Steps to Building Trust

Steps to Building Trust

This list serves as a resource for law enforcement and community stakeholders. Each section provides tips to promote communication, partnership, and transparency between law enforcement and the communities they serve.


  • Communicate promptly and frequently during critical incidents. Use professional discretion to determine what constitutes law enforcement–sensitive information. Allow key community members access to information about the situation at the scene. Communicate to frontline officers performance expectations for communicating with the community, particularly how they to interact with citizens in an emotionally charged situation.
  • Establish relationships with the community by fostering dialogue between law enforcement and residents. Successful strategies include convening monthly meetings with community members; increasing bicycle and foot patrols; and establishing programs that solicit involvement from residents, such as Coffee with a Cop, Neighborhood Watch, and National Night Out programs.
  • Use surveys to gather feedback from frontline and community stakeholders.
  • Develop relationships with the media and use social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter to publicize positive interactions between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Social media should be used positively and carefully to engage and inform the community. Department personnel should be mindful of their personal use of social media, as speech is part of the worldwide electronic domain.
  • Identify, recruit, and retain officers with the interpersonal skills necessary to foster relationships with the community. Review and revise recruiting, selection, and training practices to attract and retain these individuals.
  • Conduct bottom-up reviews of all agency policies, procedures, tactics, and techniques to ensure that values are effectively communicated and exercised throughout the organization.
  • Teach supervisors how to coach and mentor officers. Help officers establish career goals.
  • Provide clear understanding of performance expectations and the policy and procedures linked to performance.
  • Draft written policies and procedures for Internal Affairs, ensuring fair, unbiased, and timely investigations of officers.
  • Increase transparency by collecting data, policies, and procedures and making them publicly available in the languages spoken in the local community. Share challenges and successes.
  • Promote continuous training in ethics, integrity, and discretion.
  • Ensure that professional development and in-service training highlights the history of community-police relations, as well as the history of the neighborhood or city.
  • Engage the community in law enforcement training by opening training exercises to the public and allowing observers and community members to serve as trainers.
  • Implement a mentoring program within your agency to build trust and legitimacy with at-risk youth.  This will help improve police and community relations, while also establishing a recruiting ground for future law enforcement officers.


  • Treat every member of the community with respect and treat non-enforcement engagements as an opportunity to build trust. Trust is earned through sincere interest, collaboration, and commitment to justice. In addition to modeling professional behaviors to the community, officers must be role models for other officers.
  • Get out of your patrol vehicle. Build relationships through non-enforcement interactions by participating in community events, seeking out mentorship opportunities with youth, and serving as a community coach for youth sports, particularly in areas where police enforcement is ever present.
  • Use favorable discretion by issuing verbal warnings to low level offenders (i.e., traffic offenses or criminal activity). Articulate why actions are being taken, in order to make the public aware and create trust.
  • Engage the youth in high-crime areas by participating in pick-up games of basketball, football, double-dutch, etc. Hold follow-up conversations with parents and guardians of truants and curfew violators. Use community festivals, sporting events, and holiday celebrations to engage in dialogue with diverse community members and increase cultural competencies.
  • Work with law enforcement leaders to develop consistent and strategic messaging about expectations for building relationships with the community, particularly how officers should interact with citizens in a difficult or emotionally charged situation.
  • Encourage community stakeholders to participate in programs that increase community trust, such as citizen police academies, Neighborhood Watch, and National Night Out initiatives.
  • Seek out training opportunities provided by local colleges and universities, law enforcement organizations, training institutions, and federal partners such as the COPS Office Community Policing Learning Portal. The Community Policing Learning Portal provides free community policing training and resources to law enforcement and citizens.


  • Meet with local law enforcement leaders to hold periodic briefing sessions on the “State of the Community.”
  • Engage law enforcement to attend and participate in community events, meetings, and other activities.
  • Identify key points of contact to serve as volunteer community liaisons during critical incidents to enhance communication and promote the reporting of crime and suspicious activity.
  • Engage local and national organizations to establish a network of partners that share responsibility for identifying, reducing, eliminating, and preventing problems that impact community safety.
  • Call on local, city, county, and state leaders to ensure accountability for law enforcement.
  • Provide information to law enforcement regarding unlawful acts that impact the safety of the community. 
  • Act as constructive critics and discourage activists from politicizing incidents before the facts are known and investigations are conducted.
  • Encourage community members to volunteer with a local police department and consider the law enforcement profession as a means to repair the system from within.
  • Seek opportunities to participate in citizen police academies to gain a better understanding of the law enforcement profession.
  • Encourage community members to seek out publications and webinars regarding civil and constitutional rights, procedural justice, and implicit or unconscious bias.


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