In Policing, Communication Fosters De-Escalation

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To the Editor:

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are striving to improve their relationship with the communities they serve. This is an essential goal, because a 2020 poll suggested that public confidence in the police was declining. One strategy being utilized to enhance police / community relations is procedural justice. This philosophy fosters four tenets:

  1. Fairness
  2. Transparency
  3. Allowing citizens to have a voice
  4. Impartiality

Recently, the state of California passed a new law, which will require officers to explain why they stopped a motorist before they can begin asking questions. Arguably, this change aligns with procedural justice and will likely promote de-escalation during traffic stops. It is important to note that the new law also allows officers to withhold information in the event disclosures will comprise an officer’s safety.

This minor shift in traffic stop protocol seems logical. A 2018 study revealed that when police / citizen contact is initiated by a law enforcement officer, the primary reason is related to a motor vehicle stop. Police traffic stops are a regular occurrence, and these encounters offer cops a prime opportunity to engage in procedural justice and serve as an ambassador for all police officers. Therefore, other jurisdictions should explore a paradigm shift like California’s newly promulgated legislation.

Dr. James T. Scott
New Haven, CT

Scott is a retired sergeant with the Connecticut State Police, and assistant professor at Albertus Magnus College