Community Policing in Service in Saint Louis Park

This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in community policing by police departments nationwide as part of IACP’s Community Policing: The Next Generation project. The project showcases modern, innovative, and cost-effective solutions to crime problems and public safety issues through collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement and community stakeholders in order to adapt community policing efforts. The project is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Guest blogger: Chief John Luse, Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, Police Department

Over the past 15 years, our department and community have learned a great deal about the community policing model and philosophy. We moved from a triage and Band-Aids style of policing followed by a method that includes specialists and geographic ownership that focus on fixing it right the first time. Over the years, I have consistently helped my city manager, mayor, and the city council understand why the Scan, Analyze, Respond, and Assess (SARA) model and Broken Windows theory are important aspects of community policing.

My department and I learned over time to build the SARA and Broken Windows theory as well as Herman Goldstein’s core strategies for police into our operations. In the past 15 years our service delivery model has evolved from being a mile wide and an inch deep, to one that is two miles wide and two miles deep.

I have always laughed at the quote attributed to Einstein, “one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” We could not keep policing through the same model and expect different results. But, in the early years, we had to confront simple things like the language we used.

Some of you may remember the time when police officers used the term “in service” or “back in service” to indicate they were done with a call and back to left turns and right turns. We wanted officers to engage in one of Goldstein’s core strategies to think of the time between active calls as “in service.”

Our police officers and residents have a long history filled with examples of working together on neighborhood issues that affect quality of life. Our experiences with graffiti, panhandling, housing deterioration, crosswalk and pedestrian safety, and other issues have allowed us to build on real experiences versus hypotheticals. Our residents, police officers, and community leaders understand the real reduction in crime and disorder that can be achieved by a determined team effort. They understand that a “broken window” that is not repaired is, first and foremost, an invitation to break more “windows.”

My role as the police chief is simply to introduce our staff and state the reason for the community meetings that are held. I educate the community on why strong, organized neighborhoods are the backbone of a city where residents participate in what I like to call advanced citizenship. Our mission is so much broader than being the people you call when something bad happens. There is no crisis or crime epidemic in our community, which makes it the perfect time to talk about building relationships and deepening trust.

I did not believe that the transition to community policing had anything to do with resources, and secretly and idealistically thought we could even “do more with less.” Today, St. Louis Park has low crime rates and high quality of life by any standards. However, our city manager and council are supporting the need to hire additional police officers. They have taken the time to understand the different strategies and models for effective policing and what the terms “wider and deeper” mean in delivering services. The cost of not addressing quality-of-life issues effectively is much greater than the cost of expending the resources and time to increase the quality-of-life for the community.

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1 Response to Community Policing in Service in Saint Louis Park

  1. Michael Ward says:

    Great article! Our agency went through a Community Policing Assessment done by the Regional Community Policing Institute at Eastern Kentucky University, a grant via the COPS Office. It continues to be the framework by which we plan everything we do. The shame of it is, the COPS Office lost the funding for RCPI’s across the country. Maybe that should tell us something.

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