Policing organizations are the cornerstone of homeland security in all countries, and as comes big responsibility, come many problematic issues that require new approaches and solutions. Out of dozens of issues that 21st-century policing faces, this paper will focus on the damaging narratives regarding police as an institution that is developed and spread in social media nowadays. It will include a thorough analysis of the mentioned problem, a review of academic approaches to it, and possible solutions.
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Multiple organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, are dealing with the issues the police are facing in the United States. It signals how large is the scale of efforts needed to overcome problems, increase effectiveness, and build trust between the police and the community it protects. Efforts are driven at solving the existing challenges, for instance, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2014), which included professionals that helped develop programs for changes in the law enforcement system (COPS Office, 2015). Another example is 21CP Solutions that consults police departments all over the country on how to deal with mistrust, employ more effective crime reduction techniques and ultimately increase public safety (21CP Solutions, n.d.).
Still, many of the challenges faced by the police have historical and cultural reasons, and cannot be resolved quickly. Social media make it especially difficult to tackle any of these issues, as a hostile image of the police displayed to a broad audience is something targeted solutions cannot fight. One of the many outcomes of social pressures police officers experience daily is that many leave the force, while potential recruits decide to opt for something else. This, in turn, negatively influences hiring standards and provokes a lack of qualified personnel and more.
The most pressing issues regarding the image of the police social media build are the claim of “systematic racism” of American law enforcement and the fact that local governments often react to political pressures. The report by the Heritage Foundation (2017), states that the narrative on “systematic racism” is false and damaging. The use of data-driven policing, which often drives more attention to the minorities does not justify the claim that policing practices are racist, while undermines public support for the police as an institution (The Heritage Foundation, 2017). As for the local authorities, they are often swift to criticize law enforcement officials before all the facts are even collected (The Heritage Foundation, 2017). Being public representatives, they have to prove themselves to the electorate, even if it means supporting the disrupting discourse developed by the mainstream media.
Changing the narrative is a tough undertaking, but it can be achieved through a systematic strategy that includes constant communication between the police and the community, spreading awareness, and education. As Nhan (2018) argues, police departments have already incorporated social media as a broadcasting tool to present their narratives, opposite to letting media outlets surrogate misleading information. This tactic is underestimated and should be mandatory for policing organizations in order to increase transparency and build communication channels with the public. As for spreading awareness and providing education regarding the techniques used by the police, such programs are necessary, because they will narrow the field of free interpretation of how the police use certain practices. Besides, it will be a contribution to overall transparency and trust-based relations between policing organizations and the communities they serve.
COPS Office. (2015). Final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st century policing. Web.
Nhan, J. (2018). Issues and controversies in policing today. Web.
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The Heritage Foundation. (2017). Policing in America: Lessons from the Past, Opportunities for the Future. Web.
21CP Solutions. (n.d.) Web.