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How 'FAST' Policing Can Boost Public Confidence In Officers

Speedily and guaranteed service is what 911 callers expect from the police. Unless cases are resolved without deployment or otherwise, police dispatchers meet face-to-face with 911 callers to resolve various issues.

Calls for service shot up significantly during the pandemic. The total remains similar to pre-pandemic levels this year. As such, police departments that already face staff shortages and resource constraints struggle to keep up, igniting citizen frustration and dissatisfaction with the police and, in rare cases, undesirable consequences. 

New evidence from the United Kingdom shows that the problem can be tackled through telecommunication. In a randomized control trial study, study authors found that 911 callers preferred to converse with an available police officer.

Police officers spent on average, over an hour on the phone with 911 callers offering their service as they would in an in-person meeting. Focusing on medium cases such as threats, harassment, assaults, disputes, disturbances, and sexual offenses, the authors found that the police were able to (a) spend more time with 911 callers offering them timely advice and referrals to partner agencies than if they drove to meet them in person, (b) offer, from the perspective of 911 callers, satisfactory services, and (c) offer cost-efficient and less labor-intensive response.

Notably, this intervention increased the confidence and trust of 911 callers in the police as compared to those who received a face-to-face police meeting, regardless of a person’s race.

About 95 percent of citizens have access to and use smartphones in the United States today. As such, this policing strategy will more likely be feasible in the U.S. context. his strategy could solve some issues. First, researchers describe the current era in the U.S. as one of citizen mistrust of the police. This is partly due to citizen dissatisfaction with police service delivery.

Mistrust in the police, in particular, undermines citizen cooperation with the police and compliance with the law, which threatens community safety.

Police departments in the U.S. face challenges in personnel and resource allocations. The implications of

such challenges are enormous. Crucial amongst them are the negative impacts such logistical challenges have on the fight against crime and public safety.

Reports in the U.S. show that people’s demographics, such as race, impact police response and justice delivery. This problem keeps widening the troubling gap between the police and citizens. Particularly, it strengthens the

already strained relationship between the police and minorities.

Viewing these issues in light of the study’s findings, there are some takeaways that, if adopted in the U.S. will bring some benefits. Adopting FAST (finding alternative and speedier tactics) policing is likely to boost public trust and confidence in the police, ensure that people receive timely responses and support from police officers, put limited police resources to effective and efficient use, and redirect resources to more serious cases.

But for friendly relations between community members and police, public safety will be threatened. FAST policing is a feasible, cost-effective and-efficient approach that will bring the public closer to the police.

Although it is not one size fits all approach, it can improve policing in the U.S.


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