Police need to connect with communities they serve

Jayden Lawrence, Staff Writer

When thinking about the duty that police officers have to their community, how does one trust the officers who are there to “protect and serve”? There is a unique bond that exists between police officers and the people they serve in communities across the country. This bond is based on trust, mutual respect and the common goal of creating safer communities. 

However, this bond can also be broken when officers engage in misconduct, and there is no one to hold them accountable. Currently, in the city of Antioch there exists an example of this bond being broken.

Dr. Anthony Hailey, a former police officer and current criminal justice instructor at Los Medanos College, believes that there is another bond that isn’t talked about as much – the bond between officers. The officer bond, according to Hailey, is one of the reasons why officers often go unpunished for their misdeeds. 

“Officers tend to have this close-knit association where they don’t talk about each other,” said Hailey. “So a lot of times, you don’t have any witnesses who can testify to the bad deeds that certain officers did.”

Hailey also believes that civilian review boards should have more of a say in police investigations. 

“If we started depending on civilian review boards to do the investigations instead of just reviewing the investigations done by the internal affairs, we could get better results,” Hailey explained. “We need to make sure officers are trained to understand ethnic diversity.” 

Hailey proposed that there should be one national police academy to do that, as it’s hard for immigrants to understand that laws change in different states. The differences are a direct result of federalism, our 10th amendment that grants power to the states.

Forty-five Antioch police officers were let go during a pending FBI investigation in which officers made comments insulting different racial groups. Some cultures have had a variety of experiences with slave owners, which can be compared to police in terms of authority. The history of policing shows that some common police tendencies today come from slavery. This is what makes the Antioch case so disheartening, as it seems the past is still rooted in officers’ behaviors today. 

LMC Police Lt. Ryan Huddleston commented about the situation, “Obviously not working there or being a member of the Antioch PD, I don’t know the whole story,” he said. “But I can tell you this, the accusations are horrific, they’re absolutely disgusting. I appreciate the fact that they’re doing an investigation. There is no place for that in any capacity whatsoever. Now with their community, as police officers, they can work together, reinvent themselves and reestablish themselves with their community.” 

Exacerbating the policing problem is that there is no permanent record currently for police officers across the 50 states, which can lead to a fresh start for problem officers. 

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said adamantly, “well I think it’s a touchy subject because you’re dealing with federalism.” That makes it more difficult to impose a general law that may conflict with the differing laws in different states.

However, Hailey also acknowledged that not all officers are bad and said new technologies are being used to better protect the communities they serve. This is why civilian review boards should have more say, he said, as these are the communities that should be trusting them. 

Should the police have more training before they take roles of power in their communities? In some other nations, at least a two-year training is needed before you can take on the role of an officer. 

Huddleston believes that police officers and departments already work with the community to help serve their needs in their vigorous training. 

“CA POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) requires officers to attend a certain amount of training every two years.” Huddleston said in an email interview, “This allows the officers to continue to work and prepare, so if a situation were to happen they are prepared to address it in the safest manner necessary.” 

But how can they show the public that they are serving them? 

According to Huddleston, “This can be done in many different ways. It can be achieved through education, enforcement, and community service. Remaining professional throughout these different interactions should always be what is expected.” 

Huddleston knows there is a strained relationship with the general public, but said that most officers have the public’s best interests in mind.

Hailey and Huddleston both believe the bond between police officers and the communities they serve is vital in creating a safe and maintained community, but there must be accountability and transparency when dealing with the people they serve. Hailey said citizen review boards can play a vital role in ensuring that officers who engage in misconduct are held accountable for their actions. 

“We need to make sure that we have a system in place that is fair to everyone and ensures that justice is done,” said Hailey. So with these breaking stories on our policing in America, the next time you see a police officer I implore you to look beyond the badge, but at their impact on a community.