A growing number of law enforcement officials have aligned themselves with The Curve, a nonprofit founded by police chiefs and sheriffs to support “early adopter leaders” committed to changing the culture of policing, Governing reports. Legislative and political efforts to reform policing may bring in funds (and add bureaucracy), but they don’t bring significant change, says Chris Hsiung, undersheriff of San Mateo County, Calif., and a founding member of The Curve. Other sectors understand that they need to iterate their business and leadership practices, he says, but policing tends to stay the same. The culture of a department determines how officers behave, Hsiung says. The Curve is working to change the arc of policing by supporting leaders who are passionate about creating a vibrant, positive, forward-looking culture. “Then we can change the industry,” he says.
As a step away from a “culture by default” to a culture by design, The Curve is working to bring the history and mission of policing into perspective. High-profile incidents involving Black Americans have served as reminders of “police” forces in slave-owning states that focused on catching slaves who tried to escape, and were permitted to use brutal tactics to deter such attempts. A different policing tradition was developing in northern states, says Hsiung, drawing on the work of Sir Robert Peel, the Englishman regarded as the father of modern policing. Peel’s principles focused on such concepts as prevention rather than punishment and maintaining trust, approval and cooperation with the public. Persuasion and warnings come first, force only when necessary. The entertainment industry has also shaped public perceptions of policing, Hsiung says. It’s to the good if this attracts viewers with a desire to help to the profession, but a police procedural is not a substitute for a true history News and social media have also defined policing, often in ways that are upsetting to those who truly believe in the career. Moreover, the adversarial tone that drives social media engagement means these platforms don’t provide opportunities to clear the air.