Building trust on duty
In many towns and cities, some members of minority communities do not trust police officers. Many in law enforcement work to build trust among those they serve.
Clearly, however, enforcing the law is the department’s overriding priority. We pay police officers and sheriff’s deputies to keep us safe, not necessarily to be our friends.
Commendable efforts to that end occur in our local communities every day. Officers work with Crime Watch groups. School resource officers interact with children in our schools. And special events include opportunities to get acquainted with police.
During former President Barack Obama’s administration, it at times seemed police departments were being urged to make law enforcement a secondary consideration. More important was avoiding complaints from within their communities, some in Washington appeared to suggest.
To that end, the Justice Department created a “collaborative reform” program. In essence, it offered communities help with community trust issues — if they requested it.
Now, under President Donald Trump, there will be less emphasis on that program, it was revealed recently. More resources will be devoted to helping local agencies in law enforcement.
Again, that does need to be the major thrust of Justice Department activity. But enforcing the law effectively requires a certain amount of trust in the community.
For that reason, the Justice Department should not scrap its Community Oriented Policing Services program. Towns, cities and counties requesting help through it should be accommodated.
Surely the federal government can, as we sometimes say, walk and chew gum at the same time.