Law enforcement is a challenging job in the best of times, with multiple objectives such as enforcing the law, preventing crime, apprehending offenders, and preserving the peace. Professional training, good leadership, and sound strategies are essential to addressing these demanding, sometimes conflicting goals.

But here and now, more than ever, it is crucial that both law enforcement and citizens focus on preserving our peace. Even defining “the peace” is an elusive thing. The peace is a general agreement about community behavior that we understand and accept as normal guidelines for public conduct. For the police, keeping the peace may involve enforcing criminal laws but is more often a matter of deterring behavior that is uncivil; which is to say preventing behavior that disrupts the peace of community living.

Now as we transition to some new uncharted form of social life, the meaning of the peace is unclear, and we will all question what is to become the new peace. I believe this time is a special challenge to both the citizens of our community and the law enforcement personnel who serve our jurisdiction. The people who live and share in our community have an opportunity to show caring and respect for one another in shaping our new peace. And the police bear an exceptional responsibility to balance law enforcement with service to our collective need for finding a new peace.

These are hard times. But this is also a time of extraordinary opportunity to raise the quality of our community life. All of us must accept the responsibility of making and preserving our new peace.

John Henry, Belleair Beach