Changes needed to build public trust in police, says AU researcher
The legitimacy of police organizations in the public eye hinges on their ability to make critical changes to the way they treat their own members, says Athabasca University (AU) professor, Dr. Angela Workman-Stark.
“This relationship between the public and the police is very tenuous,” says Workman-Stark, a former chief superintendent with the RCMP who oversaw the agency’s response to widespread allegations of gender discrimination and harassment in 2013.
Recent examples of police across North America using excessive force—as in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis—have further eroded public confidence, she says. “If we want police to maintain their legitimacy, we need to make these changes.”
Workman-Stark retired from the RCMP in 2016 after 24 years, realizing the culture at the time was not conducive to making the wholesale changes she advocated for. She began teaching at AU in the Faculty of Business and researching the policing culture that contributes to allegations of mistreatment from within the organization and from the public.
Her research found a prevalent “masculinity contest culture” in policing organizations that encourages demonstrations of toughness and strength. She also found a correlation between the way police are treated in their own workplace and the public complaints against them.
Workman-Stark’s goal is to work with leaders to create more supportive and inclusive workplaces in all sectors, where people know “that they’re valued, respected, trusted and accepted for who they are and what they bring.”
Read more about Workman-Stark and her research on The Hub.