The idea law enforcement needs more transparency is usually taken as a negative. Uninformed citizens see what popular media pushes and believe every word. However, informed citizens see what popular media pushes and still see there is a problem. Additionally, POLICE AGREE there is something wrong and missing. For years I studied police work and conflict theory. I have friends growing in the profession. Now I am interacting a little closer with police.
I have noticed a very real trend of stress.
It is like there is a battle of what they used to be and who they are now. The person they once were is dead because the person the world sees them as is not that or the things they have seen or done has stripped the innocence from them.
I went out with a friend of mine (a police officer) and we had a long conversation. During the conversation I began to realize he needed it more than me. For background, I was in graduate school going to Columbia University and obsessed with the thought, "Understanding is the path to peace." I was researching the similarities of a conflict between two people and conflict within society. I wanted to see if I could figure out a program or way to help communities communicate better, which would lead to better understanding, which - LONG SHOT - could lead to peace.
At the time I wasn't thinking of First Responders Live but it was living in my brain.
Anyway, I digress.
Flashback to the conversation I was having with my friend. This night I realized he was and had changed dramatically from the kid I knew in high school. He was always serious/funny/focused but he wasn't numb. This night he told me something you hear from combat veterans and/or someone who survived a traumatic event. What he said stuck in my head:
"Myself and some of the other guys came into this thing [being cops] expecting to change the world. We were going to be different. The older guys would never tell us to stop thinking that way but they could not rally behind the energy. Well after being on the road now for a few years I get why. People look at us weird. They think we are always judging them. There isn't much good news surrounding our profession. If we do something good, it's not really shared because we don't want to brag about it - it's supposed to happen. But if we make a mistake, people attack us and don't give us an inch. It's really stressful. The older guys start to see us change. They don't say, 'I told you so,' or anything weird but they get it. Corbett, I don't know what your plan is yet but I hope this helps. I mean, it's not easy. Society really doesn't like us much and it's okay."
We had this conversation almost 4 years ago now and I have never stopped thinking about it. It is on my mind, a lot. Sure, police are held to a higher moral standard and quite honestly they should be. However, police are HUMAN. Humans make mistakes. Humans are flawed. Citizens need to understand this. I think citizens should be mad if a cop does something egregiously wrong. But, sometimes, an officer makes a mistake.
I think it is up to citizens to try and reintegrate officers BACK into society. When the first police force was formed in the 1800's it was KEY for them to have a good relationship with citizens. The only way an officer could solve a crime was with help from citizens.
I have a radical idea - not really radical - that if we begin to accept police back into society and allow for SOME type of open conversation, maybe an officer wouldn't be so timid to approach a person. Maybe if we accept first responders back into society, maybe a PERSON wouldn't be so afraid of an officer approaching him or her. Why? Because they know one another in some way.
Look, yes, this leads into me plugging First Responders Live into the conversation but I hope you see it is natural. This could be a simple bridge towards a much needed impact. Citizens may actually get to know some of the men and women serving them. Maybe citizens will begin to say hello to an officer more. Maybe First Responders Live will give a talking point for the officer and citizen to have during interactions.
However, for any of this to happen the police have to embrace the idea of having a camera in a vehicle - even if an officer isn't saying ANYTHING - for a few minutes every week or day.
If you want to try and implement this program or even have a conversation about it, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading.