Police-Community Relations | Web version

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May 12, 2015

Safety and Justice

Police-Community Relations

Respect and Legitimacy Is a Two Way Street

NYPD officers interact with pedestrians in Central Park, Manhattan.

Photo by JayLazarin/iStock

Recent events around the country in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Cincinnati have focused national attention on profound fractures in trust between some police departments and the communities they are charged with protecting.

Though the potential for such fractures is always present given the role of police in society, building and maintaining trust between police and the public is critical for the health of American democracy. But these issues of building trust and legitimacy are fundamentally local, begging the question—is there a role for the federal government in driving positive change?

In a recent RAND Perspective, Brian Jackson, Director of the RAND Safety and Justice Program, proposes a framework for building and maintaining legitimacy and public trust. While much of the responsibility falls to local communities, Jackson concludes by discussing policing as a whole and enumerates several actions that can be taken at the federal level to help shape and drive change. These actions include:

  • Building consensus on standards for using technologies such as body cameras and other tools to monitor and respond to policing problems
  • Increasing data collection and data sharing, to both inform the public and contribute to understanding the most effective ways of building and maintaining police legitimacy
  • Enlisting the federal government to investigate and intervene in communities where trust is weakened.

More RAND work on police-community relations »

For questions or an opportunity to discuss this or other RAND research, please contact me at Laura_Patton@rand.org or at (703) 413-1100, ext. 5423.

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