Pillar 1: Building Trust and Legitimacy

        Building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police/citizen divide is the foundational principle underlying the nature of relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Decades of research and practice support the premise that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe that those who are enforcing it have authority that is perceived as legitimate by those subject to the authority. The public confers legitimacy only on those whom they believe are acting in procedurally just ways. In addition, law enforcement cannot build community trust if it is seen as an occupying force coming in from outside to impose control on the community. Pillar one seeks to provide focused recommendations on building this relationship.

The Task Force Report strongly suggested that the law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public. Toward that end, all law enforcement agencies should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with rank and file officers and with the citizens they serve. The report also suggested that law enforcement agencies should establish a culture of transparency and accountability to build public trust and legitimacy. This is critical to ensuring decision making is understood and in accord with stated policy.

Police departments should also proactively promote public trust by initiating positive non-enforcement activities to engage communities that typically have high rates of investigative and enforcement involvement with government agencies. We were tasked with tracking and analyzing the level of trust our community has with our agency as we continue to measure changes in crime. This can be accomplished through consistent annual community surveys. Finally, the report suggests that police departments should strive to create a workforce that encompasses a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities

Building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police/citizen divide is the foundational principle underlying the nature of relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Decades of research and practice support the premise that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe that those who are enforcing it have authority that is perceived as legitimate by those subject to the authority. The public confers legitimacy only on those whom they believe are acting in procedurally just ways. In addition, law enforcement cannot build community trust if it is seen as an occupying force coming in from outside to impose control on the community. Pillar one seeks to provide focused recommendations on building this relationship. The Task Force Report strongly suggested that the law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public. Toward that end, all law enforcement agencies should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with rank and file officers and with the citizens they serve. The report also suggested that law enforcement agencies should establish a culture of transparency and accountability to build public trust and legitimacy. This is critical to ensuring decision making is understood and in accord with stated policy. Police departments should also proactively promote public trust by initiating positive non-enforcement activities to engage communities that typically have high rates of investigative and enforcement involvement with government agencies. We were tasked with tracking and analyzing the level of trust our community has with our agency as we continue to measure changes in crime. This can be accomplished through consistent annual community surveys. Finally, the report suggests that police departments should strive to create a workforce that encompasses a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities

ETPD Action on Pillar One

In Evesham Township, our police department has adopted “Transparency” as one of our Core Values. It is one of our continuous goals of establishing a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy. This type of culture allows our agency to ensure decision-making is understood at levels within our organization and in accordance with agency policies and procedures.

To accomplish this high level of transparency and accountability, the ETPD makes every attempt to publish the most current information on our website on about motor vehicle stops, summonses, arrests, reported crime, and other law enforcement data aggregated by demographics. This information is contained in our Annual Report along with our DDACTS statistical reports. ETPD’s commitment to our social media pages and website, along with our partnerships with our citizens through our community policing endeavors and police chaplain events provide avenues to immediately discuss serious incidents when they occur, including those potentially involving alleged police misconduct along with other significant issues affecting the community.

ETPD also demands internal legitimacy, trust and building a strong culture within the organization by applying the principles of the Task Force. In 2019, Chief Chew directed that the agency create a Policy Committee made of various levels of the police department in order to receive input on agency policies and procedures. The Policy Committee provides valuable input from all levels within our agency and fosters a teamwork approach to outlining standardized policies and procedures in the deployment and development of our staff along with a strong reinforcement of the “guardian mindset” in serving our community.
As it relates to external legitimacy and trust, ETPD has invested significantly in our various community policing programs. In 2013, Chief Chew created the first full-time police officer dedicated to community policing prior to transitioning to six full time community policing officers in 2018. ETPD Community Oriented Policing Initiative involves working in partnership with the community to identify the underlying causes of a problems and develop viable plans for treatment of the cause and not the symptoms. These partnerships are intended to foster an open exchange of information and ideas that encourage active and meaningful participation by community members and groups in the formulation of creative ideas designed to address neighborhood concerns. Critical to this process is the understanding that problems that negatively impact the quality of life in a particular community must be promptly identified, addressed and remediated in order to encourage community members to actively participate in process. A positive collateral effect of involving community members in the development of operational strategies is an enhanced level of support for overall department objectives. I highlighted some of our programs and strategies under Pillar 4- Community Policing and Crime Reduction, outlined later in this report.
In keeping with the requirements of New Jersey sunshine laws, each year the ETPD releases tens of thousands of pages of police records, ranging from case reports to Use of Force reports, in response to hundreds of Open Public Records Act Requests. The agency has also releases hundreds of hours of body worn camera and fleet camera videos under OPRA. Requests for agency records come from a wide range of requestors - citizens, academia, public advocacy groups, lawyers – for example, and responses are always prompt and legally complete.
In addition to our daily community police endeavors, every two years, the ETPD seeks citizen input about their experiences and impressions of the ETPD in its Citizen’s Survey. The survey questions citizens’ impressions of the skills, demeanor and knowledge of agency employees as well as allowing comment on their experiences with our department. The survey is published and regularly advertised in agency social media to ensure a high response rate and citizens are
able to respond anonymously to ensure response honesty. The responses are compiled and reviewed with agency Command Staff and survey results are then published on the agency’s social media. Citizens see that their feedback is being sought and valued, and that their opinions are shared openly with the rest of the community.
Finally, ETPD places a high-level of commitment to Recruitment and Selection which are on-going processes and we continually strive to make the ETPD an attractive place for all minorities and genders to work. Recruitment and selection of agency staff are handled in accordance with national law enforcement best practices as set for by the Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation (CALEA). Each year, the agency completes a Recruitment Plan for the following year to attract the most qualified candidates to apply to our department and make every effort to employ a workforce that is a representative of the overall available workforce in the state of New Jersey.
The agency advertises our sworn and civilian positions in traditional avenues. To reach under-represented genders and race demographics, the ETPD notifies minority-focused organizations, local civic groups and associations, New Jersey Municipal Police Academies, and various law enforcement support groups, executive organizations, and on-line resource sites. In 2019 and prior hiring years, we sought hiring assistance from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NAACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Hispanic American Law Enforcement Association, and New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement. Applicants are screened in a background investigation and interview process that is subject to state and national law enforcement oversight by the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police and CALEA. Finally, recruitment and hiring statistics, including our minority and gender recruitment and hiring activities, are then reported annually to these two oversight bodies, as well as described in the ETPD annual reports published on our website.