Who benefits from distrust?

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The relationship between the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda (RPFAB) and the public has come to the fore as people discuss the murders that are being committed on our streets. Listen to any discussion and the topic of distrust rears its ugly head. For whatever reasons, the public distrusts the police. Admittedly, that is a very general statement, but it is a reality that cannot be ignored.
People attach a number of characteristics to the police; everything from lazy to unsympathetic to disinterested and a host of other negatives. We are not here to defend the police as they are quite capable of doing so, but we are here to point out that the distrust that exists between the public and the police benefits no one but the criminals.  
There is no doubt that the police can and must do a better job, but so must the public. If we just dismiss the police as being untrustworthy and fail to communicate and build the relationship, then we are doing exactly what the criminals want. Crime thrives in this type of environment. Criminals relish the increasingly dysfunctional relationship that exists because they know that victims and/or witnesses will not, in many cases, cooperate with the police.
At some point, we must all accept that the distrust exists. It matters little if the feeling is a perception based upon unfounded assumptions or not. What matters is that the perception exists, and people’s perceptions are people’s reality. In the fight against crime, neither side can afford to continue down this road.
It is said that the first step to solving a problem is to recognise that it exists. So, let us all recognise that there is a problem of distrust by the public, and let us move forward and find a solution to that problem. Both sides need to work toward uniting in the fight against crime. Right now, the criminals are pouring fuel on the fire and causing increased division and distrust between the citizenry and the police. We all need to realise that the strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ is a proven one that is only overcome by unity.
We often get berated for publicly stating that we are strong supporters of the police. Unusually the criticism comes from people who have had bad experiences with the police and are unwilling to see beyond those experiences. We have had our bad experiences with the police but we cannot cast judgement on the entire force because of those experiences. It would be unfair to us and to them. 
We are not trying to be police apologist because, while we support the police, we do criticise them when we believe that it is warranted. But we do not criticise for the sake of criticising. We do so to help make our relationship better. Simply put, we wouldn’t criticise, if we didn’t care. And we think that the police appreciate it when there is feedback from the public. After all, they wouldn’t know there is a problem if no one told them.
A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin will serve us well if we see the wisdom in it and focus our distrust.  He said, “Distrust and caution are the parents of security.” Our security is enabled by focusing our distrust on persons who seek to do us harm. That is not the police. Our caution enhances the security that we seek. Some may see this as fostering a distrusting society, but it is not. It simply is a call to be cautious.
At the same time, the police need to be more aggressive in their community outreach. They need to give people a reason to believe that their trust is not misplaced if lodged with the police. They need to become less defensive of the public’s perception and build the trust that has eroded. Become more transparent with the public and the public will become more transparent with the police. 
No matter how people may feel about the police, we must all understand that a dysfunctional family will be torn apart by those whose pleasure is preying on divisiveness. In this case, the community and police comprise the family, and the divisive element consists of criminals. Let us not be torn apart for their benefit.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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