What Is Unity Policing?

Unity Policing is a new style of policing that confronts and transforms the culture of police departments by embedding the principles of de-escalation, wellness, leadership, transparency, and empathy into the fabric of the agency; guided by the idea that the collective community (police, residents, businesses/ organizations, government, schools) must act as a unified force to prevent crime, promote safety, and improve society.

The centerpiece of de-escalation is respect for the sanctity of life. Instead of officers acting as warriors, the practice of de-escalation allows them to serve as guardians by providing the skills necessary to deflate tensions before any level of force is necessary. Research shows that adopting a top-notch de-escalation training program results in a significant decrease in use-of-force cases, greater preservation of life, and better relations between police and civilians. Though de-escalation seems like an obvious solution, only a fraction of departments across the nation provide any amount of de-escalation training. The Unity Policing Foundation seeks to change that.

The fact of the matter is: the job of a police officer is not easy. Many officers experience trauma while repeatedly responding to high-stress events and managing volatile, unpredictable interactions. The effects of this work are very real – mentally, physically, and emotionally; and can negatively impact future interactions with citizens. Yet, officers are not equipped with the tools necessary to combat the weight of the job. The Unity Policing model includes multiple aspects of officer wellness, ranging from mental health treatment to physical training programs. We expect officers to be at their best because that’s what the job requires; so, we are willing to invest in wellness initiatives that will improve outcomes for all.

Given the national headlines over the past 5 years, it’s no secret that American policing has fallen short of protecting the lives of all people. Systemic racism, innate bias, and racial profiling have played a significant role in law enforcement interactions with minorities, people of color, and in poor neighborhoods. It’s not enough to state the problem. It’s not enough to implement rudimentary racial bias training programs or post pictures of officers giving ice cream to kids. Unity Policing aims to develop a true, mutual empathy between police and people through education, sincere interactions, and honest (sometimes even uncomfortable) collaboration. A crucial aspect of ensuring that all people are treated with dignity is creating an environment where we see ourselves, our children, our parents, our loved ones in each other.

Given the emphasis on hierarchy and rank in police departments across the country, the attitudes, actions, and sentiments of those in power are incredibly significant. Complacency at the top breeds indifference throughout the organization, impeding the chance for critical analysis, self-reflection, and positive change. The Unity Policing model requires much more from police leaders. It requires leaders who seek legitimate criticisms and honest feedback; leaders who are willing to confront the shortcomings of the system; and leaders who are open-minded and unafraid to make a bold change at the right moment.

Speaking of transparency, here’s the truth: the police department is, by virtue of taxpayers, the peoples’ department. Too often, law enforcement agencies fail to reflect this reality by acting as an independent body of authority, resistant to input from those they serve. Unity Policing seeks to open the doors of the department to its neighbors, in unprecedented ways, in pursuit of creating an impactful working relationship with the people. Through Unity Engagement teams, residents will collaborate with the department on crucial matters to improve all aspects of the department. Moreover, the Unity Policing model prioritizes community outreach and education – we want to empower people to know their rights and provide them with the resources necessary to improve their lives.