Trust: The Currency of Peace

"Trust is a function of two things: Character and competence.  Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people.  Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, and your history."~Stephen MR Covey in The Speed of Trust

"The moment there is suspicion about a person's motives, everything he does becomes tainted.~Mahatma Gandhi'

"What's important, though, is that at last we're confronting the issue of declining trust in our culture.  As trust declines, we quit believing in each other; we don't feel safe because we trust no one."~Cecile Andrews in Living Room Revolution

Romans 13:3-4
For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. (NLT)

The single most important asset in any community is trust.  Trust is simply the ability to have confidence in a person, group, or institution.  As leadership expert Stephen Covey states, our ability to trust is based upon the perceived character and competence of the person or institution.  Social Scientist Richard Boyatzis takes this concept a little further by saying that research shows we will only follow people whom we trust and whose behavior, values, and beliefs are aligned.  In fact, "we only trust people whom we do not constantly have second-guess", (Boyatzis, Reasonant Leadership).

It is this understanding of trust and its centrality for civility that needs more attention in the discussion and analysis of the conditions involving law enforcement and people of color.  At the time of this writing, numerous cases involving people of color dying at the hands of law enforcement have lead to nationwide and even international protests.  Social media is abuzz with ill-informed, polarized rants without a goal of understanding, reconciliation, or civility.

Basically. Law enforcement  must be trustworthy.  It has a unique position in civil society where it is granted trust. The Greek scriptures (New Testament) speak of law enforcement as having innate respect and trust.  This trust is based upon the assumed moral character and competence.  The assumption is that as civil servants, law enforcement officers are devoted to  the protection of all citizens and the implementation and execution of laws that are themselves fair, impartial, and just.  Any threat to the integrity of this devotion, causes significant distrust.  This distrust undermines everything.

Statistically speaking, in many predominantly African-American communities, there is reason for distrust in the law enforcement agencies in their community and the legal system in general.  The statistics showing a greater risk of being killed, being arrested, and serving longer sentences are impressive.  This does not mean that all or even most law enforcement officers in African-American communities are racists, corrupt, or use excessive force.  But it means that the Law enforcement agencies have a responsibility of earning the trust of its community.  That trust can no longer be taken for granted nor can it be requested from the community.  It must be earned.

So how do law enforcement and governmental authorities earn trust?  Here we go:

1. Demonstrate respect for the community and the law:  When communities are treated disrespectfully then they refuse to respect the authorities.  Give dignity and you will get it.  Law enforcement should never be above the law it enforces.  Law enforcement officers are human and make mistakes like everyone else.  Keeping themselves accountable speaks volumes to its community.

2. Create processes for transparency: Things like cameras and open hearings allow a sense of transparency that directly yields trust.  Secrecy is a trust killer.

3.  Make Amends when possible: When Law enforcement agencies commit crimes, there must be justice and amends made when possible.

4. Confront Reality: If there are systematic injustices that are expressed in discriminatory displays of excessive force, arrests, and unfair sentencing, then admit it and deal with it.  Again, one need not be a racist to participate in racialized systems .

5. Clarify expectations for the community: Demonstrate how you are using resources to enhance their security, not to diminish it.

6. Extend Trust: Law Enforcement must listen to the communities in which they serve and extend the courtesy that community members are on their side.  This is done by inviting community members into law enforcement, developing specific community-law enforcement liaisons and regular forums. Booker T Washington is correct when he says "few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him."

I leave you with this quote:

"Democracy means trusting in the people.  Without democracy we will not survive becasue continuing with "Every man for himself" ultimately means "last man standing".~Cecile Andrews

I pray that trust is earned so that civility can be established.

God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor