Respect for the Individual and Their Rights
I’ve been asked, how do you ensure that citizens understand their Rights and law enforcement officers understand their scope and limits of authority related to individual Rights?
I believe that ethical leadership, committed to fair and equal treatment of all individuals is the foundation. A clear message, communicated from the leader of the organization that fully expresses the expectation, obligation, and commitment to Constitutional Policing practices is critical. This should be an official policy and listed in the organization's mission statement, as well as reflected in the core values and guiding principles of the agency.
All law enforcement officers swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitution of the State of Arkansas. This requires that we as law enforcement officers fully understand the U.S. Bill of Rights and Article 2 of the Arkansas Constitution.
There are many nuances during officer-citizen contacts that require critical thought and contextual understanding by the law enforcement officer. There are many "what if" scenarios that determine the scope and limit of a law enforcement officer's authority during any encounter. As a leader, you must understand and ensure that your subordinate personnel understand the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure and applicable case law.
Proper personnel recruiting, selection, training, and retention is critical. Every person has a different background, education, life and professional experiences which have bearing on their personal values, principles, and beliefs. In law enforcement there are many "minimum" standards which must be met to qualify for employment. I quote minimum because I literally despise that word when applied to achieving any standard. Aiming for the “minimum” sets you up for eventual failure. In my opinion, the key factor when selecting personnel is past decision making. Past performance does give you an indication of future results.
Integrity is non-negotiable. An officer can be trained to do any task the job requires, but you can’t train what's in their heart.
There must be consistent, timely oversight by command and supervisory staff to monitor the actions of their personnel. Mandatory body camera and mobile video recording reviews of citizen contacts by supervisors can identify training needs, inter-personal communication issues, adherence to policies and procedures, as well as showing outstanding performance of duty. Any deviation from the standards or other training issues which are identified require counseling, remedial training, or other administrative action, depending on the severity of the infraction. Outstanding performance should be publicly acknowledged. This creates a climate of “catch a cop doing something right” which is a powerful leadership tool and serves to encourage others to meet that standard of performance. A little appreciation for a job well-done goes a long way.
There must also be a process in place for citizens to bring forth complaints against an officer and to allow for an internal investigation of the complaint. Unless there is trust in the agency’s leadership, few individuals will use this process. If the person believes that nothing will be done because "they take care of each other", they’ll see it as a waste of time. This lack of confidence compounds the problem of potential misconduct or improper behavior. If the issue is never addressed, the behavior continues which further erodes trust.
Community inclusion and education about law enforcement's role, scope and limits of law enforcement officer’s authority, best practices during officer-citizen contacts, Constitutional Rights review as well as posting the Sheriff's policy manual online so that everyone understands the rules that govern the daily activities are critical steps towards achieving mutual understanding.
I compare all of that to playing back-yard football. If the rules are not communicated and understood by all before the game starts, someone will eventually tackle you when everyone else thinks they're playing touch. People get angry and the conflict cycle begins. The difference is we are not playing a game. Daily citizen – officer interactions can be deadly serious or have other life-long consequences for the citizen, officer, community, and agency.
One way to bridge this gap, educate the public and the law enforcement officer is to conduct a Citizen's Academy. As a trainer, I assisted with the NLRPD Citizens Police Academy which was a huge success. I believe that when community members and law enforcement officers have a mutual understanding of each other’s concerns and the roles, we each play, respect is earned.
Respect for the individual and their Rights as well as their property is achieved if you see each other as partners, each working towards the common goal of bettering the community.
If as law enforcement officers, we would just follow the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, and understand that we are servants and act accordingly, we will earn the community's respect.
Law Enforcement Code of Ethics
As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice.
I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice, or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession… law enforcement
Posted on 25 Jan 2022, 14:53 - Category: News