The majority of our communities do, I believe, support the police. It’s often a silent majority, though, as opposed to the loud minority…
In December, we brought together Officers from Canada and Malawi to discuss community policing. Jarrod, Nicole and Noliettie shared insights into the changing role of the police service in their localities.
“Newer recruits seem to have a healthier balance between law enforcement and community relations,” says Jarrod, a Schools Liaison Officer from Durham Regional Police. “They understand how to speak to people and build relationships and, ultimately, that gives you a better chance of solving crimes because people are going to want to provide you with information.”
“In Malawi every community has a Chief,” explains Noliettie, Superintendent in Lilongwe. “We engage with them directly and have a close relationship. We empower them to take ownership in resolving conflict, crime prevention and management.”
“The Chiefs are helpful in advising their subjects on how the justice system works and, for example, why a case may take a long time to go to court due to the necessary procedures. They persuade people to trust the police service and not to take matters into their own hands.”
Nicole, a Community Liaison Officer from West Vancouver, is aware that to succeed you need to build lasting relationships and, importantly, remember why you entered policing in the first place:
“When I first started, my Police Chief challenged me to write a letter to myself about all the reasons why I became a police officer. He told me that when times get tough – and they will – you will read it and realise why you’re here. So, when something has happened that makes you think of quitting, it’s a good reminder of the job you set out to do. So, I did write that letter and when I’ve been to a difficult call, I read it and remember that if we continue to do the job we love, show up every day and do it to the best of our ability, then people will respect us.”
The group all agreed that in the last few years the reputation of policing around the world has suffered. Jarrod thinks that, away from the headlines, there’s a usually a constructive relationship between citizens and officers:
The media also reap the benefits of the negative things they put on their outlets as it gets more attention. That’s human nature, we’re attracted to negative things, it spikes our interest a bit more.
Nicole believes that visibility and engagement is the key:
“I work in the community, so on any given day, I’ll walk down to grab a coffee, talk to people at the mall and walk our seawall – we have a beautiful seawall in West Vancouver. I’ll come into contact with maybe 75 members of the public and I’ll have nice genuine conversations with them. It humanises the role and gives them the ability to see and talk to me. Some Patrol members laugh and say ‘oh, you just spend your time going for a walk’ but what’s amazing about my position is being accessible and building bridges with local people.”