In many cities across the country, police departments and residents are consumed by incidents in which officers used force and people died, how they happened and what can be done better in the future.
The best time to improve the interaction of the police and public, though, is before there’s a tragedy.
Atlantic City is doing just that, taping local and distant resources to implement two innovative programs. One aims to help ensure the kinds of police-public interactions that build trust and mutual appreciation. The other trains reformed and rehabilitated residents to help defuse conflicts and potentially violent situations.
Last month with the help of criminal justice professors and law enforcement veterans at Stockton University, the city Police Department began adopting a policy called procedural justice. That focuses on the details of police behavior during interactions with the public with a goal of increasing communication, transparency, trust and mutual respect.
One of the Stockton professors and a former head of the Turkish National Police, Nusret Sahin, said the technique involves spending more time with citizens and explaining to them the process involving them — perhaps including why enforcing a particular law is important.
The four steps of procedural justice include: allowing citizens to explain their situations and listening to what they have to say; making decisions based on rules, not personal opinions or biases; treating people with dignity and respect, and explaining what the police have done or will do; and showing they care about a citizen’s well-being.