Building trust one conversation at a time
Discussions between the Illinois NAACP and Illinois police chiefs identified common ground between local LE and the communities they serve
By Ed Wojcicki
People may be surprised to know how much the Illinois NAACP and Illinois police chiefs work together, how often we communicate and how often we agree.
We not only say it, but we can also prove it.
Ten Shared Principles
We signed in the same room where Lincoln gave his famous “House divided” speech in 1858, and we chose that room deliberately.
For two years prior, we had engaged in private conversations and public World Café sessions to talk about our common concerns and common points of agreement.
The shared principles we agreed on are:
- Value the life of every person, the preservation of life being the highest value
- Recognize that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect
- Reject discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, color, nationality, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or familial status
- Endorse the six pillars of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing including the first pillar of building trust and legitimacy
- Endorse the four pillars of procedural justice, which are fairness, voice, transparency and impartiality
- Endorse the values inherent in community policing, which includes positive engagement between community and police
- Develop relationships at the leadership and street levels to eliminate racial tension
- Accept mutual responsibility to encourage all citizens to gain a better understanding of the law to assist in interactions with police
- Increase diversity in police departments and the law enforcement profession
- Commit to de-escalation training to ensure the safety of community members and police officers
Since then, we have traveled the state together talking about difficult issues such as the fear that some Black males have of the police and racial profiling. The conversations have been civil and fruitful. One of the best outcomes of these sessions has been that law enforcement leaders have left with a much better understanding of the fears and concerns of members of the community.
Everybody has said we should have more conversations. And so we have. Our mantra is that we are building trust one conversation at a time.
Have we solved race relations problems in Illinois? Obviously not. Have we built all the trust necessary in Illinois between police and all citizens? Obviously not. But we heard the plea after Ferguson to get better connected, and we responded. I have observed for myself in city after city, at the end of these sessions, chiefs approach community leaders and engage in conversations about the next steps they will take locally to build bridges.
As the statewide chiefs’ association, we have been asking local police departments to “adopt” the Ten Shared Principles as their own and use them as the basis of local conversations. To date, more than 210 police departments have done that. Our new president, Chief James Black of Crystal Lake, is making it a priority to get more agencies to sign on.
Not only are police agencies endorsing the principles, but so has one important national group, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the Illinois Municipal League, which represents 1,298 municipalities. Also, law enforcement agencies in three downstate counties (Kankakee, McDonough and Sangamon) have organized themselves so that all LE agencies in those counties adopted the principles at countywide ceremonies that also featured NAACP leaders. Momentum is building at a critical point in history.
We have reason to hope. We have been quietly promoting Ten Shared Principles for more than two years, long before the current national debate about police reform. As we pledged in our original document: “We vow by mutual affirmation to work together and stand together in our communities and at the state level to implement these values and principles, and to replace mistrust with mutual trust wherever, whenever, and however we can.”
If you hope for an end to division and fear, and if you are looking for an innovative way to collaborate, know that we have a head start in Illinois.
For more information on the process that led up to the development of the Ten Shared Principles, click here.
About the author
Ed Wojcicki is executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Springfield. Reach him at email@example.com.