The Vera Institute of Justice released three guidebooks last week, aimed at helping police build trust with diverse communities and better protect them in the process.
Written with support from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Police Perspectives Guidebook Series: Building a Diverse Nation advises police on how to connect with the residents of different races, religions and cultures, acknowledging that many police departments are much whiter than the communities they serve.
The guides address the first recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: building trust and legitimacy.
Though police departments remain among the most trusted U.S. institutions, Americans’ confidence in the police hit a 22-year low last year, as the disproportionate use of violence by police against people of color has made headlines repeatedly.
“Recent high-profile, tragic events have called attention to the importance of law enforcement serving their communities in a way that they want and need to be treated,” said Susan Shah, chief of staff at the Vera Institute of Justice in a statement. “These guides shine a spotlight on successful community policing practices across the nation, giving police officers concrete strategies to build trust with the people they serve, foster open communication with local leaders, and work jointly with the community in co-producing public safety.”
Sixty-three police officers contributed to the guides, which advise officers and departments on everything from connecting with faith-based organizations to conducting youth outreach.
The first of the three guides, How to Increase Cultural Understanding, provides an enlightening history of racial bias in American policing from its origins in southern “slave patrols” through broken windows and stop-and-frisk to today.
The second, How to Serve Diverse Communities, advises police on connecting with marginalized groups. Sections detailing the unique vulnerabilities of immigrants, refugees, transgender people and another minorities encourage police to understand special public safety needs in the context of a historically mistrustful relationship with police.
The third, How to Support Trust Building in Your Agency, looks at the police department as an institution, providing recommendations for how agencies can diversify their police force, and integrate community policing into department culture.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.