2 min read
Posted on 09.23.14
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 09.23.14

During especially difficult periods in police-community relations - when, for understandable cause and reasons of history, trust is in short supply - there's a recurring figure of speech one may hear in community conversations:

"The benefit of the doubt."

Conscientious police officers, those who truly represent a community's finest, pray for this. They say they need it desperately to do their job. They recognize that some people have good reasons based on bad experiences to be guarded in their contacts with law enforcement.

But these officers say, with justification, that the benefit of the doubt provides them their best chance to show what police really can do - to help people, to positively engage young people, to protect the community.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department recently graduated a new academy class. All graduations are exciting and uplifting, but even factoring in that emotion, there was something special about these graduates and their families.

Mayor Slay put it this way: "The new officers looked like what they were: the pride of a diverse metropolitan city. The families looked like they were: the kind of people who produce the pride of a diverse metropolitan city. Everyone was cheering for everyone."

May they receive the benefit of the doubt. They would benefit so greatly from this gift. It would help them do their jobs. It would help them fully develop into St. Louis' finest.

As young adults and officers they will learn that such an expression of trust - the putting aside skepticism and taking a reasonable chance on someone - is a two way street. The same lesson might be applied to those young people they will meet on the streets, to similar good advantage. In building trust, over time, you have to give to get.

(Photo: Graduates of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Academy Class of 2014-1 line up to receive their badges at the Aug. 28 ceremony at Carr Lane VPA Middle School.)