Common Sense Summary: C.A.R.E. by Our Police
C – Comply with the law
A – Act Orderly
R – Respect each other (with our words and actions)
E – Empathize—stand in each other’s shoes
Stay safe on the streets. Contest in the courts.
Encounters between the police and citizens are changing rapidly and will continue to evolve. Although most police interactions with the public are uneventful — handled with courtesy, professionalism and respect — every day seems to bring another incident that causes public concern about the training and conduct of our police officers. Unfortunately, the consequences of individual events can quickly overshadow the daily valor and service of the police and, in turn, undermine the public trust required for effective law enforcement.
Expectations for police accountability have never been higher — nor has the need for an effective police force that can work closely with its citizens. Police departments are once again at a crossroad to protect the public, yet maintain the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and restraint — especially, when using force. At the same time, officers are also facing heightened risks to their own personal safety.
- REMEMBER: Community trust and support is necessary for effective law enforcement. It is hard won over years and with significant effort. A single event can destroy this bond.
- REMEMBER: Every police officer is an ambassador and messenger on behalf of all law enforcement. Every question, stop, investigation or arrest leaves a lasting impression — on the subject, the victim and the public. So does every life protected and saved. Citizens increasingly share their experience with others through conversation, technology and social media. Their voices are also heard when they vote and serve on juries.
- Keep in mind the “golden rule” for policing and community relations. As a former senior law enforcement official recounted: “When I was first sworn in, my mother pinned the badge on me. She told not to let the uniform or my authority go to my head. Stay safe, but treat all people as I would want her to be treated by the police.”
- Always remember your training and follow departmental procedures and the law. Effective policing is about the ability to change in response to changed conditions. Over the past 50 years, there have been significant improvements to police training and practices. This process is continuing today.
- Many departments are addressing the need for greater transparency and innovation with respect to training, community outreach, the use of force, conflict resolution, "stops and frisks", the recording of police interactions, and responding to citizen complaints.
- Even for the smallest of police departments or those with limited funding and recruitment avenues, there are now many resources to ensure better police training and practices. Departments must continue to access resources such as the 2015 Presidential Task Force on Policing, the US Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police training.
- Experience, insights, data and technologies offer the potential for greater safety for both the public and the police. Remain open to the possibilities. Ideas and improvements will come from a wide range of sources — law enforcement, the legal community, academia, the private sector, technology, and our citizens.
- As new forms of training, practices and equipment are introduced, a modern police department’s adaptability — and an officer’s embrace of these changes — will be critical for maintaining the public’s confidence, trust and cooperation.
- Adopting new forms of training, practices, and equipment will also help ensure officer safety.
- The sworn duty of the police is to uphold the law and protect the public. To do their job, officers must keep themselves safe. At times, the job requires split-second decisions during tense, violent and ambiguous situations. At times, it does not. Remember your situational training, as well as the ability to communicate with other officers to get help.
- Understand that most police encounters do not require physical force, a Taser, pepper spray — no less a firearm. They are resolved by careful observation, well chosen words, and, if needed, the assistance of other officers.
- A citizen’s failure to comply with a lawful order of a police officer — by action or inaction — may be disrespectful or even a non-violent form of protest. It does not place the subject above the law. It also does not necessarily create a dangerous situation.
- If a subject is rude and verbally abusive, do not “rise to the bait.” Your job is to maintain your calm, as well as your and the public’s safety. De-escalate the potential for conflict with your words and, if needed, backup.
- Emotional, distraught or agitated behavior does not mean criminality. A police officer encounters these behaviors regularly. It requires a necessary skill set to assess these situations and any threat to the person or the public. Medical and psychological assistance may be needed. Inquire, investigate and respond accordingly.
- Citizens are no longer uninformed about their constitutional protections. Your responses to their lawful assertion of rights must be respectful, professional and measured.
- If you are not in uniform, identify yourself and show your identification — as soon as the situation safely allows.
- When possible — and in accordance with your department's guidelines — explain the reason for your stop or arrest. Do so in a professional and respectful manner.
- You may encounter a citizen who is misinformed about their rights and the law. Continue to perform your duties within the correct standard, while explaining politely that you have noted their rights and objections.
- Unfortunately, individuals seeking to file litigation may try to provoke an altercation with the police. They may do so through aggressive words and actions. Keep in mind their objectives. Maintain professionalism, courtesy and restraint in the face of such efforts.
- Follow your department’s rules in allowing citizens to record police activity.
- Respect the rights of the press and the importance of their work. A free press is one of our most important Constitutional guarantees, and helps safeguard the freedom of all.
At the outset, it is important for all officers to remember the extraordinary bond that exists between the police and the public. People want to view the police as their partners in ensuring the safety and security of their families and communities. They also want to assist the police in pursuing justice and doing the right thing. This is a trust that must be earned and defended daily.
There are many prominent examples of citizen support for police efforts (9/11, the Times Square bombing attempt , the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Emanuel AME church murders in Charleston). In reality, however, every day — without fanfare, media coverage or reward — people rise to the occasion to assist the police. This can be seen in the many voluntary calls to 911, the response to police requests for help on a specific case, the mobilizations around Amber Alerts, and the public’s support when a police officer is shot. The popularity and impact of such television shows as America’s Most Wanted and The Hunt illustrate the connection people want to have with law enforcement.
Nonetheless, significant factors are now reshaping the reality and perceptions of police-community relations — raising profound political and public concern over law enforcement practices:
- On a nationwide basis, numerous court cases have been filed, alleging serious misconduct. Many of these cases have resulted in settlements requiring court-ordered reforms and significant awards to victims and their families.
- Criminal charges against police officers are no longer the exception — nor are convictions. With greater frequency, investigations are opened and charges filed — even years after incidents have occurred.
- Many civil and criminal cases against the police are awaiting trial and settlement. These cases will continue to receive wide coverage by the news and social media.
- In response to reports of state and local police violations of constitutional rights, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has launched widespread civil rights investigations. Already, DoJ’s inquiries have found longstanding patterns of civil rights violations, bias, excessive force, and other misconduct by entire police departments — including the improper use of force. Many investigations are ongoing.
- There is a growing view that the police cannot be trusted to police themselves. Increasingly, judges are ordering reforms — and independent outside monitors — to ensure that police departments change their practices.
- The digital age has brought both possibility and scrutiny to policing. Security cameras are everywhere. Armed with a cell phone and other technologies, anyone can become a credible witness, reporter, whistle-blower and tipster. Various groups now train and equip people with special technology to record police events and forward the content.
- For both evidentiary and defensive reasons (to counter false allegations), many police departments are now either using or considering equipping their officers with recording technology.
- There are more and more channels ready, willing and able to distribute information about police behavior. The 24-7 news cycle and social media networks now offer content a place to go and to live forever.
- The ability of social networks to quickly share information and mobilize individuals now guarantees rapid public responses, including demonstrations — in support of and in opposition to — police actions.
- The verdict by public opinion will arrive ahead of any formal investigation or court case — often on the basis of a few seconds of viral video or sound. Due to the speed at which information can travel and organize within the networks of news and social media, conclusions about events will quickly form and harden.
- Misinformation can also be accepted as the truth and form the basis of public opinion, litigation and even indictments. As Mark Twain observed well before there was a digital age: “A lie can travel half way around the world, while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
- Officers’ versions of events will be increasingly questioned and viewed with skepticism. More and more, the credibility of the police is challenged in both courts of law and the “court of public opinion.” Citizens were once willing to give officers the benefit of the doubt in almost all instances. No longer.
- Some citizens may view the absence of law enforcement recordings or the malfunctioning of such technology to be for purposes of hiding misconduct.
- As a result of the speed of our digital channels, the public now also expects the administration of justice to be even swifter. This rush for justice — particularly against the police — can easily push aside the timelines for fact-finding and due process. “We have enough to convict now — there can be a trial later.”
- Notwithstanding the lack of reporting of positive stories about the police, tremendous community support for law enforcement remains.