This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in community policing by police departments throughout the United States 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: Officer Joe Philippon, Lewiston, Maine, Police Department
In an attempt to break down the barriers that community members sometimes feel when meeting with the police, the Lewiston, Maine, Police Department (LPD) has based its Community Resource Team at the B Street Community Center, to improve our accessibility to the community. There are no walls or glass barriers, just officers waiting and wanting to help address the needs of the community they serve. The department identifies the needs of the community through identification, collaboration, and information sharing to develop and implement effective strategies to achieve desirable outcomes.
Under Chief Michael Bussiere, LPD placed a renewed emphasis on community-oriented policing in 2010, by assigning a small group of officers to focus on non-traditional law enforcement duties to better address community concerns. The Community Resource Team (CRT) is staffed by a sergeant and three patrol officers who act as liaisons and develop partnerships with community action groups, neighborhood/tenant associations, immigrant and refugee groups, and all other community-oriented service providing organizations working within the city.
The team works with community partners to make the city of Lewiston a safer place for people to work, live, and raise their family. CRT officers identify quality of life issues, and address and improve these issues in collaboration with community and business organizations and/or other city partners, such as Code Enforcement, Fire Prevention, property landlords, the District Attorney’s office, and the local schools.
The Community Resource Team participates in numerous community collaborative meetings to provide insight into the common issues patrol officers see on the streets. These meetings help the CRT, the police department as a whole, the community, and the various organizations and city departments to come together to identify issues and work on probable solutions. The ability of the CRT to facilitate connecting different partners has proven to be an effective way to assist those community members in need; especially those with needs that cannot be address by law enforcement.
Some of the specific groups in need are the elderly and those suffering with mental illness, both populations the police department often has contact with. The department connects those individuals with the proper service providers to improve their individual care and needs.
Also, with the rapid growth of the city’s immigrant population since 2001, the police department has taken a leading role in reaching out to our new neighbors to form partnerships and address the unique needs of our immigrant community. Newly arrived immigrants often are not aware of the resources available to them, and the CRT makes itself available to inform new residents of the resources available, and in many cases assist in bringing those resources directly to them. As a result of being committed to accessibility, we have developed strong and lasting relationships with community leaders and the community as a whole.
By incorporating flexibility in the hours of work within the context of a 40-hour work schedule, the officers are able to accommodate and participate in community events and programs which support LPD’s commitment to being accessible to the community.
The Lewiston Police Department’s Community Resource Team continues to have success in its three objectives: identify problems that are a concern to the community, continue to develop strong relationships between community members and the police department, and to identify and develop solutions to the issues that contribute to urban blight. These three departmental objectives and the use of a community-oriented policing model have made our community, Lewiston, Maine, a safer place.