Citizen’s Police Academy Week 2: Constitutional Policing

LaGrange Police hosted their second week of the Citizen’s Police Academy Tuesday night and covered the topic of constitutional policing.

The Constitution and state constitutions limit what government officials can and cannot do. Being a government agency, that also includes local police departments.

The two constitutional amendments that primarily regulate law enforcement are the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures from the federal government and the Fourteenth applies those protections to the states.

Constitutional Policing means legal policing, but LaGrange Police have attempted to take it a step further into rightful policing. What does that mean? It means the difference between authority and fairness.

The idea is that just because police have the authority to do something doesn’t mean the general public would consider it as fair.

The instructors brought up several examples where police officers have gotten into hot water over perceived excessive use of force. In each of the cases, juries ultimately sided with the officers that the actions were legal and within the bounds of their authority, but that doesn’t help with public perception on the matter.

“Use of force always looks bad, whether it is justified or not,” said Lt. Eric Lohr.

The problem is that not only do police need legal authority to function; they also need legitimacy from the public and the public doesn’t always focus on the lawfulness of conduct.

One example given was should police officers arrest a young mother shoplifting so that she can feed her baby? Most people know jailing her isn’t going to help anything, but she did break the law. Police have the legal authority to do so, but the public might not see it the same way.

Loss of legitimacy causes the public to stop working with police. It increases violence against officers. Possibly worst of all, it makes people stop calling the police for help.

LaGrange Police have attempted to correct this by establishing trust with the community.

They endeavor to treat people with dignity and respect, regardless of criminality. In order to do this the LaGrange Police follow Sir Robert Peel’s nine principles of ethical police conduct: 1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognize always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give fulltime attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

The Citizen’s Police Academy will continue next week with civilian responses to active shooters and a gun law update.