Public Trust – Guest Blogger Deputy Director – Police Thom Hardesty

You may have noticed from the Chief’s blog that we are fortunate to be hiring new police officers to fill some vacant positions. On Wednesday three of us were at the Oakland Community College Police Academy interviewing a number of cadets who are attending this 17 week course. Many times we ask prospective police officers what role they feel the public plays in policing a society, and we get a wide variety of answers. Being there brought back a memory for me of a circumstance when I was in police academy way back when (longer than I care to admit). I remember standing in the hallway on a break with a number of other cadets. A mother with a young child came around the corner and stopped when she saw several of us standing there in our cadet uniforms. She pointed towards us and told her son, “do you see those people, they are going to be policemen, don’t ever trust them” and then turned and walked away. I was absolutely floored by this statement. It has stuck with me as much as any legal or use of force training I had at academy. Obviously this young woman had a least one (likely more than one) very negative contact with a police officer to the point she doesn’t trust any of them. It’s important that these young cadets as well as the old-timers remember what impact we can have on the public and other police officers with our actions. Without the public’s trust in the legal system and the police, our job would be impossible. When people trust the police they are more likely to comply, even suspects who are being arrested. I am not sure where I read this statement to give the person proper credit but the saying was that the perception of fairness can be more important than the outcome. It’s important that people trust we are trying to do the right thing, even if sometimes we don’t get it right. There are two things that I think are important for police officers (we are fortunate to have a great staff here with these traits). We need the competence to get it right most of the time so the public sees positive results, and the character to admit it when we are not so we can learn from our mistakes. It takes months of training for our new police officers before they are competent enough to take on the daily challenges of being a police officer on their own. Character is something they will have already developed by the time we hire them, and making sure they have it is the reason it takes months to hire them. Both are needed to keep the Public’s Trust.