The current overall perception from the public is that American law enforcement has a problem with community relations and race relations — especially in urban neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Criminal violence is an acceptable norm in many of these communities, and the police often feel like an "eight-hour occupational army" in many violent neighborhoods. Given the acceptance and protection of criminal behavior in certain neighborhoods, the local police have responded with tactics grounded in the "Broken Windows" theory.

The news media have heavily influenced public perception of current police-community relations. As a result, police have a public relations disaster on their hands from a lack of consistent leadership and transparency.

The reality of policing today

Hand-painted protest signs lean against a house and black dolls hang by their necks in a tree in front of a row of houses in Baltimore.

For the police officer who is working the streets and trying to make the neighborhoods safe, the personal stress has been heavy. How can an officer reduce his personal stress, make better decisions and find balance in his life working in a fish bowl of YouTube and social media reporting?

The officer working the street realizes most citizens will no longer get involved and help de-escalate problems in the neighborhood. People are no longer willing to help an officer during an altercation if a person is resisting, just so that everyone stays safe, including the person resisting. When the crowd gathers around the officer, it is not to make their neighborhood safe, but to have their iPhones recording and often even to verbally escalate the situation.

For today's law enforcement officer, the stress of just wearing the uniform in certain neighborhoods is enormous.

Why is emotional intelligence important to policing?

We all come equipped with emotions, and we can experience a wide range of feelings that cause us to react to our environment. At times, emotions can be confusing to interpret. Emotional intelligence is a person's self-awareness to recognize emotions, and the ability to self-regulate and manage emotions to achieve the best possible outcome.

Law enforcement officers who display higher levels of emotional intelligence are able to manage stress and see the big picture and not take things personally. Emotional intelligence can help an officer enhance his conflict-management skills, and manage personal stress, which can decrease career burnout.

A police officer stands at a microphone discussing neighborhood crime prevention with a small group of community members at a National Night Out against crime neighborhood fair held August 5, 2014, in Glendale, California.

Signs of low emotional intelligence in an officer

  • Aggressive
  • Demanding
  • Confrontational
  • Impulsive
  • Resistant to change
  • Moody

Signs of high emotional intelligence in an officer

  • Assertive
  • Ambitious
  • Decisive
  • Sociable
  • Persuasive
  • Patient
  • Predictable
  • Good listener
  • Careful
  • Systematic
  • Neat

The nature of policing comes down to the officer on scene processing the information quickly and using emotional intelligence to help guide his actions. This is a critical part of making the best decision and having the strength to defend the choices made.

Using emotional intelligence to help make decisions is a good conceptual framework when developing police training.