Ensuring Meaningful Police-Community Engagement


In recent years, law enforcement officials and community leaders alike have stressed the need for more “engagement” between the public and the police. In particular, they have called on departments and community members to work collaboratively to keep communities safe. But how much engagement is really happening? And what does it mean for police departments to truly “engage” with the residents they serve?

Our report, based on a national survey of police departments and community organizations, makes clear that although many agencies recognize the value of engagement, there is a great deal more work that needs to be done.

This report was the first phase of our ongoing Beyond the Conversation project.

Key Takeaways

1). Virtually all participating police departments are taking steps to connect with members of the public, including by hosting meetings, attending forums, and using social media.

2). Many of these efforts are aimed at building relations with the community, but not enabling members of the public to provide input on policing policies and practices.

3). Community members overwhelmingly said they want more opportunities to weigh in on department policies and practices. This finding suggests agencies that do not involve the public in these sorts of decisions are missing a critical opportunity to build legitimacy and trust.