Community events such as those that take place for National Night Out every fall in Texas are a good step for nurturing understanding of law enforcement, especially with young children. Free hot dogs and drinks, high-fives with McGruff and other fun activities help build a relationship in a relaxed, friendly environment.
Building a level of respect and humanizing both officers and residents is important at times that aren’t high-tension or uncomfortable, such as during a traffic stop or police responding to a disturbance at someone’s home.
Too often cultural differences and preconceptions cause what should be minor, routine encounters to escalate into attention-grabbing headlines and heightened social conflict. Suspects should not act out of defiance or fear; officers should not act out of fear or needless aggression.
But respect is not instantly granted. It must be earned.
Community policing programs aim to build that respect by creating understanding that not every suspect is a potentially violent criminal, and not every officer is a bigoted hothead.
Southern Brazoria County law enforcement leaders should be commended for their work to build bridges of trust with the people they protect and serve. We have featured several of their efforts in recent weeks to develop relationships on both an individual and group basis.
Angleton is hosting regular breakfasts with faith leaders and discussing important topics they each encounter on a regular basis. Clute is opening new avenues to get the community more involved in helping officers investigate crimes. Richwood’s chief invites resident to spend a night with him on patrol to get a first-hand look at policing the city.
These are just some of the ways local officers are connecting with their communities. Citizens police academies long have been an effective tool in multiple cities, as have the popular Coffee with a Cop sessions hosted in West Columbia, Freeport, Lake Jackson and elsewhere.
Without a willingness to shake hands, sit down and learn about each other as people, too many encounters have the potential to escalate. Developing a relationship with the community as a whole and people as individuals diffuses that potential long before officers are called to a scene.