Could Military’s “Good Stranger” Research Improve Police-Public Contact?


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the R&D arm of the U.S. military, is trying to unravel the mysteries of how humans communicate with each other in unfamiliar situations, and the findings are being applied to policing, NBC News reports. The research is arriving at a time when police departments are under growing pressure to improve their relationship with the public, a challenge that has unfolded vividly on the streets of Ferguson, Albuquerque and New York City this year. Law enforcement officials who have taken part in the DARPA program—nicknamed “Good Stranger”—say it can help prevent abuse of force and build respect in communities with historic suspicion of police.

“When you're looking at how to build public trust in communities, it's the hundreds of thousands of one-on-one interactions that happen on the street between cops and citizens,” said Sue Rahr of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. “If those hundreds of thousands of interactions don't go well, you will never build trust.” Rahr, former sheriff of King County, WA., hopes to incorporate DARPA's methods into her agency's training regimen. “This isn't PR, or 'hug-a-thug,'” she said. “This is scientifically based.” The Ph.D.-toting cops who developed the project are trying to seize the opportunity. They've developed a training curriculum for police based on the DARPA research. They call it T3, for “Tact, Tactics and Trust.”

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