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Conflict and Power: Police and Community Collaboration


Conflict is an indispensable part of human life on different levels, including individual and interpersonal. Conflicts are often associated with power-related issues and tension, which is specifically apparent in multicultural societies such as the USA (Jordan, 2017). Conflicts between authorities and communities are quite common in all countries, and they often have quite common roots. This paper includes a brief analysis of the nature of the conflict between law enforcement and citizens in the United States, as well as some strategies that can contribute to solving the problem.

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Factors Contributing to Conflicts

As mentioned above, conflicts may be caused by manifold factors depending on the peculiarities of society. Some of the central reasons for conflicts between police and communities in the USA include the lack of trust, past history, and “hostile media perceptions” (Nix & Pickett, 2017, p. 24). The relational theory can be used to explain some of the causes of conflict between the stakeholders mentioned above. According to this theoretical framework, conflicts are often rooted in people’s cultural and interest differences that are, in their turn, based on past experiences (Jordan, 2017). In simple terms, the clash of interests and beliefs is aggravated by people’s focus on numerous situations and events that took place in the past (such as violence, mistrust, and abuse on both parts). It is noteworthy that the media contribute to the escalation or occurrence of conflicts through their search for sensational news.

Perceptions of Power and Conflict Situations

Another factor contributing to conflict situations between citizens and law enforcement is the perception of power. The way people see power affects their behavior and their expectations (Nix & Pickett, 2017). For instance, if a police officer perceives his power as the control over all people’s actions, conflicts may easily arise when any disobedience takes place. Some officers believe violence is permissible in some contexts, which may lead to conflicts with the community. At the same time, the rising concerns regarding police brutality and associated protests also make police officers worry about potential false allegations (Nix & Pickett, 2017). Citizens’ perceptions of power are also affected by the media, which influences their conduct and reactions to certain events. People admit that law enforcement representatives exercise a considerable amount of power, but they also believe it is limited by diverse laws and norms. The extent to which power can be exercised by police officers is often seen differently, which results in conflicts.

Relational Theory of Power and Ability to Solve the Issue

As mentioned above, according to the relational theory of power, conflict is often based on previous history and people’s perceptions that are rotted in cultural beliefs and past experiences. Although this approach may seem void of solutions, the relational theory can be applied to develop strategies to address conflicts between police and citizens. Jordan (2017) stresses that humans’ “neurobiological wiring is relational,” and people seek connectedness and being related to others while dominant cultural norms force individuals to compete (p. 236). Hence, according to the paradigm in question, people are willing to interact rather than confront each other on diverse psychological levels. In order to overcome conflicts, people also need to work and reflect on past disconnections (Jordan, 2017). Silencing and isolating conflict situations or abused groups (or individuals) lead to further worsening of the situation. Therefore, it is critical to discuss and work on past experiences and events that led to conflicts, which will contribute to resolving the existing tensions.

Effective Strategies for Reducing or Resolving Conflicts

Diverse strategies have been developed and implemented to address conflicts between law enforcement and communities. Wolfe et al. (2018) note that organizational justice is one of the premises for the minimization of conflicts, as well as their resolution. Police officers facing uncertainty act in a more salient way if their supervisors are fair. When police officers have clear and fair rules and norms that are followed by the agency, these professionals are more likely to act in accordance with laws and regulations. Clarity and fairness contribute to resolving conflict situations and avoiding them.

Technology can facilitate the process of the establishment of proper relationships between law enforcement and citizens. Braga et al. (2018) state that wearing cameras on duty has a potent effect on people’s perceptions and behaviors. The rate of conflict situations decreases with an increase in the use of body-worn cameras. Again, clarity and transparency associated with the use of this type of technology are instrumental in resolving and avoiding conflicts.

Possible Outcomes

Clearly, the utilization of a combination of strategies is the key to success and reducing the rate of conflict situations between police and communities. At that, it is possible to concentrate on the use of technology and sharing data with people. Wearing cameras and other devices, as well as reacting promptly to any miscommunication or conflict, will reduce the tension between citizens and law enforcement. People will regain or develop trust in law enforcement and will be willing to cooperate.

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In conclusion, it is necessary to note that conflicts between law enforcement and communities are still rather common but can be minimized and resolved. The relational theory can be instrumental in achieving these goals. Based on this framework, conflict is deeply rooted in cultural differences and previous history, so reflection and work on these can help in building people’s resilience and their natural willingness to collaborate. The use of technology can assist in building trust that is the ground for a conflict-free relationship.


Braga, A. A., Sousa, W. H., Coldren, J. R., & Rodriguez, D. (2018). The effects of body-worn cameras on police activity and police-citizen encounters: A randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 108(3), 511-538. Web.

Jordan, J. V. (2017). Relational-cultural theory: The power of connection to transform our lives. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 56(3), 228-243. Web.

Nix, J., & Pickett, J. T. (2017). Third-person perceptions, hostile media effects, and policing: Developing a theoretical framework for assessing the Ferguson effect. Journal of Criminal Justice, 51, 24-33. Web.

Wolfe, S. E., Rojek, J., Manjarrez, V. M., & Rojek, A. (2018). Why does organizational justice matter? Uncertainty management among law enforcement officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 54, 20-29. Web.

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