in ways that realize the potential of community policing.
The Impact of the Peace Officer Framework on Policing
It is clear that American policing is struggling with community trust and confidence in many parts of the country. Tense public dialogue about the future of policing has frequently devolved into a “zero sum” (you lose, I win) debate where either we support the police (and their past strategies) or we defund/abolish them. These opposing viewpoints rarely result in finding the common ground around policing that most people want and America needs.
The Peace Officer Framework provides a framework for policing culture change that creates and highlights the commonality possible in policing. It is a repositioning of cops from “law enforcement” officers to “peace officers” in a way that works for both the public and the cops paid to protect it. It helps the public see the police as peacekeepers, who use law enforcement only as a tool for keeping the peace. It helps cops reframe their self-view in a non-judgmental way to help them provide the kind of effective, empathetic and just policing their communities want. It provides policing with structure for sustainable culture change that is consistent with what most people think of as the “true purpose of policing.” When citizens are more trusting of the police, their interactions with community members are more positive, healthier and safer for the officers.
This model also impacts police leaders who frequently find themselves in between the communities they work for and the cops they lead. It will help them demonstrate to the public they are delivering the kind of policing they want. It will also help them demonstrate to the cops they lead that providing this kind of service does not diminish the importance of role in the community – but, in fact, increases it.
This culture shift in policing supports why most officers got into policing in the first place. It gives them a framework, concepts and tools with which to better explain the true purpose of policing to the people they protect. This differs from other police training models in that it gets to the heart of why people want good policing and what good cops want to provide the communities they serve. These reinforcing perspectives will create a foundation that works for both cops and their communities and supports the advance of policing in ways we have yet to realize.
To address the need for external and internal signals that the police are part of community and the community are part of the police, click here to download your toolkit to guide you through the Peace Officer Framework for your city or department.
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