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"Law Enforcement" VS "the Public" - How do we bridge that gap?

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In case you’re not familiar with our Blog format, we at ESS like to interview our core customers, the first responders; Law Enforcement, Firefighters, EMTs and get some BIO information and then talk about issues that are affecting them in their line of work. These people spend their lives working with and saving others, and we felt that this would be a small way, to pay them back, for the service they do daily.

So, for this Blog post, we had the honor and the privilege to speak with Chief Joe Harris out of Mattawa Washington. Chief Harris has recently taken over as the Chief of Police, from Chief John Turley, who retired in the fall of 2016.

Chief Harris has over 16 years in Law Enforcement, prior to that he served eight years in the Marine Corps, and holds a handful of different degrees and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Public Administration.

His Law Enforcement career includes five years as a municipal police officer, ten as a Deputy Sheriff, and one as a Lead Investigator for the Washington Attorney General’s Office – Civil Rights Unit. During his career, he held various stations to include School Resource Officer, Criminal Intelligence Officer, Fugitive Apprehension, and over 10 years as a gang expert.

During his time in Law Enforcement he has worked with most of the three and four letter LE Government Agencies; FBI, ATF, HSI-ICE, USMS, JTTF and USBP.

So, I had prepared some questions for the interview, however during our hour-long talk, the meat of the conversation, focused on what Chief Harris describes, as Law Enforcement's lack of Public trust.

Police Cadets in TrainingChief Harris explained that Police training has consistently been primarily focused on officer safety, which has unwittingly contributed to the “Us vs. Them” mentality. Situational awareness is drilled into every Cadet, from the time they walk through the door, till after they graduate the Academy. It’s not just a focus on situational awareness, it’s the constant reinforcement that you don’t know who the threat is, so anyone could be that “bad guy” that ends your life, so you must be careful and vigilant, at-all-times.

He stated “While safety is incredibly important, the emphasis on it has created paranoia in the minds of these young officers. This mental state renders them immediately distrustful of the very people they are supposed to protect, and subsequently, those people distrust their law enforcement agencies.”

The training that prospective officers undergo, in Chief Harris’s professional opinion, neglects a major focus on community service and ethical action, which contributes to the broken state of law enforcement.

He regularly encourages his officers, “At the end of the day, it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about the public. It’s about the people that we serve. Just because the law says you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do.”

So, what is the right thing to do?

Harris suggests that the solution everyone is looking for is community-based law enforcement strategies.

Instead of perpetuating the “Us vs. Them” mentality, Harris argues that police officers should collaborate to find potential solutions for current predicaments. Collaborative efforts have yet to incorporate the community they are supposed to benefit. Nonprofit organizations, private institutions, and regular citizens should all feel connected to the first responders in their community, and collaboration should serve to unify these people instead of alienating and isolating agencies and citizens.

Problem-oriented policing and community-based law enforcement are mentalities that aim to educate the community on current issues, generate a plan of action that resolves the core problem, and build relationships based on trust in the community. The routine “suppress and arrest” manifesto that police officers are so prone to only attacks a symptom of a larger, more intricate issue, and it is not an effective method of serving the community.

When it comes to Law Enforcement Agencies in the United States, there is a serious predicament that plagues the nation. The disconnect between the law enforcement officers and the public they have sworn to protect has contributed to the disjointed and broken methodology that encompasses police officers.

It is the responsibility of the first responders, to take the initiative and bridge the gap that has been wedged between citizens and their guardians. A large contributor to this alienation is the mentality, “We are warriors who fend off criminals” LEOs are supposed to be benefactors and guardians who protect and serve, not militia who construct intricate attacks on perceived enemies.

Often, the true enemy is an intangible idea, like poverty, with many physical symptoms. The symptoms cannot be alleviated through forceful treatment—the entire disease must be cured. With collaborative efforts that involve the community and other agencies, the nation can work to heal itself of ailments.

I am going to sign off, with another tidbit of wisdom Chief Harris was kind enough to explain.

“By utilizing the three “I’s” of Intelligence-Led Policing (Identify, Implement, and assess Impact), police officers can make a lasting difference. They should “identify” the problem, which involves building a trusting relationship with their community. Next, they should “implement” a plan that contributes to the core issue instead of targeting symptoms. Finally, law enforcement should assess the “impact” of their actions so they can start the process over again, with minor tweaks, to successfully improve the environment of their community. These collaborative efforts can change the way the general populace feels about the law enforcement in their communities.”

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Emergency Safety Supply provides EMS, Fire and Law Enforcement personnel and agencies, with the medical supplies and equipment they use, on a daily basis.

Founded by two best friends, we are a small, flexible and highly dynamic company, that uses the latest technology, to mitigate our overhead expenses. This allows us to offer our customers some of the lowest pricing in the industry. Our goal for offering highly competitive pricing, is it will allow these agencies to stretch their budgets farther, and save more lives.

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