New Guidebooks Aim to Help Police Officers Connect With Diverse Communities

Sixty-three police officers and other policing experts provide promising and actionable community policing practices to increase trust building

NEW YORK, NY – The Vera Institute of Justice today released three guidebooks aimed at fostering community policing strategies and building trust with diverse communities. The release was announced by Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the launch of the second phase of her national Community Policing Tour at the Doral Police Department in Miami-Dade County, highlighting the first pillar of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing’s recommendations: building trust and legitimacy.

Designed to help police officers working with communities of people of differing races, religions, cultures, and languages, and written with support from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the complete series—titled Police Perspectives Guidebook Series: Building Trust in a Diverse Nationcomes at a time when many law enforcement agencies are struggling to meaningfully engage with increasingly diverse communities, particularly those where relationships with the police are strained.

“Building trust in the justice system is an essential part of a nationwide conversation about criminal justice reform,” said Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice. “It is imperative that we restore trust between law enforcement, who are the gatekeepers to our justice system, and the communities they serve. Fortunately, as these guidebooks vividly illustrate, there are indeed police leaders that aim to bridge the gap between police and diverse communities. We are pleased to be able to highlight their work to help make the promise of community policing a reality in every community.”

The guidebooks’ primary authors and contributors are police officers, many of whom are officers of color, and their writing is informed by personal experiences. The content—delivered in formats such as checklists, Q&As, and tips from the field—is designed so that the authors’ experiences and expertise can be easily applied by their policing peers around the country for on-the-ground interactions with community members.

“Recent high-profile, tragic events have called attention to the importance of law enforcement serving their communities in a way that they want and need to be treated,” said Susan Shah, chief of staff at the Vera Institute of Justice and project lead. “These guides shine a spotlight on successful community policing practices across the nation, giving police officers concrete strategies to build trust with the people they serve, foster open communication with local leaders, and work jointly with the community in co-producing public safety.”

The first guidebook in the series, How to Increase Cultural Understanding, provides a brief historical perspective of American policing, tips on delivering community-informed services and maximizing collaboration with communities of color, strategies for building trust with communities after contentious incidents, guidance on addressing trauma, and a variety of other practices.

The second guidebook, How to Serve Diverse Communities, offers specialized approaches that can be helpful in reaching groups—such as youth, immigrants, and refugees, and transgender individuals—that have unique public safety needs, are highly vulnerable, or have historically had strained relationships with police.

The third guidebook, How to Support Trust Building in Your Agency, is targeted to police leaders seeking to integrate a community policing philosophy into all police roles, build institutional capacity and knowledge that promotes trust-building with diverse communities, and ensure that their agency is representative of the diverse communities they serve.

Specific strategies covered throughout the guidebook series include:

  • Special considerations for working in immigrant, refugee, and transgender communities;
  • Trust-building strategies to consider before and after a contentious incident;
  • Establishing teen-police dialogue workshops to engage and build trust with young people;
  • Rethinking Compstat as a community engagement strategy; and
  • Recruiting a diverse workforce of officers who can serve as in-house resources and cultural “brokers” to assist with trust-building efforts.

This guidebook is the latest publication from Vera and COPS to address community policing in diverse communities. Previous guides include Uniting Communities Post-9/11—aimed at helping local law enforcement agencies negotiate the barriers that exist between them and Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities—and Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities: Promising Practices From the Field. COPS is also supporting Vera and the Police Foundation in Compstat 2.0, a new initiative that will develop an updated model for Compstat systems to better institutionalize community policing practices.