Over the past two years, our nation and communities have expressed a growing negative sentiment toward law enforcement (LE). Additional demands have been placed upon LE agencies, and previously not-asked questions and demands are now a reality. Some of these questions appear to evoke answers that seriously doubt the widespread need for such a protective service in society. Though it may be unpleasant, this is also an opportunity for those of us working in law enforcement to ask ourselves some related questions. For example, what are the positive attributes offered by LE? How can we develop principles that depict the benefits of LE work to society?
To further explore the “good” done by cops, Lieutenant Geff Deedrick was interviewed and helped expand these concepts that we all know exist but may have difficulty articulating.
A known figure inside our Department, Lieutenant Deedrick is the spirited, compassionate and knowledgeable individual who leads LASD’s Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST). His now internationally recognized team has been credited with achieving unprecedented and difficult successes involving people experiencing homelessness. Lieutenant Deedrick is quick to address that the positive outcomes have been a team effort involving community-based organizations. Good partnerships foster success, which in turn promote further success.
The evolving deep trust developed with community partners is highly contingent upon honesty. These types of genuine collaborations become a testament to the appropriateness of LE in working beyond enforcing laws and responding to calls for service. It’s also allowed HOST to have a “place at the table” with these important service providers.
Lieutenant Deedrick is a deep believer that the guardian effect is another reason his members of HOST are capable of forging a relatively quick and firm rapport with people experiencing homelessness. HOST deputies engage unhoused individuals by utilizing a trauma-informed approach. Simply put, this type of approach conveys the question, “What happened to you?” or “Tell me your story,” as opposed to a demeaning type of message, such as “What is wrong with you?”
The guardian effect, as it relates to LE, states that some people do view peace officers as protectors and may be inclined to ask for help based on the recognition of the uniform and/or other positive preconceived notions. The reality is that some people have a positive view of cops, which can be an important starting point from which to advance. This is one of the major reasons Lieutenant Deedrick finds value in conducting homeless outreach work in a multidisciplinary format (with members from housing, public health, mental health, veterans and family reunification services). There is no one standard approach.
As human beings, we seek safety and security, and after this has been established, we can pursue other higher-order needs such as personal aspirations and engaging in relationships that fulfill us (e.g., love). The guardian effect is further materialized by HOST deputies as they repeatedly visit unhoused individuals, fulfill promises they make and become dependable allies. Instances of victimization tend to decrease in the areas HOST is active because LE presence can shape behavior. Such outcomes promote the concept of “scaffolding,” which proposes that as layers upon layers of trust are established and built upon, much like a stratified foundation, the quality of interactions between people improves.
Lieutenant Deedrick simplifies the essence of HOST and describes he and his deputies afford the same niceties and respect to the community partners as they do to unhoused individuals. The honor of wearing the LASD uniform and badge comes with the responsibility and humility that cops cannot do this type of work by themselves, just as any one community-based organization cannot.
Finally, the lieutenant supports specialized training for LASD members. He ensures each of his HOST deputies completes the 32-hour CIT 360 course, which is offered through our Department’s Mental Evaluation Team. This training focuses on crisis stabilization, mental health stigma reduction and deputy wellness.