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Police Departments and Communities Need Win-Win Commitments and Strategies

Too many police departments today have horrible, contentious, angry, and divisive relationships with major segments of their communities. Arrest rates are disproportionately high for minority members of far too many communities. Courts have sad histories of disproportionate conviction rates for minorities on trial in far too many settings.

When minority members make up only 40 percent of a local population but represent more than 80 percent of the arrests, then there are clearly intergroup problems that need to be solved in those settings. The resources section of this website has extensive information about a wide range of those situations and outcomes. Take a look at those studies and reports. Those problems are very real and they happen in far too many communities.

A best way of reaching resolution for those issues in a wide range of settings is for both community members and police departments in those settings to commit intentionally and explicitly to a Win/Win approach to solving and resolving their problems.

Win-Win — when it is well done — is anchored on each side understanding exactly what constitutes a win for the other side — and also involves each side understanding clearly exactly what constitutes a win for themselves.

In most settings where win/lose outcomes and negative intergroup consequences are the normal pattern, that level of clear understanding does not exist about what constitutes a win for either side.

We need to change that reality. We need people of good will to commit to Win-Win values and Win-Win behaviors, and we need to do that as an explicit set of understandings, agreements, and commitments. That approach and that process creates a lovely process of shared learning. When people agree to go into a situation or a setting with the goal and the explicit intent of achieving legitimate Win-Win outcomes for all parties, then a very first step in the process is for each party to explain clearly to the other party what outcomes would constitute a win for themselves.

In an effective Win-Win interaction, each party listens carefully to the other party and each party also works to make sure that they explain clearly what a win is for their own side in that setting.

In a high percentage of cases, that clear explanation of wins by both sides builds up entirely new awareness levels for each side about the other side — and that new awareness is sometimes sufficient on its own merit and its own momentum to cause behavior changes that in result in wins for both sides. 

In many other cases, the wins needed by each party are not automatic and some may not be easy to do — and achieving those wins in those settings requires specific effort by one or more parties. In the Win-Win negotiation process, those efforts and their related functional key steps can be identified — and plans can be created and implemented to make those efforts needed to achieve those wins a reality.

Honesty, transparency, candor, good will, and good intentions are all key components and key ingredients for that process. We need to avoid deceit, duplicity and even basic dishonesty for those interactions. Dishonesty activates our negative intergroup instincts and deceit and duplicity both trigger angry, destructive and even vengeful us/them instinctive intergroup behavior packages far too easily. People in Win/Win situations need to be both honest and perceived to be honest to make the Win/Win approach a success.

Police departments who want to function in Win-Win settings need to reach out to their communities to create and earn trust and understanding. That needs to be an intentional and clearly communicated process. Very clear reaching out and listening processes need to be key behaviors for police departments in each of those settings.

Communities also need to be willing to work with police in honest and well intentioned dialogue to create real community protection, equality of the various enforcement processes and approaches, transparency for key functionality, and to set up a positive feedback system that lets the police in each setting understand when problems happen that violate the letter, or the spirit or even the tone of the interaction agreements and the understandings created for the police and the community. Police leaders need to make creating those positive results a top priority for them in their job and both police and community members need clear communications processes to let the police know when they are doing well and when they are not doing well.  

All communities are better off with the full and fair protection of the law. Police in all settings should be heroes for protecting the people they serve. We need our police to be the champions and the protectors of the settings they serve. Police should not be bullies or bigots or act in any way that violates the respect due to the communities they serve. Discriminatory enforcement of the law should not happen in any of our communities.

Win-Win dialogues with the key parties in each setting can anchor win/win behaviors. Both The Art of InterGroup Peace and Primal Pathways outline specific ways that Win-Win approaches can become community realities. We need the police in every setting to be trusted community members. If we want that to happen, we will need to actually do what needs to be done to make it happen.

As Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said so clearly in his extremely wise and reality grounded letter from the Birmingham jail, "Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability."

We need our progress to roll in on the wheels of intentionality. Intentionality is key. We need to be very intentional in creating Win-Win outcomes in each of those settings. It is possible. The Art of InterGroup Peace helps tell us how to do it. ~Institute for InterGroup Understanding~