Public Trust of Police

Trust strikes at the heart of why our constitutional form of government works.  If people have a general trust for the legal system, police in particular, they are more likely to follow the law.  In fact, the reason we can police with so few officers is that the majority of citizens are moral and trust us. Former U.S. President John Adams once wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We can’t do our job unless the public trusts us.  Without public support and cooperation, our efforts would be paralyzed.  People who trust us are more compliant – even the bad guys.  Those on the edge are more likely to provide information.
Trust also creates a safer working environment for the police.  Some time ago, one of our officers, who was being assaulted, was rescued by a group of men attending an AA meeting.  You can guess that many of these guys had probably been arrested for DUI or something else in the past.  The fact that they put themselves in jeopardy to save a police officer is a tribute to the way police dealt with them in the past.
Public confidence in police has been steady at 50-60% over the past couple decades even though crime has trended downward since 1990.  The Gallup poll illustrated above puts this confidence into perspective as compared to other institutions.
Two keys to obtaining trust are character first and then competence second.
The perception of fairness is more important than outcome.  People need to be listened to and know that police are neutral.  Even if we don’t always get it right, it’s important that the public trust that we’re trying to do the right thing.  To that end, we tell you like it is, but also try to be nice about it.
Our good intentions aren’t enough.  We also need to deliver results.  When we screw up, we try to fix it.  The people inside the police department are doing a fantastic job of delivering results and we’re pushing the bar higher.  I’ll write more on this in another blog.
The public’s trust is sacred and if I ever get a little defensive about it, it’s probably because I know our motives are pure.  I also know that without the public trust, we couldn’t do our job effectively.