Changing the Way Officers See Themselves, and How the Public Sees Them
Recently, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department initiated a first-ever change for law enforcement: they included the words PEACE OFFICER on all of their deputies’ shirts and vests. The 800-plus-deputy department will be the first law enforcement agency in the nation to do so. This unique move on the part of RCSD is being undertaken to convey messages of peace, security, reassurance during the current COVID-19 crisis. Said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott about the change, “As we navigate through these uncertain times, the act of further identifying our deputies as PEACE OFFICERS is but another means by which we can demonstrate to the public and the communities we serve that our deputies are and will be a reassuring presence regardless of the situation,” said Lott. “A peaceful community is a far safer community.” The PEACE OFFICER vest-branding initiative is a first for the nation, but not for RCSD.
In 2018, the department took part in a still-ongoing academic study (aimed at determining the impact or words and public perception) by marking all RCSD vehicles with the words PEACE OFFICER. Other law enforcement agencies have since followed suit. The results have been impressive for the work we have been doing here at Police2Peace. Positive perceptions of safety and community engagement increased. Officers’ views of their roles in the communities changed. And a materially significant number of citizens who saw the decals versus those who did not report that ‘people can change.