Being a police officer is tough. On a daily basis, police officers put their lives on the line, work long and irregular hours, and deal with a nearly unparalleled level of public scrutiny. While the vast majority of officers are aware of the high ethical standards to which they’re held and make major personal sacrifices to ensure the public trust, a few bad apples have unfortunately damaged that sense of public trust and created a problem for officers across the country.
In recent weeks, media outlets have been writing about the Plain View Project, a collection of over 5,000 inflammatory social media posts made by police officers in departments across the US. For members of distressed communities in particular, this review of police behavior on Facebook has confirmed many people’s worst suspicions about law enforcement, suggesting that the police are not to be trusted, or there to protect them. While the project has shown that there are concerning behaviors that departments might consider addressing, it has also damaged the reputations of many dedicated officers who work hard to ensure public safety.
What can police departments do to restore the trust they’ve worked to build? Though there’s no silver bullet, one step that law enforcement agencies can take is to identify inflammatory and toxic behaviors before they have a chance to enter your department.