Citizen distrust of police is fueling violence in violent neighborhoods, David Kennedy, head of a national program to address controversial police killings in several cities, said yesterday, reports the Columbus Dispatch. “It's a bone-deep sense that police are not there to help you but to harm you,” said Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Enforcement follows violence, which follows mistrust. These people don't feel they can go to the criminal-justice system and ask for help,” he said. That concept is at the heart of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, launched by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The initiative had its first large-scale, daylong program at Capital University Law School in Columbus, bringing national and local law-enforcement officers, academics and judges, some of color, together with community members to lay out the issue and discuss solutions. Kennedy said the initiative will concentrate on three areas: procedural justice, implicit bias and reconciliation. The procedures that police use when ticketing citizens, he said, can influence citizens' views of police more than the ticket itself, he said. Likewise, officers working a homicide who stand around a body laughing with other officers to let off steam can send the wrong signal to citizens. Ron Davis, director of the national Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and a former police officer, said police actions in the past, “when police were used to suppress an entire people,” cannot be ignored.