Community policing isn’t just about police officers living in the areas where they work, though it is that. It’s also about those officers participating in community activities with their families, getting to know the people they serve.
If one officer summed things up during a visit by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Fayetteville on Tuesday, it was Charles Cochran, a police sergeant in the city. He noted he attended a forum in Washington recently and came away believing that police officers needed to lose the “warrior mentality” and realize “we’re not over the community; we’re part of the community.”
Yes, Lynch went to a good place to advocate community policing. Fayetteville’s chief, Harold Medlock, has been a leader in advocating restraint among officers in their interactions with citizens. Concerned about accusations of racial profiling, Medlock ordered officers to stop drivers only for the most serious offenses. And the Fayetteville City Council prohibited police from searching vehicles unless they had the written permission of the driver.
Lynch, a North Carolina native, liked what Fayetteville had done and sought to promote the community connections there as a national model.
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President Obama, following the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., at the hands of white law officers, started something called “21st Century Policing.” It’s an initiative to raise awareness of problems and perceptions and to seek ways to improve police relations with communities and with minorities.
Lynch’s outreach was admirable. She met not just with officers and officialdom, but also with students who were candid with their ideas and with their criticisms.
And, yes, the attorney general reiterated her department’s intention to stand by its stance against HB2, a foolish bill run through the General Assembly by Republican leaders. It overturned a Charlotte ordinance giving transgender people the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Now the state, appropriately, faces sanctions and a possible loss of billions of dollars in federal education money over concerns that the law violates civil rights protections.
There will be more to come, likely much more, on HB2. But on Tuesday, Lynch showed she has genuine concerns about law enforcement and sees the “system” as something that need not be always confrontational, but part of building a strength in communities. All communities.