Community Strong Initiative
The Deputies Making A Change Mentor Program has implemented the “Community Strong Initiative”. This evidence-based initiative is comprised of committed Law Enforcement Officers working together to answer community-based questions. The goal of this initiative is to educate, facilitate and inform the youth of today on law enforcement interaction. Through this concentrated effort, we hope to create an awareness level that will decrease violence and increase safety. So often, the public perception of law enforcement officers is perceived as overly aggressive or somewhat passive when dealing with situations. At times, the public feels that demographics or levels of income dictate the outcome of most situations. “Compliance” is one of the most important factors that can dictate a positive outcome. An officer’s main objective is to complete his or her tour of duty without incident which allows a safe return to their family. Often times, one verbal command you will hear from an officer will be “SHOW ME YOUR HANDS”. Simple compliance with this command can ensure the safety of all involved parties. Keeping your hands in plain view lets the officer know you are in initial compliance and no weapons of any kind are in your grasp. These principles will be taught in FOCUS sessions.
- F – Finding Solutions
- O – Open Lines Of Communication
- C – Continuous Improvement
- U – Unity
- S – Staying On Target
By focusing on these core elements, our goal is to unify and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the citizens of our community. Now, Let’s Focus!
A courteous question deserves a courteous response. Often times you will hear an officer address you as yes sir no sir, yes ma’am or no ma’am regardless of age. This helps to establish a positive base during the encounter and a possible de-escalation if tension exists. Courtesy is a simple characteristic that comes naturally or can be taught in the household. In most cases, common courtesy goes a long way in community relations.
We all deal with peer pressure. In some cases, peer pressure can escalate certain situations. Peer pressure sometimes produces a negative encounter with an officer. Teens often feel they have something to prove and their “opinion” must always be expressed. Some teens display certain behaviors in the presence of their parents and that behavior sometimes changes when they are with peers. If an encounter occurs with an officer and two or more teens are present, allow the officer to advise you of the situation and determine if a parent is needed to continue. If no parent is needed and the conversation continues, allow the officer to give an explanation as to what steps will be taken to resolve the issue. Don’t let your peers lead you into a situation that could have been avoided and remember you have nothing to prove.
Everyday, an officer has a sworn responsibility to serve the citizens in the community. It’s also the community’s responsibility to assist law enforcement by making sure teens are respecting the home, respecting their teachers, and most of all respecting their community. Most teens mean well but sometimes unburned energy and a lack of activities cause a need to participate in behavior that will involve law enforcement. It sometimes causes them to move through the community in large groups which causes panic to citizens. If a citizen contacts any agency in reference to suspicious or unusual activity, remember it’s the officer’s duty to respond to the situation and ensure no laws have been broken. We understand it’s not against the law to peacefully assemble as a group but this sometimes leads to other things. During this encounter, certain information may be requested from the teen in order to ensure he/she is not wanted or missing. This information may be as simple as asking your name, or more information may be needed to ensure proper identification. In some cases, the officer may have to contact a parent or relative to ensure identification as well.
Command & Response
During most police encounters, there will always be certain commands that are given. These commands are designed once again, to achieve compliance and ensure control of the situation. Now keep in mind, some of these commands may require verbal or physical responses. If an officer asks you a question, the responsible thing to do is to provide an answer to the best of your ability. If you are unsure during your response or need time to gather your thoughts, let the officer know by saying (sir I do not know or Sir I don’t understand your question). It is every officer’s goal to establish good clear dialogue without creating a hostile environment. There are different levels of comfort when most teens are confronted by an officer. 3rd level comfort generally represents that teen or person, that has never had any negative interaction with law enforcement. This person has only a reasonable knowledge of what officers’ duties are which generally leads to immediate compliance when commands are given. 2nd level comfort generally represents that teen or person that has had some interaction with law enforcement both positive and negative. This person will obey the officer’s commands but their verbal responses may not be completely truthful. This can sometimes lead to a confrontational encounter that will cause the officers level of awareness and control to increase. If an encounter reaches this level, you should do whatever it takes to assist in de-escalation or calming the situation. This may be an uncomfortable experience but remember the previous modules ( courtesy and responsibility). These key elements apply to all involved parties and should be exercised at all times. 1st level comfort generally represents that teen or person that’s had numerous negative encounters with law enforcement or general issues with authority. Most of these encounters begin with negative energy, therefore it is very important the officer gains control of the situation. In doing so, he/she may give several commands that will require a definite response. These responses should be taken seriously and if you can, sudden movement should be avoided at all times. If there is more than one person involved in the situation, the officer will identify and direct the commands. If the commands are not directed towards you remain still with your hands out and away from your body. Always remember, never intervene in any situation that doesn’t involve you. Also, Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by someone else’s “bad attitude”. Don’t let someone’s past experiences dictate how you respond to the encounter. All situations are unique, and someone’s explanation of their separate personal encounters may not be exactly true. Most times, teens or people that have frequent encounters with law enforcement tend to stretch the truth or give bad advice to others on how to deal with an officer.
Making the Connection/Avoiding the Disconnect
A relationship is defined as a connection, association or involvement. An emotional or other connection between people. A disconnect is defined as a detachment or withdrawal into one’s own private world. A relationship is built on principles, it has to have a base to stand on. There are four principles that can and will damage a relationship. Those principles are insecurity, trust issues, lack of communication, and assumptions. Now, let’s analyze all four and at the conclusion, there will be a solution for each.
- If you are insecure about something, this indicates you may have something to hide. When an officer makes contact with any individual, he/she will focus on mannerism and body language. It’s obvious, if you have never dealt with law enforcement you will probably be nervous and that’s ok because this is where the connection begins. The officer wants to establish communication, to do this he/she will ask questions. It’s then up to you, to give clear and concise responses that will allow the officer to quickly get to know you. Be honest, be clear and most of all TELL THE TRUTH.
- Trust issues will be common, and this could be for various reasons. If you don’t know someone how can you trust them? If the only thing you have seen or heard about law enforcement is negative, how can you trust them? If members of your family or community don’t trust an officer, how can you trust them? One simple word can fix these issues “progress”. This is what fixes relationships! This is what moves us forward! Each time an encounter ends peacefully, this is what’s made. Once you get to know an officer and the officer gets to know the citizens in the community, THE LEVEL OF TRUST WILL INCREASE AND THE NEGATIVE ENCOUNTERS WILL DECREASE.
- Lack of communication normally happens when neither party wants to talk or no one extends a hand. It is law enforcement’s job to 1. RESPOND to a situation 2. Deescalate situation 3. Communicate with the people that are involved 4. Find a solution. While all this is taking place, you have one job ” COMMUNICATE”. If you have information (give it) if you know where something is (say it) and most importantly if you are asked a question (answer it). THIS ESTABLISHES POSITIVE LINES OF COMMUNICATION.
- Assumptions are very simple. DON’T MAKE THEM!! There is nothing worse than responding to a situation and solving it in your mind before you arrive (For the officer) Also, there is also nothing worse than having an encounter with an officer and telling him/her, “I know what this is” or, “I know what’s about to happen” or, “My friend was involved in the same situation”. It is our job as citizens of this community, to work together in all situations. This starts by getting past all the stereotypes that exist between the officer and the citizen. Remember, all situations are unique, and never “ANTICIPATE” an ending. Lastly, before every encounter, the officer and the citizen have something in common. (EACH ONE OF THEM HAS THE RIGHT TO RETURN TO THEIR FAMILIES AFTER IT’S OVER). If you can remember this and think about it during every encounter with an officer and both parties can be fair with each other, this will not only ensure safety, it will also save lives. Thank you!
Each scenario will give you a brief look into the lives of a Law Enforcement Officer. Take a moment before we start and ask yourself, what kind of person am I? How can I stay out of these situations? I want to be treated fairly, so shouldn’t I be truthful and respectful? Applying these principles is the first step towards a peaceful encounter with not only law enforcement, but these simple steps will also help in community relations as a whole. I will also email this presentation so the video links can be accessed.