Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Police Are First Social Responders; Let's Help Them Work with Citizens; 'Peacekeeper' Model; Foster Collaborations between Police Officers and Social Service Agencies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Police Are First Social Responders; Let's Help Them Work with Citizens; 'Peacekeeper' Model; Foster Collaborations between Police Officers and Social Service Agencies

Article excerpt

A great deal of media and public attention has been given to the recent deaths of African-Americans resulting from police interactions. This attention has resulted in public outcry against current police tactics and the historical treatment of minorities, particularly African-Americans, by police officers.

To date, some important ideas have emerged, such as the use of body cameras, de-escalation training and the adherence to and possibly revision of deadly force policies/procedures. However, these concrete solutions must be augmented by a change in the overall philosophy of policing. Are police officers law enforcers or peacekeepers? The "law enforcement" model assumes a more militaristic, reactive and aggressive approach to citizen interactions, while the "peacekeeper" model promotes a more interactive and empathetic approach.

Studies indicate that the majority of a police officer's time (up to 90 percent) is spent in non-arrest situations, frequently referred to as service calls. Many of these calls involve citizens who are dealing with common day-to-day, noncriminal problems. The request for police assistance with these problems is often due to a lack of other resources, diminished coping skills, overwhelming frustration and/or feelings of hopelessness. The police department is often the first professional organization engaged by the family to address an acute or chronic difficulty for which there is no apparent solution. Thus, police officers regularly serve as first social responders. Interestingly, studies of police cadets suggest that they often want to be police officers for altruistic reasons, to help individuals and society; seemingly a good fit. Yet is it?

Police usually receive little academy or post-academy training in child development, mental health issues, conflict resolution, etc. There is nothing on the standard duty belt to address these issues; only equipment for arrest or deterrence: typically handcuffs, gun, ammunition, Taser, rubber gloves and asp. But social and interpersonal issues occupy the majority of their work day.

There have been successful efforts to foster collaborations between police officers and social service agencies. …

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