Can Foot Patrols Build Much-Needed Trust Of Police In Minority Areas?


Foot patrol is an essential component of the Baltimore Police Department’s initiative to improve community relations. While walking the beat has always been part of the city’s police practices, the police has required officers t spend at least 30 minutes of every 10-hour shift on foot, chatting with members of the community. In St. Petersburg, Fl., Newsweek reports, Police Chief Anthony Holloway launched a program called Park, Walk and Talk several months after starting his job in August. It requires all officers to park their cars, walk a neighborhood and talk to people for an hour a week.

Interviews with Baltimore residents found a general sentiment that foot patrol, like other community-policing techniques, was either a pipe dream or a paradox: Foot patrol could build much-needed trust in communities of color, but not until trust had first been restored. Residents conceded that restoring trust probably wouldn't happen if successful community-police engagement programs, such as foot patrol, weren't already in place. Brett Stoudt of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has researched the impact of “aggressive and discriminatory” policing on communities, has strong doubts. Not only is he skeptical that increased foot patrol can mend community-police relationships, but he also thinks it could exacerbate angst by appearing to be a surveillance tactic. Communities of color already feel police disproportionately cite or collar them for minor matters, he says. More boots on the street might make residents feel as if police are just lying in wait.

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