The important role of the public perception of law enforcement
February 28, 2012
Never underestimate the important role of public perception of law enforcement. You might not be worried about the latest poll results when it comes to the public opinion of police, but your superiors will be. If your police department is known as a bunch of renegades, it will affect your ability to do your work effectively. It might also have an impact on your safety as a police officer. The bottom line is that public perception of law enforcement can affect your career dramatically.
Whether it’s racial profiling, use of excessive force, or corruption, there are a myriad of complaints when it comes to the public perception of law enforcement. What can you do about it? Be the best you can be at representing law enforcement in the most positive light. After all, there’s a reason you’re called a public servant. Law enforcement is there to serve the public and even though the job they do is incredibly difficult at times and requires putting one’s life in danger to enforce the law, public opinion can turn against you on a dime. All it takes is one police beating of a civilian and people start thinking that the entire police force is a bunch of thugs.
Don’t let negative public perception of law enforcement drag you down. By keeping a positive attitude, maintaining the highest level of professionalism and conducting yourself with dignity and respect for those you serve, you’ll become a one-man (or one-woman) public relations ambassador for your local law enforcement organization.
Traffic stops are the most common interaction between police and civilians and they do have an effect on public perception of law enforcement. While getting a traffic citation doesn’t make people happy, you can mediate the negative effect by being professional, respectful and polite. Your tone of voice, body language and neatness of uniform can convey either a negative or positive impression. Always stress the safety factors of obeying traffic laws so people understand that you’re issuing a citation in order to protect them – and the public at large. By educating the people you come in contact with about the role of police in their community, you’ll help to influence a positive public perception of law enforcement.