The Transpartisan Review Blog #15

Subjectivity and Police Community Relations

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

We have written about the importance of subjectivity to public programs and policy in Note #3 The Transpartisan World of Subjects and how it affects matters of race in Note #13, Colin Kaepernick & The State of Political Debate, and Note #14, Glenn Beck? Transpartisan? The State of Political Debate. President Obama underscored the role of subjectivity in maintaining peace and order in neighborhoods across the country when he declared last week National Community Policing Week.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, writing in the Washington Post, highlighted the week as “a time for law enforcement and communities to come together, acknowledge our shared pain, begin to rebuild trust and chart a peaceful course forward.” She described the intentions of community policing saying:

“Community policing is a public-safety philosophy based on partnership and cooperation. At its core is the idea that everyone has a stake in the safety of the neighborhoods where we live and work, and that none of us, police or citizen, can make them safe on our own. Community policing uses our shared interest as the foundation for deeper understanding, mutual respect and closer partnership. In practice, community policing encourages officers and citizens to communicate regularly, to share concerns and collaborate on solutions, and, above all, to get to know one another as people rather than stereotypes.”

Deeper understanding, mutual respect, and closer partnership between police and citizens that form the backbone of Attorney General Lynch’s aspirational description contain subjective measures of success. In addition to the valuable quantitative measures of police on duty, crime rates, overtime worked, etc., the more subjective understanding, respect and partnership aspects of policing offer opportunities for developing the qualitative aspects of living in neighborhoods. They also help communities take the first steps toward the kind of shared ownership of public spaces that we believe lies at the heart of Transpartisan policies and programs.

Most significantly AG Lynch took a 12-city Community Policing Tour finding police tutoring school children, being advised by youth advisory groups, and learning how to de-escalate violence, reminding us that, in spite of the cascade of bad news all around us, every day citizens across the country work across traditional lines of separation to create cooperative, imaginative and bold initiatives for improving daily living.

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