Officers in many parts of the country are frustrated by the mixed messages they often receive from elected officials and the communities that they serve. On one hand, residents and business owners call the police for practically every problem that plagues their daily life—from noise complaints, to unruly customers, to reports of intoxicated persons or homeless people sleeping in front of their home or place of business, to speeders and impaired drivers in their neighborhoods.
On the other hand, when police officers respond to “quality of life” calls, such as the ones described above, there is always a possibility that use of force will be necessary to gain compliance from what are often described as “low-level offenders.” These interactions therefore carry the risk of legal liability and/or public condemnation if the officers’ actions are considered unreasonable in light of the underlying crime.
Furthermore, proactive enforcement strategies intended to prevent and detect a range of criminal activities will exponentially increase the frequency of enforcement contacts and, therefore, the likelihood of citations, arrests, or use of force incidents that some in the community deem unreasonable or even brutal.
So, it seems that the time has come for communities, through direct referendum or through their duly elected officials, to decide what exactly they want their police to do and not do. The rules of engagement need to be clarified for officers and the community.
They need to be in writing. They need to be in policy. They need to be a formal contractual agreement. And with a contract come certain obligations on both sides. Officers are obligated to operate within the enforcement framework that is specified. Community members and the officials that they elect are obligated to live with the outcomes or call for change of direction as they see fit.
In this two-hour webinar, Attorney Matt Dolan will outline practical strategies for agency leaders, union leaders, and elected officials to utilize in formulating policies that clearly address the rules of engagement in areas including:
- Traffic Enforcement and Pursuits
- Property Crimes
- Quality of Life Calls (Loitering, Public Intoxication, Noise Complaints, etc.)
- Any Calls for Service that Do Not Involve an Eminent Threat to Persons