Released by Tameka Kenan-Norman, City of Rocky Mount
Courageous, honest, humble, knowledgeable and compassionate were some of the one-word character qualities Yvette Jones and her colleagues used to describe a good leader. Jones, community services supervisor for the Rocky Mount Police Department (RMPD), was one of 50 sworn and non-sworn supervisors in the department to participate in the two-day training course, “Procedural Justice for Law Enforcement Agencies: Organizational Change through Decision Making and Policy.”
Developed by the Center for Public Safety and Justice, and the number one recommendation made by the President’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing to mitigate tensions between police and citizens, procedural justice “refers to the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocates resources.” The training guide further describes the course as “a framework on which law enforcement leadership can build effective policing efforts, first internally and then externally.”
The one-word character trait exercise was just one component of the perception for a fair, legitimate police force and leader. According to Scott Barlow, deputy director of the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy, the real question is, “Are you legitimate in the community you police; are you legitimate in the eyes of the people you police?”
Barlow, who has been in law enforcement for over 30 years, says a person’s legitimacy is determined from initial contact, and all within the organization must be procedurally just.
“The actions of any police officer, in an instant, can impact an individual for life and even a community for generations,” noted Barlow.
The course is about more than fairness though. Rocky Mount Police Chief James Moore says the course is about looking at all aspects of the police department.
“It’s about looking at everything we do-our protocol, our procedures, our policies and how we interact with the public,” said Moore. “It may be in our policy, but in contemporary society it may be offensive, so we must modify these policies to determine our legitimacy with citizens.”
Building trust and public legitimacy are efforts the RMPD has made for years as a part of community policing. However, the final report of the President’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing provided a series of recommendations for helping law enforcement officers confront current-day challenges and established policing with justice, impartiality and collaboration at its root. Procedural justice was suggested as the number one tool to aid police in proactively enhancing the relationship between them and citizens.
While Rocky Mount was one of the first cities in the state to initiate the training, others have embraced it too, like Newport News, Virginia, where Saundra Cherry, councilwoman and Hampton University professor, resides. Cherry was one of the presenters during the course, and as a professor of pastoral care and counseling, she looks at procedural justice from a community perspective.
“It is so important that the community understand that law enforcement can’t do it all,” noted Cherry. “So part of community policing is we have to be engaged in the process. When we talk about the pillars of policing, community partnership is the first pillar.”
Being a good leader and changing or enhancing the organizational culture won’t be easy.
“Recognize you won’t be able to convert everyone at once,” said Barlow. “Everyone is not going to buy into your philosophy.”
While it may take a while to adjust, Moore is setting a precedent in the state by initiating the course in Rocky Mount, and for adhering to recommendations which help to solve some of today’s issues.
Scott Hale, sergeant with the RMPD, is a 24-year employee with the department and fully embraces the course. It is his second time participating.
“I think this training allows the public to trust us more, to know that we are legitimate in what we do,” said Hale.
Procedural justice training continued September 1, 2016, from 9am to 3pm in the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences, 270 Gay Street, in Rocky Mount NC.