[IPAC-List] Relations between community and police: How can we help?

mhammer at 295.ca mhammer at 295.ca
Tue Jun 30 20:10:18 EDT 2020

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police. 
Though opinions vary as to whether he actually devised them, we know that
he advanced 9 principles of policing within the the service that came to
be known as the Peelian Principles.  They are:

1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and
2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon
public approval of police actions
3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary
observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the
4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes
proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force
5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by pandering to public
opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the
6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance
of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion,
advice and warning is found to be insufficient
7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public
that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the
public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the
public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are
incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and
8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their
functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary
9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder not
the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it

Despite the hue and cry to abolish or defund the police, I think the
overwhelming majority of citizens would be quite at home with a police
service that conformed well, and observedly so, to these principles.  So
for me, the question is "How do we get back to that?", since at the moment
there are many who express the view that we've strayed.

I think the publicly perceived gaps between those principles and their
lived experience, as well as the police's perceived gaps between how they
attempt to adhere to the principles and their lived experience, would make
for an exceptional set of public consultations and town halls.  Yes, there
will undoubtedly be shouting and complaining and accusations.  But I find
when people focus on a common desirable objective (e.g., #7), they more
readily find useful and productive compromise and compassion.

Are things like recruitment, and selection/promotion criteria and
procedures one of many potential barriers to fruitful and satisfying
relationships between police and those they serve?  Yeah, probably.  And
kudos to all hard at work honing selection tools that only get us the
best.  But there's selection of individuals, and there's the manner in
which prevailing culture reshapes individuals.  So, for me, the big hurdle
to clear is the culture itself.

I don't think that is the police's job alone.  Their culture is shaped by
how the community sees them.  And in turn, the community sees them based
on their lived experience.  So Joel is spot on in suggesting that
community engagement in the bettering of police is crucial.

Still, I'm of the view that focusing on the principles, and asking how the
role of the police and their relationship with the community can come
closer to each of those nine principles, is better than asking how to
improve this or that concrete aspect within police services HRM.

Finally, some years back I was corresponding with a researcher working on
cross-racial perception of emotion.  Her studies indicated that people
were generally poorer at interpreting emotional expression in racial
groups other than their own.  The exceptions were individuals who grew up
in multi-racial neighbourhoods and had greater familiarity with many kinds
of faces and forms of emotional expression.  I asked her if she had ever
considered the forensic possibilities for her work.  She was somewhat
surprised by the idea; something she had never considered.  I suggested to
her that most police chiefs would give their right arm for a validated
test kit that would a priori allow them to identify recruits who were
likely to have difficulty interacting effectively with some racial groups
because they couldn't read those faces accurately.  Not so much to screen
people out, but more to place officers where they could do their best
work, and cause the fewest problems.  Insomuch as the woman's research
indicated that one could learn to better read faces and emotions of other
racial groups, that also suggests identifying officers who could be sent
for further development.  To some extent, I imagine that deficits in
interpreting emotional expression is also a part of the interactions with
mentally-ill citizens in distress that turn fatal.  Bottom line: skill in
reading diverse people can be a vital part of selection.  Do not confuse
this with "emotional intelligence" in general.  Frankly, I don't care that
much if the recruit is in touch with their feelings.  I *do* care that
they have a reasonably accurate take on what the person they are
approaching is feeling and thinking.  I want to know that they can tell
the difference between someone being smug and being quietly resigned,
between being in distress and being aggressive.

In some respects, the suggested town halls may lead to suggest areas where
selection tools and procedures might be improved, or criteria re-weighted.
 But I think a good place to start is by both "sides" recognizing that
they want the same thing.

Okay, enough from me.
Mark Hammer

> Seeking suggestions of things that we could do to improve the
> relationship between communities and the police departments that serve
> them.
> (Interpret this broadly, to include psychometric, HR, and general
> management/administration domains.)
> For example, I have used community representatives as members of oral
> boards for selection and promotion in public safety departments.  I did
> this years ago, but it worked well then.
> A presumed benefit of such involvement is that the community is invested
> in the development of the selection/promotion criteria and in the
> evaluation of individual candidates, and that makes it harder for the
> community to criticize the officers in the future.
> Take care,
> Joel
> --
> Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
> Applied Personnel Research
> 62 Candlewood Road
> Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
> http://www.linkedin.com/in/joelwiesen
> (617) 244-8859
> http://appliedpersonnelresearch.com
> Continuing Education website (home study of recent journal articles):
> https://www.aprtestingservice.com/
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