The Importance of Building Trust in Law Enforcement

We train officers for competencies. We train them for skills. We never really train cops, to look at their impact.

By The Arbinger Institute | November 29, 2021

Have you ever asked, “How do you build trust while leading a team?” "What does it look like to build trust in an organization?” ”How can building trust lead to better results?” Chief Ken Wallentine was seeking to answer those same questions as he entered his role as Police Chief at West Jordan Police Department.

Building trust is a time-consuming task. It is also one of the most rewarding and can transform relationships as well as entire organizations. Below are excerpts of Chief Wallentine’s exclusive interview, “Police, Community, and Trust,” where he discussed the challenges and opportunities in public safety today.


According to Chief Wallentine, “Police Officers don’t like two things: the way things are and change.” Early in his tenure, he chose to bring the Arbinger training to his department. It was clear there was a lot of resistance. Whether it was not trusting the new Chief, not wanting to change the current ways of policing, or just wanting to be left alone to do their job, officers were not ready to jump into a new training.

This is often the case not only in police departments but in organizations facing change. There are many causes for this, but one of the greatest is a lack of trust. How we see change will determine how we behave towards change. The Chief was ready to start helping his officers see differently and build trust between one another in order to have a greater more positive impact on themselves, and the community.

Over the course of a year, the entire department participated in Arbinger’s Outward Mindset training. The Chief explained these 3 areas where he saw the most impact:

  1. Seeing Threats vs. Seeing People
    1. When everyone and every idea is seen as a threat, real conversations are hard to come by. It was like there was an awakening in the department where people were being seen as people and previous problems started to become nonissues.
  2. Interpersonal Communication
    1. “The greatest impact, is that we care more about one another and more about our successes. We care more because we are outward.” They found that when the team was outward and focused on others, they looked for the good in everything.
  3. Common Shorthand Language
    1. The Arbinger training gives organizations language everyone can use to quicken the communication process. The ability to share what you need in a timely manner reduces conflict and creates clear lines of communication for everyone.

The Chief explained how these were the greatest areas of growth for his department. It didn’t happen overnight, but the consistent application of the Arbinger principles slowly built trust between officers that resulted in a more harmonious workplace. And it didn’t stop there. Officers weren’t only seeing people as people in the office, but in the community as well.


Police Officers only get called when there is some kind of conflict in their community. The difficult part isn’t managing the conflict but having a heart at peace when dealing with conflict. It can be increasingly hard to see people as people when the training and skills have taught the officers to be aware of all the possible threats present, including the people.

As necessary as that is, Chief Wallentine shared, “what we have found through the Arbinger principles is that you can be perfectly tactically aware, centered in outwardness.” When people are seen as people during conflict, there is a major shift in the possible outcomes of an interaction. It is no longer centered around the threats, but the individuals that are present in the conflict and how to best serve those involved.

When asking how to build trust in a community, most often the answers surround changing behavior. Although some behavior change will be needed, it rarely happens through simply focusing on behaving differently. We must go deeper in order to see how our behaviors actually impact other people.

How are we seeing people and how do people see us? If we are unaware of both how we are seeing and how we are being seen, we cannot see the full picture of our impact. It is impossible to truly be a part of a team or community if we aren’t measuring our impact, good or bad. This is what Chief Wallentine believes can change a community and other Police Departments around the world. It is a change that the West Jordan Police Department has seen transform the way they police in their community and in relationships among peers.


It is almost impossible to lead from an Inward Mindset and gain trust Trust can only be built where a relationship has been established and both parties are being seen as humans. This cannot happen without having real, honest conversations with those in the community to truly understand their needs, goals, and objectives. Chief Wallentine put it this way, “as we’ve seen our officers build relationships and we have conversations with people in our community, the challenges and obstacles melt away when the relationships are built.”

How we perceive those around us will directly result in our impact on them. The best way to understand the people around us is to have conversations with them about their needs, goals, and objectives. Truly step into their shoes to see what it’s like to be them. This is the work that the West Jordan Police Department has done and is still doing to build trust between officers and the community they serve. The results speak for themselves.

To get full access to this webinar click here. You will have unlimited access to all of Chief Wallentine’s insights on how to build trust, serve the community, and bring a team together.