The work of the White Plains Police Reform Committee has been informed by three overarching and intertwined principles: Procedural Justice, Sanctity of Life, and the Guardian mindset. An understanding of these is key to understanding this Committee’s specific recommendations.
The Committee recommends that the White Plains Police Department integrate the principles of Procedural Justice, Sanctity of Life and the Guardian Mindset
throughout the organization.
Procedural Justice “focuses on the way police and other legal authorities interact with
the public, and how the characteristics of those interactions shape the public’s views of
the police, their willingness to obey the law, and actual crime rates.” Procedural Justice
encompasses four pillars:
- Treating people with dignity and respect,
- Giving citizens ‘voice’ during encounters,
- Being neutral and transparent in decision making, and
- Conveying trustworthy motives
A growing body of research has demonstrated that “procedural justice is critical for building trust and increasing the legitimacy of law enforcement within communities. As such, it has paramount implications for both public safety and officer efficacy. While highly publicized abuses of authority by police officers fuel distrust and erode legitimacy, less publicized, day-to-day interactions between community members and law enforcement are also influential in shaping people’s long-term attitudes toward the police.”
Sanctity of Life
Sanctity of Life holds that “at the core of a police officer’s responsibilities is the duty to protect all human life and physical safety.” Further, “police departments’ policies should consistently emphasize sanctity of life as a central principle of policing.” Critical to the
Sanctity of Life principle of policing is the belief that “officers must have the tools and judgement to differentiate circumstances that do not warrant the use of force.” A Sanctity of Life mindset must be reinforced not only in police department policies and procedures, but also in training, disciplinary proceedings, and interactions with the public as well.
The Guardian mindset conveys that police officers must first and foremost view themselves as defenders, protectors, and keepers and it is through this lens that the officer should view his/her interactions with the public. In contrast, the Warrior mindset holds that police officers must be able to protect and defend themselves in dangerous situations and that such a mindset is necessary in order to combat and defeat criminals. The concern here, however, is that if the Warrior mindset is the dominant mindset, it is more likely to trigger a negative or violent reaction that was avoidable. The Warrior mindset, like the Guardian mindset, pervades every encounter an officer has with the public. Treating every encounter with a warrior mindset and every citizen as a potential enemy does not build cooperation and trust in the community. If the community doesn’t cooperate with the police, their job is more dangerous.” The Guardian mindset acknowledges that there are situations in which an officer may have to adopt a Warrior mindset, but the goal should be that the Guardian mindset become the dominant mindset and that all police-community interactions be guided first by a Guardian point of view.
The White Plains Police Reform Committee endorses the principles of Procedural Justice, Sanctity of Life, and the Guardian mindset, and recommends that these become fully
integrated into the departmental culture of the White Plains Police Department. Taken
together, these principles should serve as a guide to the department in policy/procedure
development, training, and all aspects of operations. The White Plains Police Department has made significant progress building a professional environment informed by these three principles. We make this recommendation to emphasize the overarching importance of the principles of Procedural Justice, Sanctity of Life, and the Guardian mindset and to encourage the department to continue and expand its efforts on this path.
Blocks of instruction related to all three of these principals are included in our Department’s In-Service Training Program each year. Although the courses cover different law enforcement theories and practices, they are all relatable to each other due to these guiding principals.
Most recently, the 2021 program included sessions such as “Fair & Impartial Policing“, a course taught by DCJS certified trainers that covered topics such as implicit bias, cultural competency and community engagement and “De-escalation & Duty to Intervene“, a course taught by ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessments and Tactics) certified instructors.
Although, the principals of Procedural Justice, Sanctity of Life and the Guardian Mindset are already very much present in our recruitment efforts, training endeavors and overall mindset, we are routinely evaluating new practices and training that encompass these core values.
Public Safety Mission Statement
Further, keeping in line with these principles, the White Plains Police Reform Committee recommends the following changes to the White Plains Department of Public Safety Mission Statement (suggested new wording in bold):
The mission of the White Plains, NY Department of Public Safety is to provide unbiased comprehensive protection and service to the residents and visitors of the City of White Plains. The public’s safety, the trust of the community, dignity for all, and the enrichment of
quality of life are paramount, and will be provided by the Police and Fire Bureaus with Professionalism, Integrity, and Respect.
The Department’s Mission Statement was revised in 08/2021 and now includes this recommendation verbatim.