An alternate view of police/citizen interactions…

I’ve been witnessing a growing number of articles about the increased militarization of police forces here in the U.S.  Along with that, I’ve danced around the subject of a sense of paranoia among some in the law enforcement community which sees an abundance of threats and encourages officers to retreat into anonymity rather than interact with their communities.  And let’s face it.  Many law enforcement agencies just don’t do a very good job of communicating with the population.  Apart from the occasional press release championing the latest bust or asking for assistance (in media platforms fewer and fewer people use) when do law enforcement agencies connect with the public to explain threats, procedures or anything else?
Leave aside questions of accountability or whether it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.  If you don’t spend time trying to win the allegiance of the populous you risk losing it to someone else.
In Manchester (U.K.), the police took a novel approach to this question by inviting 70 people (from students to business owners) to witness a raid on drug dealers that had been plaguing (or serving – depending on your point of view I guess) the local community.
Called Operation Audacious (twitter feed here) it allows the police to deliver their message (official but probably achieves little penetration into the public consciousness) as well as the public to provide their ‘I was there’ stories throughout the community -virtually and in person (unofficial but having much more ‘stickiness’ in the public mind).
Is it me stuck in a rut or is this exactly the sort of outcome you’d want in a textbook COIN campaign?  You can provide your official ISAF message all day long but what you really want are the key members of the community to spread that message.  Even if it gets garbled a bit as it becomes second or third hand information, the credibility of the message bearer provides huge benefits.

Balko has an (unconfirmed) report of another example of smart law enforcement techniques…this time right here in the U.S. of A.  The short version is that the St. Louis PD broke up the local Occupy camp.  Rather than moving in like Stormtroopers on Hoth they use a number of techniques to both reduce the risk of confrontation and still clear the area.  No injuries, the protesters get to make their statement, the police get to do their job and everything works out.



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