Using Procedural Justice to Improve Community Relations


DAVIS: I really spoke about two things related
to procedural justice. One, is how to really institute it into organizations. A lot of
times we talk a lot about theories. A lot about new ideas. But very little about the conditions by which those ideas can be applied within organizations. In this case it’s really
about making sure that procedural justice, or the tenets of it, the experience of it,
exist within a police organization. How are people being treated? How do they perceive
they are being treated? And are we really getting the most out of our officers, in terms of leveraging their strengths, talents, and abilities? That was the first half of what
I said. The second was about really defining what procedural justice is at its core, which
is really us believing that everyone has equal and intrinsic value. When you a start with
that premise, things just flow a little bit better. The idea of it makes a lot more sense.
And it explains a lot in communities. It explains a lot in police organizations because what
we mean by equal and intrinsic value is not just you as a human being, what you mean here on earth, but it’s really about your value to society, your value to an organization.
It’s that perception that I think shapes a lot of decisions and a lot of encounters,
both inside an organization and out. DAVIS: The idea as I mention today is that
you begin with the philosophical premise that everyone has equal and intrinsic value. You
start there. And you also start with the philosophical premise that police alone can’t solve the
issue of crime. That it has to be one that is collectively addressed, by understanding
the conditions in which crime exists and then working collaboratively to address those conditions.
And so this is a means in which to do that. If the question is how do we connect with
the community, you do it leveraging the principles of procedural justice. And that means every single encounter is an
opportunity to build trust, even if you’re making an arrest, even if you’re dealing with
someone on their worse possible day, that is an exceptional opportunity, and that’s
the point. So, if you believe that people have equal and intrinsic value both inside
the organization and out, you use the tools of procedural justice and you engage people
in that manner and you see the goal is addressing those conditions that contribute to crime
and disorder, you’re going to see that police departments have a higher level of effectiveness.
That’s what we are talking about. Procedural justice is not something that is ancillary
to policing. It’s not something that you do in addition to the other real police work.
It is actually defining our effectiveness. It’s enabling us to be more effective in our
rightful role in this country, and that’s the way it needs to be viewed. DAVIS: I believe that the future of policing
has to be firmly rooted in understand what our role is rightfully, and I believe it’s
to protect this democracy, and other people have made that this same statement. But it’s
also a right to create a better community. Our role is not simply to go about the task
of administering law enforcement. That to me is a disconnect. If people believe that
our role is to go about the perfunctory task of responding to 911 calls, then we’re missing
the point. What procedural justice and the whole notion of police legitimacy has brought
to the forefront of the conversation is addressing what it is that we’re actually here to do,
and that is to create the conditions in which people can feel safer, feel more secure, to
go about their lives in creating a live for themselves that they want in this free country. That’s really the core of it, and law enforcement
is one tool. We need to leverage the fact that we have influence based upon our standing
in the community to bring people together, have those conversations, and have people
to come together to create something that didn’t exist before. Create the neighborhood
watch. Create the new juvenile program. Create the new way to address daytime burglaries.
Name your issue. The community needs to play a substantive role in each one of those things.
The question always is how do we make that happen, especially if we are working in a community by which there’s low levels of police community interaction in a positive way. You
do that by leveraging the tenets of procedural justice by ensuring that every single interaction is done in a procedural, just way. That becomes a foundation.

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