Trust between police, civilians only way to fight gun violence

Adam Tannenbaum, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The relationship between police officers and the people they protect and serve has long been tense. The idea that officers, who are human and susceptible to human error, are able to arrest or write tickets at will is concerning to many civilians. At the same time, racially charged anti-police sentiment surrounding the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown leave officers on the streets on edge and concerned for their safety. This tension only leads to more violence on both sides. The only way to combat this violence, hopefully reducing crime and death, is to rebuild the essential trust between people and police.

The United States has almost twice the amount of guns per 100 people as well as three times the amount of murders per capita when compared to any other developed nation. These numbers prove that there is, without a doubt, a high positive correlation between the amount of firearms owned in a nation and the number of murders that occur within that country. It is no longer a time for research or new hypothesis to be proposed. The verdict is out: more regulation and fewer deadly assault rifles will prevent the deaths of countless Americans.

Effective gun regulation, however, will only go so far to help solve the high murder rates that the United States is currently experiencing. Of the nearly 13,000 deaths by gun violence in 2015, almost 1,000 of the victims were shot by police. To make a substantive difference we will need to involve all civil servants from the top down, including police officers. A majority of murders in the United States occur within inner cities and most people killed are young black and Hispanic men. Anyone can observe the rapid deterioration of race relations in this country and, more specifically, the deterioration of trust between police officers and the civilians that they serve throughout American cities.

We need to re-forge a bond of trust between both residents living in inner cities and the police that patrol neighborhoods where gun violence is more prevalent. This is a two-way street — cooperation is needed on both sides of this equation if we are going to correct the mistrust that has been created. This is not as simple as sending more police to patrol a neighborhood or statements coming from public officials saying that certain behaviors will change. The only way a transformation in thinking will happen is when trust is regained by both the police and the people they serve.

It must be understood that it is in no way easy to be an on-duty police officer in the South Side of Chicago or Camden, New Jersey. The citizens of these areas must comprehend that when a police officer is put on assignment to patrol a dangerous neighborhood, it is human nature that they will be more uncomfortable and reactive to marginal situations that they are involved in. I am not condemning a police officer firing a gun at someone who may make them feel endangered; condemnation makes officers edgy and quick to act. Rather, one should understand that many of these officers are going above and beyond to help ensure that the residents of notoriously dangerous neighborhoods are able to live safe, prosperous and enjoyable lives.

On the other hand, while the majority of police officers have nothing but the best intention for the people they serve, they must understand that at the moment they are deeply mistrusted by many. In order for trust to be restored officers must take accountability for their actions. Whether this involves wearing a camera on their chests while on duty or allowing superiors to have more direct oversight, cops must be willing to do whatever it takes in order to bring back the trust between them and neighborhoods they work in.

Another way confidence in police might be restored is through officers developing a greater bond and more meaningful personal relationships with the communities they serve. Through continuously meeting with community leaders, teachers, members of the clergy and young people, officers would be able to re-establish the bond between them and the people they work to protect. A bond that will have a far greater effect than any policy enacted by government.

Pointing fingers and blaming one another is not going to do one iota of work to bring back to lives of Rafael Ramos or Eric Garner. In their memory, though, we can constructively work together to redevelop a high level of trust and more positive relationships between police and the citizens they serve.

Adam Tannenbaum is a senior in the A.B. Freeman School of Business. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a comment