Over the years, the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the U.S. Department of Justice has assisted police departments and communities all over the country in coming to grips with the difficult task of maintaining law and order in a complex and changing multicultural society. Frequently, these efforts have involved minority citizens' complaints about police behavior, use of force, and hate groups.
The underlying assumption is that a police force and the community it serves must reach consensus on the values that guide that police force. Those values, while implicit in our Constitution, must embrace as clearly as possible the protection of individual life and liberty, and, at the same time, the measures necessary to maintain a peaceful and stable society. To accomplish this, a police executive must be familiar not only with his or her own police culture, but with the community culture as well, which is no easy task in neighborhoods experiencing major demographic changes.
The Community Relations Service's involvement in police-citizen violence stems directly from the CRS mandate to assist in community conflicts that threaten peaceful race relations in communities. Among the causes of such disputes, none is more volatile than allegations of unwarranted police use of deadly force against minority citizens. Even a perception that police follow this practice is cause for concern, because the negative impact on police-citizen relations will be the same.