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Policing and Social Trust

Humans are a social species. The need for trust is rooted in our DNA. In times of peril and uncertainty, trusting relationships provide a sense of security. Trust helps us to survive.

In 2014, during the Ferguson unrest, I was a police officer in St. Louis, assigned to a special unit focusing on low-income housing projects. Dirty stares and middle fingers were testaments to the trust we’d lost. The city was on the verge of erupting.

One evening, I handcuffed a man on his front porch for unlawful use of a handgun. I didn’t notice the angry mob forming behind us. “Leave him alone,” someone yelled. Angrier words followed. You could feel the tension in the air.

But then a young woman stood up in front of us. “Stop,” she yelled to the crowd. “That man,” meaning me, “reads to my child at school.”

And it was true. I did read to students. My unit also sponsored movie nights and back-to-school giveaways. At Halloween, we hosted “Trunk or Treat.” We invested in community relationships.

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