If leaders avoid de-policing policy and promote organizational justice, they can motivate cops to continue proactive policing despite anti-police sentiment
NEW YORK, NY — In the wake of viral use-of-force incidents, cities often see police retreat from discretionary activity, with stops and arrests declining – and murders and shootings rising. Public calls to “defund the police” have only contributed to this dangerous reduction in proactive policing. But while policymakers are aware of the de-policing trend, less attention has been given to the question of what to do about it.
In a new Manhattan Institute issue brief, Robert VerBruggen reviews the relevant academic literature and compiles insights from original interviews he conducted with police officers, law-enforcement officials, and criminal-justice experts. His insights offer constructive solutions to motivate cops despite temptations to pull back from the type of proactive police work that is proven to reduce violence.
VerBruggen’s suggestions for reversing the trend of de-policing fall into three broad categories. Leaders and policymakers can:
- Avoid making de-policing official policy;
- Assure officers they will be treated fairly in the event they need to use force;
- Take concrete steps to promote healthy, proactive policing.
The city of Chicago recently took steps to formally limit foot chases, and the state of Washington recently passed a law hindering cops’ abilities to pursue suspects. These types of policies restrict cops’ discretionary functions; an officer’s ability to listen to his or her instincts is vital for responding to dangerous situations and keeping communities safe.
With each viral incident, elected officials, police chiefs, and officers face pressure from the public. But provided they have the will and the necessary political support, leaders can assure officers they will be treated fairly in the event they need to use force. While there is no easy solution, cities that cultivate a sense of organizational justice and avoid policies that encourage de-policing will help to ensure that police are motivated to keep our communities safe.