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An Open Letter to Police Chiefs: The Need for Trauma-informed Policing

 

Recently, I was provided a form letter addressed to a local police chief and friend of mine who knew of my interest in trauma-informed policing and who thought I should read the letter.



The letter claimed that trauma-informed policing, specifically as it related to domestic violence and sexual violence allegations, was everything from “junk science” to “prejudicial against men.”

Needless to say, I found the letter uninformed and unpersuasive. However, knowing that some police chiefs might be inclined to believe the information, I chose to offer a reply. My reply speaks solely to the benefits of trauma-informed policing, not a rebuttal of each point in the original letter.

I summarized this blog article into a two-page letter which can be found as an attachment to this article. If you find value in or support my explanations, I encourage you to download the two-page letter and send it to any police chief or police officer you know. I’m confident in what I have written and believe it to be helpful.

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In my 23 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, right up to the day I retired, my personal mission was to champion the FBI’s mission: To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.[1]

I consider the FBI’s mission equivalent in many ways to the well-known mission of most police agencies first adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1955: To Protect and Serve.[2]

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), an organization with over 31,000 members in 160 countries, captures this simple mandate in its comprehensive code of ethics: As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.[3] (italics added)

The pressing question for today’s police chief is, “How does my agency ensure it is serving and protecting all community members, to include the weak and oppressed, against violence and disorder?”

Given the current level of trust our society has in policing, finding ways to build or rebuild trust to a higher level is imperative.

An August 2020 Gallup poll found only “fifty-six percent of White adults and 19% of Black adults say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the police.”[4]  

The poll makes obvious that prior actions by law enforcement, as well as other unmentioned segments of our society, have severely called into question a law enforcement agency’s ability to protect and serve all people. We know that without trust, citizen cooperation plummets. Consequently, a lack of cooperation results in underreported crimes, disappearing suspects, reduced investigative leads, and unsolved cases. The results are even more appalling in poverty-stricken or low-income communities.[5]

Whether geographically or demographically considered, traumatic violence significantly impacts people’s lives, undermines their ability to provide for and raise a family, and erodes the fabric of our society which is based on mutual trust and respect for all people.

Some people and organizations want you to believe that recognizing this trauma and understanding how it affects subjects as well as victims goes against sound and proven evidence-based techniques.

However, based on my personal and professional experience, I know there is scientific evidence to support the need for law enforcement officers to be trauma informed. I also know that by being trauma informed law enforcement can build or rebuild its trust with the community and fulfill its mission to protect and serve.

To finish reading the article, please click here. Thank you.

For more information on “(Re)Building Trust: A Trauma-informed Approach to Leadership,” please visit my website mrchrisfreeze.com.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

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Christopher, thank you for taking the time to present this.  This was great.  Being a chaplain, once married into LE, being a survivor of violent crimes, along with having a son who was incarcerated for a few years, I get all sides to this.  Now I'm running a nonprofit catered to bringing redemption through trauma-informed care at Folsom State Prison and writing programming to reflect that.  The great thing about it is, our COs need healing just as much as the residents incarcerated so this will help our organization help them become healed and then with both residents and correctional staff working together under the trauma-informed approach, a beautiful healing and wholeness center can develop and transformation will transform culture.



Many blessings, favor and great health, Tammy

Thank you, Tammy. I appreciate your comments and support. And your work at FSP is great! If I can help you in some way, please let me know. All my best, Chris.

Christopher, thank you for taking the time to present this.  This was great.  Being a chaplain, once married into LE, being a survivor of violent crimes, along with having a son who was incarcerated for a few years, I get all sides to this.  Now I'm running a nonprofit catered to bringing redemption through trauma-informed care at Folsom State Prison and writing programming to reflect that.  The great thing about it is, our COs need healing just as much as the residents incarcerated so this will help our organization help them become healed and then with both residents and correctional staff working together under the trauma-informed approach, a beautiful healing and wholeness center can develop and transformation will transform culture.



Many blessings, favor and great health, Tammy

To me, it seems that the letter against focuses on the immediate trauma.  It does not allow for that the current event to leave an individual in a triggered state because of a past event and impacting their current behaviors. This is where better training and understanding come in.  Thank you for your advocacy.

Note: It is possible to strive so hard not to be biased, that you end up being so.

I do not envy the responsibility of a law enforcement investigator.

As a child trauma therapist, I appreciate your letter. However, it is not enough to be "trauma informed".  Police, like everyone else, must become Trauma Responsive.

I offer the following to emphasize my point. As a resident of Texas I attended a concealed carry course to obtain my permit. We spent HOURS in the classroom learning the laws, gun use and safety, dispute resolution, and the basics of how to safely store handguns. After testing we were dismissed to the range. Two individuals stopped on their way to purchase guns and ammo they planned to use for the proficiency portion. The trainer had to intervene to protect the rest of the class because those two literally stood at the range trying to assemble their guns fresh out of the box.

Individuals can have all the necessary information and training related to a given situation, and with the best of intentions still cause harm because they are not responsive based on that knowledge. This is especially true of trauma.

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