A Breach of Trust, Where to Now? 

 Sir Robert Peel was right in observing the police are the community and the community are the police. In fact police only do two things, they develop relationships and disrupt relationships by developing public trust or using social controls to maintain law and order in a society. Balancing trust and control against a baseline of the law has to be done with virtue, “doing the right thing the right way”. If it lacks virtue, public trust will go down and the government will have little choice but to increase social controls in order to re-establish a baseline of law and order. It is equally important that the community and the police can predict each other’s behavior against this baseline in order to maintain stability and balance. It is possible to achieve a state of stasis with low levels of public trust and high levels of social control resulting in a high level of conformity even with a high level of dissonance with the baseline. Examples abound around the globe from North Korea to Syria but these counter-social environments are unacceptable in most open and democratic societies.

Meghan Trainer tells us that relationships are all about the base, no trouble! When a relationship exists in an unstable and imbalanced state there is a lack of predictability of behavior against a baseline of behavioral norms. When a segment of a community perceives a breach of trust in the baseline of social norms they are likely to use their own measures of control to re-establish stability and balance to restore predictability of behavior. This is often met with higher levels of social control by the government to regain security often leading to a negative conflict spiral. An example are the riots in Ferguson, Missouri where the local police gave way to the county police, the county police to the state police, and the state police to the National Guard before security could be restored.

Disruptors lead to conflict and conflict that is not resolved leads to crisis. All relationships have conflict and functional relationships are measured by how well the conflict is resolved in order to manage the baseline of expected norms for behavior. There will always be disruptors(sic) to society's baseline because not everyone on society will take ownership of the baseline (law). These provocateurs include those who simply reject the baseline for their own personal, economic, social, or political objectives, those who feign conformity to the baseline but with nefarious intent (insider threat), those who accept ownership of the baseline but perceive a breach of trust, and those who accept ownership of the baseline but become contemptuous of controls. Without ownership there is no accountability but still the vast majority of the community will conform to the baseline (law) even if there is dissonance between the baseline and their personal values.

Recent crises in Missouri and New York are a reflection of a societal problem that transcends a city's size. That’s because relationship problems transcend politics, economics, social, and personal interests. The elements of these conflicts are more complex than a singular incident and are the result of a slippery slope of neglect. A lack of engagement, crisis mitigation, conflict resolution, and effective threat assessment from police have left little choice but to be reactive to violations of the baseline. Ultimately it is an intelligence failure when a police chief knows there is an undertow of racial unrest, but failed to have an effective proactive community oriented policing (COP) program to identify the extent of the problem. Then again, it could simply be a result of a police culture that emphasizes metrics-driven reactive enforcement over proactive prevention.

As police budgets have been cut over the last 5-7 years, COP programs have been cut severely. The qualitative outputs and outcomes from a COP program are much harder to metric than quantitative law enforcement results, like arrests, call out rates, and crime rates. As law enforcement programs embraced intel-led targeting practices and emphasized zero tolerance programs some members in the community have perceived a breach of public trust and/or become contemptuous of social controls resulting in their own use of controls in response. Pop culture including music has contributed to the cultural divide between the police and the community. These community members have lost faith in systems of governance and have objectified the brave men and women charged with managing community relationships, keeping the peace, and enforcing the law. Many of these individuals have developed an inside the box mindset that is cognitively closed. They have become intolerant and unaccepting of other’s viewpoints. In this dichotomous mental state of “us vs. them” they can de-humanize their enemy and reason the necessity for killing them, call it the extremist mindset.

Teaching police executives from around the world has led me to identify a couple of destabilizing issues that might have contributed to a lack of resiliency in communities like Ferguson, Oakland, and New York City. The first has to do with identity. One of the first things I ask my students has to do with identity. I ask them to raise their hands if they see themselves as law enforcement officers, intelligence officers, or peace officers and in most cases the majority identify as law enforcement. I tell them that their professional identity should be as police officers and they should consider the other 3 as functions of policing. If they see themselves as law enforcement officers then they shouldn't be surprised if their community members see them as enforcers of the law rather than keepers of the peace. The second contributing factor maybe the product of the law enforcement identity. I ask my students which function of policing consumes the majority of their department's budget, prevention, intelligence, or enforcement and class after class say it is enforcement. The reason may date back to the 1970s when criminologists developed the problem oriented policing (POP) philosophy which stressed identifying crime problems or “hot spots” and managing resources, people, and money accordingly. Quantifiable crime statistics kept score of police success and police managers put money and resources where they found success. Success was measured almost exclusively from the reactive law enforcement function. It may seem counter intuitive but if more resources were spent in proactive prevention processes perhaps better intelligence could be developed that would lead to fewer and judicious use of law enforcement.

The 3 Ps of policing consist of preventing crime using COP policing practices as peace officers, predicting probabilities of crime using intelligence-led policing practices as intelligence officers, and a prepared response to crime using evidence-based policing practices as law enforcement officers. Each function of policing is successively more intrusive requiring increasing levels of authority. Because police are more focused on behavior rather than belief, most police (at least my classes) joined their department to be Dirty Harry rather than Andy Griffith, and since it is easier to metrics the results of enforcement rather than prevention many departments focus on reactive policing practices.

So how did we end up with riots in the streets and distrust in our justice system? Was it a slippery slope of ineffective identification of community disruptors and poor conflict resolution practices or the absence of a “whole of government approach” to community engagement? Are our polarized communities merely another form of our polarized politics where opposing sides are all too quick to jump into an extremist mental box that allows them to objectify their opposition so it becomes easier to rationalize the necessity for their violent counter social behaviors? How can the baseline be stabilized where there is imbalance and a lack of predictability of behavior? Can public trust be re-established so social controls can be minimized?

The answer depends on our intent. Thomas Hobbs said man is born self-interested but as he is socialized he learns to not be selfless or selfish but rather to think of self “less” than the group. In this mental state man is thinking in terms of mutual interest.

Where our community moves from the principle of least interest to the principle of mutual interest our intent is to develop and manage stable and balanced relationships between the community and police wherein each can predict each other’s behaviors against a baseline of norms. In this state a pro-social environment can be created. This environment must be inclusive and reflect common core values. Like a baseball player who is pulling off the ball, the community must go back to the basic fundamentals. Establishing security in the form of an acceptable baseline that is owned by the community is the essence of connection of governance without which all else fails. If the community accepts ownership of the baseline they will accept accountability from the systems they currently do not trust.

Police need to re-establish and build up their COP programs that have 4 measurable components including:

1) communication-based policing practices that builds public trust by engaging all members of the community, breaking down isolation of those who reject the baseline and identifying key communicators (trusted agents) as well as identifying the risk base with the area of responsibility.
2) crisis-mitigation planning/forecasting that builds resiliency in communities when bad things happen. Using the key communicators as handlers over the potential offenders as well as to help plan response strategies to potential crises allowing communities to be crisis prepared not crisis prone.
3) conflict resolution processes that focuses on restorative justice practices flattens the hierarchical structure of the police department and pushes the responsibility to the police officer to resolve disruptors early seeking community solutions, promoting law abiding behavior, and avoiding “law” enforcement or control-based responses.
4) threat assessment processes that identify and define emerging threats that become operational intelligence requirements. This process then becomes a bridge between COP and intelligence-led policing (ILP). The use of police gut feeling and structured professional judgment (SPJ) tools represent the mixed methodology of the qualitative approach used during COP engagement and allows for defining the key intelligence question: "What is it I don't know that I need to know about…?" This becomes the intelligence requirement from which SPJs can be used through quantitative analytic methods to predict the probability of criminal behavior.

Still in all relationships all parties have to see value in ownership of the baseline. The young people who disrespect the system of governance and police officers charged with keeping the peace and enforcing the law have to be willing to take ownership of the baseline. Beyond policing and using the whole of government approach the identity of America's youth could be re-adjusted to appreciate and celebrate our commonalities not just our diversity.

Malcolm Forbes said, "Diversity if the art of thinking independently together." It is important that in a society that celebrates diversity that we don't polarize around our individual identity but rather see ourselves as one under our flag. The police play only a small role in that process. Perhaps a summer program after high school that pays youth a small stipend to do public works and attend lectures from some of America's social and economic leaders is a way to use the 3 M model of message, messenger, and method to teach our youth how to think independently together.

***Andrew (Andy) Bringuel, II is a retired FBI Manager and Instructor from the Behavioral Science Unit and Behavioral Analysis Unit 5 (BAU-5) where he was considered a subject matter expert on relationship disruption and unit cohesion. Andy now runs the Behavioral Science Unit, LLC (BSU,LLC) and is available for soft skills training, corporate management and security consulting, and keynotes. Contact Andy at 703 401-7260.