One of the most important aspects of effective policing is community engagement. In order to build trust and respect, collaboration with the community is essential. Below are 10 great ways community members can engage with their local law enforcement agencies.
- Citizen volunteers help supplement and support officers and civilian personnel in many ways.
- Roles for volunteers may include: performing clerical tasks, assisting with search and rescue activities, writing citations for accessible parking violations, code. enforcement, patrolling to provide additional police visibility, reporting graffiti and other quality of life issues, and helping with property and equipment inventories.
- For more information see the IACP’s Volunteers in Police Service resources.
#2. Serve on a Citizen Advisory Board
- Many police departments have citizen boards to advise and assist with implementing effective strategies to reduce crime and disorder, change perceptions and facilitate positive engagement.
- These entities strive for diverse representation, including members from local businesses, churches, community groups, youth groups, local government, and law enforcement.
#3. Participate in a Citizens Police Academy
- Classroom information sessions, put on by the police for citizens, enable residents to learn about local law enforcement agency’s values and mission as well as the overall operations of the department.
- Citizen police academies allow citizens a chance to better understand the different aspects of the job and the reasons why officers perform certain actions.
#4. Compliment or Complain
- If you had a positive interaction with a police officer in your community that is worthy of praise, share it with the chief’s office.
- Similarly, if you have a complaint or a question, send that in as well. Your police department wants to hear from you.
- Most departments have information on their website about how to submit complaints and commendations, as well as how this information is handled.
#5. Participate in Neighborhood Watch
- Citizens can help police maintain public safety through neighborhood watch groups.
- Neighborhood watch members receive training on how to organize particular areas and methods for communicating with the police and with their neighbors.
#6. Participate in Police Initiatives, Projects, and Programs
- Law enforcement agencies often engage their communities by hosting events throughout the year. Examples include neighborhood barbeques, National Night Out, and Coffee with a Cop.
- Community members can assist the police in their efforts by participating, donating to, or helping facilitate these events.
#7. Attend Community Meetings
- Community meetings are another way community stakeholders, business owners, church groups can engage with local government and law enforcement.
- Residents can communicate with police representatives at these meetings to help solve community issues and facilitate a positive, collaborative relationship.
#8. Participate in Law Enforcement Surveys
- Law enforcement agencies may seek community member input to help guide community policing efforts.
- Community members can assist and engage with law enforcement by participating in these surveys and providing honest feedback.
#9. Get Your Kids Involved!
- Programs that engage youth with law enforcement are a great way to get kids and their families familiar with local enforcement officers.
- Programs such as police explorers/cadets, Police Athletic Leagues, citizen police academies specifically for youth, and mentorship programs area all good examples of how youth can collaborate with law enforcement in a positive method.
#10. Follow Your Police Department on Social Media
- Many police agencies use social media to communicate with the public. Community members can also communicate with law enforcement through social media outlets.
- Follow your local law enforcement agency on social media to stay aware of police events in the community, various crime and traffic alerts, and general information regarding the police department.
This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations (ICPR), particularly those that address recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing final report. The Institute is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Learn more about the ICPR.