Go To The Principal’s Office! : Change the Community/Police Narrative
“Go to the Principal’s Office!!” When you went to school you might not have heard these words directly but you knew what they meant. In real life and popular culture, this typically meant you were in some sort of trouble. Every once in while something wonderful happens; the principal gives out an award or calls a parent with some good news. I started to think that interactions with police are similar..
Seeing two news stories about Ferguson today triggered this. The first was this one in the New York Times about the police officer in charge of security at the Ferguson police station. The highlight for me was him not having a weapon and just engaging in conversation about family with a protester.
The other story reported on multiple news outlets was this video of a young man hugging a police officer.
Interactions with police are similar to going to the principal’s office. Just like positive acknowledgement by the principal, the positive interactions with the police are not always frequent. When they do happen they are powerful and meaningful. There are a lot of principals and administrators that are trying to change this narrative in schools. There are systems in schools (P.B.I.S) attempting to focus on positive accomplishment while still addressing the negative. There are also law enforcement agencies that are attempting to change the narrative as well. The San Antonio police department is instituting some changes to assist mental health clients.
I think all police departments, especially in racially tense areas, should be attempting to change this narrative. Engage more in the community in a positive and meaningful way. Partner with community service agencies that service the community. Meet with community stakeholders to build trust. Much like school principal, the community will still respect your authority as police officers; but the need to promote positive interaction can still happen.