Increasing Police Trust through Normative Alignment - Oxford University
I examined the challenges that police encounter in building public trust. An action research design utilized community engagement in two U.S. communities to discern the values and behaviors that generate trust in the police and to explore how those values may be integrated into policing policies and processes. While there is general agreement that compliance emanates from the practice of the principles of procedural justice which are interrelated with trust, normative alignment, and legitimacy, it has proven to be to more difficult to test, translate, and embed these ideas in police organizations. With these factors in mind, I tested a process to increase trust and normative alignment between the community and police and to answer the primary question: How can police trust and legitimacy be increased? I conducted four phases of qualitative research and document analysis to determine which values community members desire in police officers, how police organizations can align their values with the community’s values, how to select police officers who possess the community’s values, and how police organizations can reinforce the community’s values in their officers.
I used focus groups, interviews, and document retrieval to gather the data and used content analysis, word coding, crosstabulation, curriculum mapping, and gap analysis to analyze the data. The results show that trust from community members can be increased if police officers are first characterized by Cultural Competence, Servant Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and High Character and then trained in the legal and technical skills necessary for the fulfillment of their policing duties. In other words, hire for character and train for competence. I also discuss definitions of a ‘good police officer’, compliance, procedural justice, trust, normative alignment, legitimacy, organizational considerations, and police officer selection.
The Influence of Higher Education on Police Officer Work Habits - Hamline University
Since the early 1900s, there has been an assumed correlation between police officer professionalism and education. Yet, there are few quantitative studies that measure this relationship or the optimal level of education for police officers. This study represents a focused
approach that seeks to isolate elements of higher education and compare them to specific police officer work habits. In this study, the data was collected from a consecutive 3-year period at the City of Saint Paul Police Department and included all of the police officers with a minimum of 3 years of experience. Several benchmarks were used to establish the relationship between higher education and police officer work habits. Initially, the control variables of years of experience, age, gender, and ethnicity were compared with the dependent variables of police officer work habits of sick time usage, department vehicle accidents, discipline, and commendations. The final portion of the study measured the relationship between the dependent variables and the independent variables of the number of years of post high school education and types of college degrees.
The results indicated that Saint Paul police officers with High School diplomas, Bachelor of Arts, and Master of Arts degrees were below the department-wide average for sick time usage, frequency of discipline, and traffic accidents, and above the department-wide average in frequency of commendations. Officers with High School diplomas and Master of Arts degrees had an advantage of nearly 10 years in age and experience over the officers with Bachelor of Arts degrees. Therefore, the results of officers with High School diplomas and Master of Arts degrees may be associated with age and experience. However, the work habits of officers with Bachelor of Arts degrees stand out regardless of age and years of experience.
This study provides some evidence that the recruitment of college-educated police officers, specifically those with Bachelor of Arts degrees, is worth the effort. Also, some higher educational institutions may want to consider transferring criminal justice and law enforcement degree programs from the science-style of degree to the arts-style of degree.
Recruitment, Hiring and Retention of Community Policing Officers - United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
Character-Based Selection and Assessment
This work was a continuation of the community engagement and character-based police officer hiring project which had been initiated under a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Grant, #2001-HS-WX-K046. Under that grant, 15 character traits were identified by community members as being essential in police officers.This portion of the project developed a police officer selection process that is based on these character traits and the means to focus on character-based hiring rather than traditional knowledge or experience-based hiring. In short, hire for character and train for competence.
The character-based hiring process is traced from community involvement in trait identification through the officer's final probationary evaluation. For example, initial oral interview strategies are discussed and sample questions which focus on the evaluation of character are provided. The selection of a psychologist or psychological firm conducting the pre-employment psychological evaluations was also included as an essential step in the hiring process; a complete manual for use in selecting this psychologist and integrating the psychologist into the hiring process was included.
Traditional police academy teaching methods are contrasted with character-based academy methods. This document provided the foundation for character-based lesson planning and points of character assessment that should be included during police academy training. This character-based selection and evaluation process continued into the police officer field training program. The field training program was updated to focus on character and competence. More specifically, it provided the structure for field training officers to evaluate the knowledge, performance, and character of new officers.
This project concluded with recommendations for community follow up. These recommendations included techniques to elicit community feedback, ongoing community involvement in the hiring process, and an examination of the correspondence between the identified character traits and individual officer internal affairs files.
The Influence of Higher Education on Police Officer Work Habits - Police Chief Magazine
Are street smarts better than book smarts? The question comes up often in policing and elsewhere. In law enforcement training there are still some instructors who criticize the recruitment of officers who have college degrees. This criticism comes in the form of teasing or sweeping statements regarding the importance of street smarts and common sense versus book smarts, and behavior and comments placing added value on street smarts. Similarly, when officers enter the field training program, they are often assigned to work with veteran officers who utter statements similar to "Forget about what you learned in the academy, kid. Things are different in real life."
With the help of the Saint Paul Police Department, the I conducted a study to determine whether the level of education of Saint Paul police officers is a good predictor of their work habits.
The Degree Discipline Seems to Makes a Difference
The data associated with the officers with associate of arts and bachelor of science degrees was reviewed and it was observed that these groups were below the mean (average) in the frequency of commendations and above the mean (average) in all the negative work habits of traffic collisions, sick time usage, and discipline. Officers with bachelor of arts degrees, on the other hand, were above the mean (average) in the frequency that they received commendations and below the mean (average) in traffic collisions, sick time usage, and frequency of discipline.
Finding another group of officers who had the same positive work habits as officers with high school diplomas or master of arts degrees was interesting. Next, the age and experience composition of the officers with bachelor of arts degrees was examined. These officers averaged 10 years less in age, and 10 years less in experience than officers with high school diplomas or master of arts degrees.
Also, the other demographic data associated with the officers with bachelor of arts degrees was examined and the positive profile (below the mean in the negative work habits of sick time usage, discipline, and traffic collisions and above the mean in commendations) remained consistent, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, and experience.
What do these results seem to indicate? Specific to the Saint Paul Police Department, officers with bachelor of arts degrees have work habits (sick time usage, traffic collisions, discipline, and commendations) that are similar to officers with an additional 10 years of age and experience. It is also worth noting that the officers with 10 years of experience or more and who exceed 45 years of age are more reflective of officers who are not working in a patrol capacity. This seems to make the officers with bachelor of arts degrees stand out even more. Officers with bachelor of arts degrees tend to work in patrol assignments where they are more likely to receive citizen complaints that could result in discipline. It also stands to reason that they are likely to have more traffic collisions than older officers who are more frequently working in administrative assignments.
Based on these findings it would appear that a bachelor of arts degree may help positively influence and accelerate a police officer's positive work habits.
Reform Policing Through Better Hiring
Tough times require even higher standards in a now-beleaguered profession.
By Star Tribune Editorial Board February 26, 2022
Amid a nationwide shortage of police officers that is especially acute in Minnesota's Twin Cities, state leaders are preparing an unprecedented package of incentives to shore up the ranks of law enforcement.
That need also presents a historic opportunity to remake a profession that finds itself at a nadir for community trust, an essential ingredient in effective law enforcement. Retirements are up 45% nationwide. Minnesota lost 32 police chiefs in 2021 alone and another dozen the year before that.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell announced his retirement late last year, followed quickly by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. The Minneapolis Police Department is down literally hundreds of positions, affecting everything from investigations to beat patrols, and is also the subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation.
It is not overstatement to call this a crisis. That makes this a good time for the state to step forward with resources and a well-thought-out template that can make for safer, more effective law enforcement in communities across the state, drawing on recommendations from policy experts, communities and law enforcement itself.
At the heart of a $16 million recruitment and retention proposal offered by Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and others is a requirement that new hires be of "good moral character." That is current requirement in a number of jurisdictions across the country, from Florida to Los Angeles — as well as some agencies locally — but is not a standard requirement in Minnesota law enforcement. It should be.
Departments such as those in St. Cloud and Duluth that have prioritized such hires have achieved good results. "We recruit people who have the temperament we want," St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson told an editorial writer. "If they have volunteered, that's big for me. I want people who do things for others who can do nothing for them. I've learned in my almost 27 years you can't teach people character, compassion. You can teach them how to be effective operationally, but they have to come to you at least with that and it has to be part of the department's culture. My force embodies that."
In a May 2021 commentary in the Duluth News Tribune, that city's police chief, Mike Tusken, wrote that "we do character-based hiring, and we set a high bar for expectations and hold staff accountable for being dedicated ambassadors of the city of Duluth, the Duluth Police Department, and the profession of policing. … We understand there are people who are in this profession who tarnish the badge. … The imposters among our ranks need to be culled out because their actions betray public trust and make building relationships critical to community safety much more challenging."
"It all starts with the community," said Matt Bostrom, a retired Ramsey County sheriff who now leads the Center for Values-Based Initiatives and has written for the U.S. Justice Department on character-based police officer selection. When talking to communities and police themselves, some common themes emerge, Bostrom told an editorial writer. "What makes a good police officer? Honesty, integrity, a service mind-set, respect. But the number one quality for all concerned is high character."
There are any number of good ideas at the State Capitol that can aid in that. A $65 million package proposed by Senate Republicans includes an expansion of the award-winning "Pathways to Policing" program that helps nontraditional candidates switch careers to join law enforcement. It would offer grants, tuition reimbursements and signing bonuses and would build in money for a recruiting program and advertising campaign.
These incentives are all important if Minnesota is to draw a different type of recruit, one with a service rather than "warrior" mind-set. Winkler noted that one southwest suburban police chief told him his No. 1 target for recruitment was teachers, because of the qualities it takes to be in a classroom.
Bostrom noted that "I tell communities I work with, 'You all know people in your community who are honest, service-minded, respectful. If we don't have community members searching those individuals out and saying 'We'd be proud of you if you serve,' where do you think we're going to find these people? We all need to help in this."
Law enforcement is a profession badly in need of a reset. The vast majority of law enforcement officers do a good job and are in it for the right reasons. Their task, as Duluth's Tusken noted, is made infinitely more difficult by those who betray public trust and have shown they have no business in law enforcement.
Communities and agencies must work together to attract and retain the right kinds of recruits and officers. St. Cloud's Anderson has said he won't relax his standards, even with a scarcity of recruits. Bostrom said that is the right path. "What I've learned is that it's better to run 10 short than to hire unacceptable candidates. If you do, you just added 10 rocks to your shoe that you're going to carry for the next 20 years."
A New Model of Community Policing for Minnesota
By Matt Bostrom and Steve Young
May 6, 2021
Under the direction of Commissioner John Harrington, the Department of Public Safety has spent the last year seeking to utilize a model practice that increases trust in law enforcement through sincere community engagement. The Department’s initiative was prompted by research undertaken by The Centre for Criminology at Oxford University and Commissioner Harrington’s experience as law enforcement leader.
The first step in this model was to ask our communities what kinds of women and men they want to have serve as law enforcement officers. Across the state, 10 community-based listening sessions were convened to answer the question, “To increase the level of trust between you and the Department of Public Safety, what type of women and men should be hired?” Regardless of the setting (urban, suburban, or rural), community representatives emphasized the values of respect, honesty, service, and leadership. In short, the community said that police officers are easy to trust if they are respectful and honest servant leaders. Indeed, the community had reduced the guesswork regarding the values that contribute most to trust in policing.
The community members also believed that it is difficult to hire adults and then train them to be leaders who are respectful, honest, and service-oriented. Therefore, they recommended that the Department, and other law enforcement agencies, recruit and select women and men who already possess those values. They equally emphasized that those values must continue to be reinforced throughout the officers’ careers.
After listening to the community, the commissioner worked with his staff at the Minnesota State Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division to align their organizational values with those of the community. These police/community shared values have formed the foundation for these organizations to have core values that are, quite literally, on the “same page” as the community.
Commissioner Harrington has quietly begun to take additional steps to integrate these shared values in the department’s recruitment, employment application, testing, structured interview, background investigation, training and performance-evaluation process.
This model is not intended to be a quick fix nor an end in itself; rather, it is a foundational component of intentional, ongoing efforts to build trust-based police and community relationships through the discernment of shared values and the integration of those values into the daily operations of law enforcement agencies.
Why should policing pay such attention to the personal character of sworn officers?
Because policing is an office of public trust. Those who serve must be trustworthy as are any agents of public power, from presidents on down.
At its core, policing is a public trust because it seeks the best for the community. This goal is not new. In fact, the word “police” originated from the same ideal as the words policy and politics – from the ancient Greek word “polis,” meaning a settled group of people sharing a common destiny and living together in mutually beneficial interdependence. So, when we speak of policing, we should think of bringing out the best of who we are as a community.
Constitutional law speaks of the police powers of the state – the authority to regulate for the public good – education, economy, health, personal safety, property, family relations, and more. At the same time, the constitution is intended to protect the community from abuses of public power by limiting the use of power and protecting personal rights.
In the 17th century, John Locke advocated that every public office should be regarded as a “public trust” with a duty to seek the public good. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel observed the need for better policing and established the Metropolitan Police of London. He believed that the police were not to be a military-based organization but a new organization with a special mission to protect the community. He was convinced that the police were to be the community and the community the police – each dependent on and trusted by the other. As a result, he insisted the police “recognize always that their power to fulfill their functions and duties depended on public approval of their right to exist, their actions, and their behaviors, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.” Furthermore, Peel believed that success in policing could be measured by the “absence of crime and disorder” and not by statistics only on police enforcement activity such as arrests made or hours spent on patrol.
Peel also set down this rule for the London police: “to use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or restore order and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.” Therefore, the police and the community should never be separated from each other by violent actions on either side, and community wellbeing must be the key performance indicator for good policing.
Through community engagement, Minnesotans have validated that the habits of good character (i.e., respect, honesty, service, and leadership) are perfectly designed to achieve Sir Robert Peel’s time-tested moral principles of modern policing.
Respect is what every trustee must give to those who are to benefit from the service provided.
Honesty opens the door to being trusted.
Service is what a trustee must provide.
Leadership is an unwavering commitment to doing what is right and just and so earning the respect of the community.
We believe that with support from Minnesotans for the department’s initiative and diligent excellence on the part of those who serve as our police, we can build a sustainable national model of community policing that benefits us all and positively affects our jobs, homes, schools, families, and personal lives every hour of every day.
The global work of the Caux Round Table has demonstrated that high standards of taking responsibility for stakeholders makes companies more valuable, governments more successful, and societies more just.
Matt Bostrom Ph.D., a former Ramsey County Sheriff, is president of The Center for Values-Based Initiatives. Stephen B. Young is global executive director of the Caux Round Table.
Ramsey County Sheriff (DPA '03) to Conduct Research Full-Time at Oxford
Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom DPA ‘03 has long been asking how police hiring practices can focus more on character traits rather than skills-based assessments. After serving as sheriff since 2011, Bostrom will retire to continue research he started at the Hamline School of Business in a study at the University of Oxford. His research could have a direct impact on communities across the globe by developing a model of his signature “high character policing.”
While studying in the Public Administration Programs, Bostrom focused on hiring practices that maximize police character rather than strictly skill. His dissertation, entitled The Impact of Higher Education on Police Office Work Habits, defined a quantitative relationship between professionalism and education. He concluded that officers with bachelor of arts degrees often received more commendations and had fewer accidents or injuries, regardless of age.
Bostrom was elected as the Ramsey County sheriff in 2010 after nearly 29 years as a member of the Saint Paul Police Department. In 2011, the Sheriff’s Office implemented a character-based hiring process, and this change in officer selection has already had a large impact on the community. According to KSTP-TV, the officers who Bostrom has hired use less sick leave, get fewer injuries, receive more commendations, and have not been sued for excessive force. “We have an opportunity to accomplish something great for our profession,” said Bostrom in a press briefing. “If we are successful, the tool we develop could be used by agencies across the world.”
At Oxford, Bostrom will continue to look at hiring practices as he leads a study with Dr. Ben Bradford at the Centre for Criminology. This research project addresses “high-character policing” to develop a model of his signature program as sheriff. This will continue research he started at Hamline by identifying character-based processes to hire officers in varying geographic locations and law enforcement agencies.