Dignity, Respect & Procedural Justice

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Treating all persons with dignity and respect is the fundamental ethic of relating to, and behaving toward, other human beings (and indeed all life).  It is also the foundational principle of procedural justice, that is, how Law Enforcement relates to the public it serves, how the quality of this interaction shapes how the public views Law Enforcement, and how the public (more) willingly obeys the law.  Procedural justice can have dramatic impacts on how Police and the public can effectively co-produce public safety.

In the document, “The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing” (2015) is written:

“Procedurally just behavior is based on four central principles:

  1. Treating people with dignity and respect
  2. Giving individuals ‘voice’ during encounters
  3. Being neutral and transparent in decision making
  4. Conveying trustworthy motives

Research demonstrates that these principles lead to relationships in which the community trusts that officers are honest, unbiased, benevolent, and lawful.  The community therefore feels obligated to follow the law and the dictates of legal authorities and is more willing to cooperate with and engage those authorities because it believes that it shares a common set of interests and values with the police.”

For those who may pushback against any of these points, let us outline a few items here for each of the four principles:

  1. If any Law Enforcement Officer cannot treat all persons with dignity and respect, s/he is not deserving of serving as a Law Enforcement Officer.  This holds true for any Protection or Contact Professional such as, for example, a Healthcare Security Officer.  This is a baseline-ethic.  Failing to embody this is a sign that all enforcement and engagement actions from a Law Enforcement Officer will be strained and damaging to persons and communities.
  2. Giving others’ ‘voice’ during encounters is not only a safe way to deal with others (remember your Verbal Judo principles), but is also a simple way of allowing others to express themselves which they are allowed to do (outside of the Fighting Words Doctrine).
  3. Not being perceived as neutral or transparent in decision making is to be perceived as executing enforcement actions because of bias.  The research around implicit and explicit bias is significant and should not be ignored.
  4. When principles 1 – 3 are compromised, a Law Enforcement Officer (or other Protection or Contact Professional) will inevitably end up losing his/her credibility, believability, and trustworthiness.  When these are lost, safety is lessened, one will struggle for voluntary compliance, cooperation, or collaboration, and community relations will continue to suffer.

Law enforcement is a noble profession.  It’s a profoundly influential way to serve society.

Performed ethically, professionally, and with concern for the welfare of all people, Law Enforcement Officers can be Change Agents.  We need as many Change Agents as possible in the world today.  Let’s be one.


In a republic that honors the core of democracy – the greatest amount of power is given to those called Guardians.  Only those with the most impeccable character are chosen to bear the responsibility of protecting the democracy.

~ Plato




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