Columbia’s Beyond the Badge – Community Engagement through Community Service

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers several recommendations for building better relationships between law enforcement officers and the community that they serve, including

  • initiating positive nonenforcement activities to engage communities
  • embracing a guardian mindset
  • working with community members to produce meaningful public safety results

The Columbia, South Carolina, Police Department’s Beyond the Badge program is an excellent example of many of those recommendations at work.  The Beyond the Badge program is an effort to help new Columbia police officers connect and create meaningful relationships with the community that they will serve.  The program was developed and implemented earlier this  year by Deputy Chief Melron Kelly.  This program is an opportunity for recent training academy graduates to help those in need in the Columbia community.  Before kicking of their law enforcement careers, the officers spend a week serving food, assisting at a food bank, reading to students, preparing food for the homeless, playing BINGO with the elderly, and mentoring children.  The Department collaborates with several different service locations in the area to set up the opportunities.

The Beyond the Badge program gives each officer exposure to the hands-on service and outreach approach that the Department takes to community policing.  Officers gain an appreciation and an understanding of the various community services and resources available.  Through this opportunity, officers can better determine which program or service location can best assist citizens with their respective needs. Officers also learn that there is much more than law enforcement involved in the job, including public service, compassion, and goodwill.

The community, especially the community involved with the service locations, have had a very positive response to the program.  Each of the individuals involved with the program come away with a different, positive outlook on community policing.  The community members enjoy getting to know the officers in a nonenforcement setting. 

Thirty-seven officers have gone through the community service week since it began, and the Department hopes to continue the program for every graduating officer from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy headed to the Columbia Police Department.  Beyond the Badge has been well received by the officers, the community, and the media.  The Department will continue its great community service work by expanding the service locations that are included in the program.

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. Columbia is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

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