Some current police policymakers recommend that we start calling our police officers “peace officers,” instead. Whereas the second moniker has a positive connotation, the first implies punishment, brute force, and fear. The latter is not a good model for police relations with the community. In order to keep communities safe, there has to be a cooperative relationship between the police and most citizens. It is a team effort to prevent, report, and stop crime. When the police do their part in this effort, they are fulfilling their main job duty – to keep the peace and maintain lawful order.
Although keeping the peace literally means stopping riots, the phrase has a broader application too. When the police are making arrests or chasing criminals, they can keep the peace by using minimal violent force. This improves citizen-police relations, because many Americans currently fear the police when law-abiding citizens (i.e. the majority) should do just the opposite
As if this wasn’t enough, it is even accepted as common law that the police have a duty to protect “the safety and welfare of the public.
” How exactly police do this depends on an almost infinite number of factors, but the principle remains the same. The police do not exist to stir up trouble, hurt people, or use their power to bully. They are the police, and the dictionary describes their job as being “responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order
.” Order is maintained when the police function as mediators between people during disputes – such as an eviction, a heated couples’ argument, or a noise complaint. This has the added benefit of reducing crime, as criminal acts are less likely in a situation that has been deescalated
So much of what the police do revolves around the quality of citizens’ daily lives – not criminal investigations. The sooner the American public starts to recognize this as the police’s true role, the sooner the police’s image will improve right along with their relationship to the community.