How area officers are working to ease mistrust of the police

Police officers were responsible in 1,147 deaths in the United States in 2017, according to the research project Mapping Police Violence. In Pennsylvania, officers have shot and killed 57 people since 2015, the Washington Post found.

The repercussions of these police shootings are not only affecting the public, but the police, too.

“[Police are] absolutely misunderstood by media because they only know about the aftermath in incidents, not the situations and circumstances that officers were in that led to the events,” said Officer Samuel Irizarry, a 16-year veteran of the CCPD founded 5 years ago.

Officers in Philadelphia expressed similar sentiments.

To serve and protect. Those are the primary duties of a police officer.

When taking an oath to serve and protect, officers promise to preserve the dignity and to respect the rights of all individuals, and to act with honesty, courtesy, and regard for the welfare of others.

“Officers put their lives in danger and are asked to avoid aggressive behavior in cases where such is inevitable,” said Irizarry.

But truth be told, a deep mistrust remains between police and some of the impoverished black and Latino communities they serve.

Research repeatedly shows that minorities are more likely than whites to view law enforcement with suspicion and distrust.

Talk to African American or Hispanic males on the streets of Philadelphia or Camden, and they will tell you that the police disproportionately single them out because of their race or ethnicity.

These perceptions, real or imagined, lead to distrust of the police. And distrust of police then can lead to a host of other problems.

All of this points to the need for both sides to come to a common understanding of how to improve relations between the community and police.

A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that two-thirds of the nation’s police officers say the deaths of black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents, not a sign of broader problems between law enforcement and black citizens.

The study also revealed a disconnect between many officers and the public and found that criticisms since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 prompted many officers to be less aggressive in day-to-day policing.

Those findings aside, Irizarry still believes the media help to feed a false narrative about police, often writing about negative outcomes “since that’s what attracts readers and viewers.”

“Some officers believe that their rights to freedom of speech get taken away by the media since they believe everything they say might get turned into a headline,” said one officer who wished to remain anonymous.

Irizarry said police departments in general are constantly looking at best practices and ways to improve relationships with their communities.

“It won’t get worse as long as we keep a great relationship with the community and receive great training to be able to de-escalate high-risk situations to avoid negative outcomes.”

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