From Warriors to Guardians


Fundamental changes to both internal and external policing culture are needed to transform cops from “warriors” to “guardians”, argue Sue Rahr and Stephen Rice, in the latest paper from the Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety.

The strict military structure and protocol of many police precincts defines how officers view their jobs and expectations for use of power on the streets, write Rahr and Rice in their paper, the product of a series of conferences that during the last six years targeted major law enforcement policy issues.

The militaristic approach begins the day recruits arrive, but rarely reflects the conditions officers face while on patrol.

“One of the many problems with the military boot camp model used in some academies is that it has little to do with the daily reality of policing,” Rahr and Rice write. “Whereas attention has been focused on the best span of control of supervisors to patrol officers, in reality, few officers working the street have consistent or even regular supervision.”

Among the factors hindering the “guardian” mindset that the paper calls for, is a reliance on computerized crime tracking and prediction software, “largely stripped of a nuanced understanding of how communities operate.”

The software, Rahr and Rice argue, minimizes the intelligence capabilities of officers working their beats.

“After all, one's ability to glean meaning from algorithms is only as good as its sourcing: the accumulated body of knowledge of officers who have come to understand that there are few 'straight lines' in policing — that (sometimes visceral) person- to-person contact is typically not well-suited to statistical models,” they write.

Read the full paper HERE.

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