- Jan 25
Martinsburg Police Pioneer New Training Program
MPD Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy Training a First for the Region
Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy training has come to Martinsburg. The training is part of a growing national movement to build communication and trust between police and community members. “Good policing is founded on a partnership between police and citizens,” stated Martinsburg Chief Maury Richards. “Building police legitimacy by practicing procedural justice every day is the basis of mutual trust and respect. This training is cutting-edge and a vital part of MPD’s continual pursuit of excellence.” All of the Martinsburg Police Department’s officers have now completed the new training.
Police legitimacy is the belief by the public that the police ought to be allowed to exercise their authority to maintain social order, manage conflicts, and solve problems in their communities. This occurs when residents feel that a police officer should be deferred to, complied with, and trusted.
Legitimacy is achieved through the process of “procedural justice”, in which the police treat all citizens fairly and with respect. The procedural justice process is based upon four principles: giving others voice (listening to their side of the story); neutral, non-biased decision making; treating people with respect; and demonstrating trust by doing the right thing and acting in the best interests of everyone involved.
The program, originally developed by the Chicago Police Department, is now being taught to thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. Two MPD police officers, Patrolman Brian Rouse and Patrolman Jon Smith, were sent to Chicago to learn and are now the first two officers to be certified to teach the Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy curriculum in West Virginia. The two MPD veterans are excited about bringing the training back to Martinsburg.
“Procedural Justice is just a way to describe what the best cops have been doing all along,” observed Rouse. “It’s all about doing the right thing all of the time and treating others how you would want to be treated.” Officer Smith stressed the importance of the public viewing the police as legitimate. “When citizens see their police as legitimate and trustworthy, people are way more likely to comply and cooperate. This results in greater safety, reduced conflict, and less crime.”
Deputy Chief George Swartwood commended both the training and the trainers. “This wasn’t what you typically would expect to see in police training—very little lecture but a lot of interaction. No uniforms, no rank, everybody was on a first name basis—from patrolman to chief. We had a lot of honest discussion and positive feedback,” Swartwood observed. “Brian and Jon did a fantastic job. These two guys have a reputation as being ‘cops’ cops’ and are respected by their fellow officers and community members. They were the perfect instructors to lead the class,” the Deputy Chief added.
Officers Smith and Rouse are continuing to refine and improve the cutting-edge training curriculum. Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy will continue to be a regular component in MPD training and is being prepared for an upcoming presentation to Martinsburg’s elected officials and community leaders.
Chief Richards observed that building trust between police and the community is now more important than ever. “For the last several years, people have been bombarded with hundreds of negative images and the reporting of incidents with an unfair and anti-police bias.” Richards noted that, “The negative image of the police that has been created just doesn’t reflect the truth and has eroded trust. The good news is, we know that personal interactions have the strongest impact on people’s perceptions of the police. We can’t control what stories are played in the national media but we can control the quality of interactions we have in Martinsburg, and we are going to keep building trust, one encounter at a time.”