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 Deputy Director Tony Paetznick, New Brighton, Minnesota, Department of Public Safety
Police officers are wonderful storytellers. The oral tradition of law enforcement sharing experiences is a longstanding part of the profession. Those captivating stories become descriptive narratives in the form of incident reports. Through gathering and processing physical evidence; listening to and questioning suspects, victims, and witnesses; and observing behaviors and crime scenes, police officers regularly take what they see, hear, smell, and feel on the job into detailed narratives. Occasionally, the documentation of this exemplary, thorough police work will earn supervisory praise or a departmental recognition. Similarly, police chiefs should reflect upon the collective stories that their agencies are currently authoring in terms of community policing successes, and consider submitting these narratives of such fundamental police work for recognition by the IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award.
Having won the IACP Community Award in 2004 for our agency’s collaborative efforts to reduce crime and increase quality of life for residents at our city’s largest apartment community for low-income residents, we knew that the standard for this recognition was set with a high bar. Yet looking broader, we realized that our decades-old Neighborhood Oriented Policing (NOP) program embodied the same community-policing ideals, and were grateful to IACP/Cisco for bestowing on us this award a second time in 2011.
NOP designates each patrol officer in the agency to a unique geographic grid of the city to work with community members in their assigned neighborhoods. The NOP officers are expected to address long-term solutions to localized issues and develop ongoing relationships with residents and other community contacts to assure shared problem solving with mutually beneficial outcomes.
Upon earning the IACP/Cisco recognition, we partnered with our local cable news community access studio to produce a brief online video that highlighted our receipt of the IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award and focused on a specific incident where the tenets of our neighborhood policing program were used to address a crime and quality of life issue in our municipality. As part of our police officer hiring process, we continue to use that video as an example to prospective candidates about the positive and proactive, community-oriented nature of our police agency.
When a department has been doing something for so long that it has become part of the organizational culture, earning this recognition for what seemed to have become ordinary, everyday work helped reinvigorate such efforts both internally and external to the agency, and in our case launched the next generation NOP 2.0 version of this community policing initiative. Police officers have become even more skilled problem solvers in partnering with residents of the community to address chronic and underlying conditions that lead to crime and disorder, while at the same time engaging a broader representation of municipal departments to address problems citywide with a multi-disciplined team approach and improve tracking of these localized incidents to assure progressive improvement.
Especially in modern society and the current era of law enforcement transparency and accountability, highlighting the great work done by police officers on a daily basis through meaningful and impactful community partnerships is an important step for agencies to promote their identity and greater societal role as working for and with the communities that they serve, and not in opposition to or against these many different constituents that exist within each law enforcement jurisdiction.
Investing the time to share your agency’s story is a worthwhile effort to bolster support for staff and also remind the community of the many positive relationships with the citizenry served by the police department. So what’s your agency’s story of community policing? Please share it so that IACP/Cisco can honor your agency and further spread the good news of what cops are doing in their communities each day.