City of San Luis Obispo introducing program to foster better public relations
Initiatives will educate both the public and police on their differences and similarities
–In an effort to foster mutual respect, better understanding and positive relations between police officers and the public, the San Luis Obispo Police Department is hosting a series of educational community engagement events, according to San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell. Space is still available at events in March and May.
The Police Education and Community Engagement (PEACE) program, which launched in January, is a series of 2-hour discussions that will touch on topics including protocols for police use of force, use of police body cameras and policies regarding sensitive issues. The first event, titled Policing and the Community, took place in January. Soon, the department will also launch a Police and Community Together (PACT) program, which will partner police officers with members of the community to further understanding, and an Explorer program to interest youth in law enforcement.
Nationwide, highly publicized negative interactions between police and the public that often result from miscommunication and misunderstanding have escalated. As a result, many police forces are reaching out to their communities in an effort to improve communications through better understanding.
“Both members of the public and police officers want to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness,” Cantrell said. “But something as simple as differing communication styles can get in the way of that. Over the next several months, we plan to get to know our community better, and the community will get to know us so we understand where we’re coming from when we interact.”
During the PEACE events, members of the public will be encouraged to participate in a discussion with a panel of police professionals. Topics for that and future discussions might include the process after a use of force, why police have to take the actions they do, how police and the public can de-escalate situations and using data to improve transparency.
“Being more transparent entails admitting when you make a mistake, which can be difficult,” Cantrell said. “But greater openness will also allow the department to share all the wonderful things we’re doing, all the training we go through and why we entered this profession – because we love it.”
Here’s a look at the upcoming discussion topics:
- Thursday, March 30: Use of Force. We’ll explain what use of force is, when it is used and why.
- Thursday, May 25: You Ask, We Answer. A panel of law enforcement professionals will answer your questions.
Discussions will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at French Hospital’s Copeland Health Education Pavilion, 1911 Johnson Avenue, third floor. Please sign up for the discussions here. Capacity is limited to the first 120 signups.