I was asked by a police chief the other day why it was so hard to gain the trust of minority groups. He seemed a little stunned when I asked him what he had done to gain their trust. He had no answer other than to say “I do my job and make sure that they have police protection.” I asked him if the community members believed that they were equal and true stakeholders. I told him that we need to stop looking at minorities as minorities. Yes, they are different, we are different, I am a minority. I am a Hispanic Police Chief in East Texas. Look at each community member as a stakeholder, not as a color, or race. Yes, you will have to relate to the culture, but have you shown a vested interest in their communities? The following is what I shared with him, and I hope that it helps anyone else out there that may be having the same issue.
It is apparent that research shows that minorities are more likely to view law enforcement with suspicion and distrust. Minorities report that the police inexplicably single them out because of their race or ethnicity. Is this a fact or a misconception?
It goes without saying that the public’s opinions about the lawfulness and legitimacy of law enforcement are an important gauge for judging policing in society.
Racial and ethnic minority perceptions that the police lack lawfulness and legitimacy are based mainly on their dealings with the police, and can lead to distrust of the police. Distrust of police has serious consequences. It destabilizes the validity of law enforcement, and without legitimacy, police lose their ability and authority to function successfully.
The question is then how do you gain the trust of the minority community? While there is no true simple solution to winning over the minority communities, there are plenty of things that one can do to bridge the gap.
1. Be genuine with the minority communities that you serve.
2. Understand the culture of the minority communities that you serve. The better you understand and can relate to their culture the more you will gain their trust.
A. Traditions and values will be different, understand them.
B. Vocabulary and language will be different, learn it.
3. Keep your word: Look into it or return a call if you said you would.
4. Be visible in the different parts of your community. Visit, eat and attend events in the different minority communities.
A. Don’t just show up for a photo opportunity or with a news crew.
B. Don’t just show up when incidents happen. Show your face all the time; let the minority community get to know you.
5. If you say, you embrace community policing then make sure the entire department embraces it.
6. Be transparent, not because it is the current trending word, but because that’s who you are.
This has been the secret to my success and a creed to live by in any profession, not just policing. The job of a police chief is not easy by any stretch of the imagination; however, some of us make it harder than it needs to be. Understand that we are all different, but we all just want to be treated with respect. This is the profession we were called into, so no matter how bad things get out there, hold true to your integrity.