Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion New York Police, answered 5 questions

How can police officers engage in trust building with communities of color?

There are a number of ways that NYPD engages in trust building with the communities of color. Our neighborhood policing philosophy serves as a guide for all of our community trust building activities, and it is taught to all new recruits when they are in the academy. Recruits receiving courses on Policing a Multicultural, Fair and Impartial Policing (Implicit Bias), Procedural Justice and Tactics of Perception, and LGBTQ Workshop, just to name a few. Our neighborhood policing philosophy strives to achieve three goals, promote trust and respect, collaborative problem solving, and reduce crime. We do this by dividing the precinct into sectors that correspond with neighborhood boundaries, and assigning steady-sector officers, who work the same neighborhood so they can get to know the people who work and live there.
Also included in the sector team are Neighborhood Coordination Officers, who attend and host our Build The Block (https://btb.nypdonline.org/learn/) where problem solving efforts relating neighborhood issues and crime take place. The NCO’s receive special training for their dual roles as collaborative crime fighters, investigators and community conveners. Another component of Neighborhood Policing team are Response Auto Officers. They provide support to the Steady Sector Officers who are given at least one-third of their shift to engage with the community rather than answer calls for service. The way we have operationalize neighborhood policing allows time for officers to build, and strengthen relationships that foster trust, especially communities of color. Building community trust is a shared responsibility which means communities must also participate in crime reduction and public safety efforts. We also have a very robust Community Affairs Bureau who work everyday engaging in numerous community and department led activities that focus youth, seniors, schools, and special populations. Building and sustaining our relationships with communities we serve requires consistent and authentic engagement.

What can be done to change negative public sentiments about the police in the light of Black Lives Matter movement?

The negative sentiments about police have been in existence since the inception of the modern police force in the US. As public servants, police officers are held to a higher standard, as we should be. The authority to take away a persons freedom or end a life should be under constant review.
There are a few things we (police) can do to help with negative sentiment. First, we must understand that with the millions of calls for help that police departments receive throughout the US, a majority them typically end positively. However, when they do not, we must act quickly to share the facts of the incidents as they evolve and be as transparent as possible. Communities of color, specifically some members of the black community, struggle with this due to the historically negative interactions and control of movement dating back to slave patrols. Although we have gained a lot of ground with communities of color, video recordings and today, body warn cameras, capture interactions that continue to reinforce historical and present day experiences. Second, police departments must have relationships with the communities that they serve. Research tells us that when individuals have consistent, negative experiences with groups or individuals, those negative experiences will influence future interactions with the same group or individuals. Constant exposure to negative experiences also causes us to became, anxious, uncaring, distrustful and hateful. Finally, the community should be an active partner in public safety. We understand that it is important to hold us accountable, especially since our legitimacy relies on having the trust of the community. The community should also assist when possible with finding solutions to crime and engaging in coalition building with their local police departments. When police-community relationships are strong, there is less opportunity for negative sentiments to surface, but it doesn’t mean that we should go unchecked.

Is there a fun, lighter side to police work? What is that like?T

Yes! Police work can be very routine. But there are often fun opportunities that are created by either the community or officers. If you remember last year the numerous challenges and “call outs,” police officers from across the country. This year, its lip sync battles and cop-pool karaoke that are dominating YouTube. If you haven’t viewed it yet, check out NYPD’s response to Boston police!

Which takes precedence, “equity and inclusion” or quality of job performance?T

It is not uncommon for people to think that organizations have to sacrifice one or two of these in order to have high performing employees. This false dichotomy also rears its ugly head during conversations about diversity. Here at NYPD we strive to have each of those elements acting in concert with one another. First, we have a shared definitions of equity and inclusion:
Equity- is defined as fair and just systems, processes, practices, and environments that work to eliminate partiality and unconscious biases in the work place.
Inclusion is defined the degree to which diverse individuals are able t participate fully in decision-making processes and leverage the power of differences and similarities to effectively achieve a goal.
We are very lucky to have world-class training and trainers who work diligently to stay ahead of trends in policing and public safety. We also work very hard to hold our members of service to a higher standards. Of course this doesn’t mean that we don’t make mistakes, but we do our best to hold our people accountable.

What inspired you to begin your career in policing and the NYPD?T

Thank you for asking this question. Interesting enough I never planned on a career in policing. In fact, my original career goal at the age of 25 years old was to become a fashion designer. When I announced my plans to my parents they quickly informed me that designing clothes would not provide long-term security or put food on the table. Like most parents , mine wanted me to find a career that would provide stability in the form of a steady paycheck and medical benefits. One option that was suggested to me was to join the military. The suggestion wasn’t a surprise since my father and step-father were both career military (thank you to all who serve!), but I did not see that path for myself. However, I was very interested in serving the community in some form and like most 25 year old’s trying to make a life course decision I did some research. Just to provide a not so subtle hint of my age, conducting research meant I had to go to the library and review job boards and career manuals to get a better understanding of the careers under the heading of public service. Although I had never had any previous contact with the police, nor did I have a relative that was police officer, I decided that I would at least give it a try. I signed up and took the written civil service test, along with a few thousand other people, to fill the thirty-five positions available in the next academy class. After successfully passing the written test and a host of other test (fitness, psychological, polygraph, and background investigation) I was selected to attend the academy. Like all recruits I attended the police academy and upon graduation was assigned to a Field Training Officer (FTO) to begin my field orientation. I had great FTO’s and they did their best to prepare me to work solo, but I had my moments! Once on my own, I begin to understand the impact that my presence, authority, and decisions would have on individuals and communities at large. To my surprise I enjoyed problems solving, the interaction with community and my peers. I also had my share of challenges. I found it quite surprising that some people, community members and peers, would question whether or not I belonged in policing. Some of those perspectives were related to my gender, and some to my race. The one thing I had to learn was that I could only do so much to change someone’s perspective of me. Once I accepted that, I begin to promote up through the organization, and with each new rank came new challenges and learning experiences. Along with taking promotion exams I also continued my education, earning my PhD. while also commanding a precinct (geographic area). My research interests provided me with another lens in which to view my work, and opened up other opportunities to work with researchers and collaborate with other departments on how to improve police-community relationships. Before I knew it, 25 years had gone by and my work and my experiences would lead me to New York and the NYPD.

First Published 10.12.18: https://www.quora.com/session/Tracie-Keesee/1

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