Building trust

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

On Tuesday night, thousands of law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including those here in Washington and Belhaven, took part in a special event. National Night Out is an annual event that dates back to the 1980s and is meant to build community and foster positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

It’s no secret that the trust between police and average citizens has been tested in recent years. Think back on the high-profile deaths of Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray or Philando Castile. Each elicited strong emotions and anger. Remember how that anger lashed out in Ferguson in 2014, with disastrous results.

Recently, here in Washington, an officer-involved shooting in which a white officer shot and killed an armed black man has stirred feelings of distrust for some in the African-American community. The family of the man, perhaps, will always question whether the shooting was justified.

The perceived distrust between police and the communities they serve has become a major flashpoint of this decade in American society. In all cases, trust, when lost, is hard to regain. But it’s always worth the effort.

Community outreach events like National Night Out help. So do policies of community policing and promoting positive interactions on a daily basis. Neighborhood watch programs, like those established in many local communities, also help ensure police and residents are on the same team.

Every day, law enforcement officers throughout the country go to work with the mission to “protect and serve.” Together, with partnerships between the police and the community, all can work to build a safer, friendlier place to live. The world needs more National Nights Out.