Enhancing Public Safety by Being a Good Neighbor

gun lake

The 21st Century Policing Report offers several recommendations for collaborating with the community to build relationships of trust between law enforcement officers and the community, including forming collaborative, multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary partnerships to produce meaningful public safety results.

The Gun Lake Department of Public Safety in Michigan is a new agency, established in 2011, and it was built on a foundation of 21st Century Policing practices. Tribal law enforcement agencies often face unique jurisdictional challenges, so from the very beginning of the department’s development, the tribe recognized the importance of partnerships. The Gun Lake Public Safety Advisory Committee and the Director of Public Safety developed a close working relationship with the Allegan County Sheriff, which polices the county that the Gun Lake Department resides within. All Gun Lake officers and Allegan County deputies are cross-deputized, so that both can enforce laws on county and tribal land. All officers and deputies are certified by both the state of Michigan and Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Law Enforcement Commission. Given the tribe’s checkboard jurisdiction, this cross deputation is particularly important, because it means that the closest officer can respond anywhere in the county.

With a new public safety building that opened in August 2015, Gun Lake has state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and it makes a point to share these resources with its neighbors. This helps strengthen relationships and supports the safety of the whole area. Neighboring tribal police departments regularly share equipment for large tribal powwow events. Gun Lake’s secure vehicle evidence bay is available for use by all area law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Office has benefitted from use of Gun Lake’s interview room, and the Allegan County Central Dispatch has utilized the Tribe’s mobile command unit on numerous occasions. The tribe even offers up use of its officer breakroom to sheriff’s deputies during their shifts and state troopers during winter storms, which fosters communication and camaraderie between departments. The Gun Lake Department of Public Safety also regularly loans out its training room to other agencies. The Michigan State Police recently held its Citizens Police Academy in the training facilities, and is scheduled to use it again from this spring, providing a unique opportunity for participants to become familiar with the State Police and the tribe. Gun Lake’s commitment to partnerships is so strong that it even wrote into its Department of Justice Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation grant application to purchase a new training simulator that departments could share. The tribe received a new MILO System 180-degree training simulator in February 2017 and trained three officers who, in addition to training Gun Lake officers, will administer trainings for officers from neighboring jurisdictions and demonstrations for community members.

gun lake 2The Gun Lake Tribe’s commitment to partnership extends beyond equipment sharing. When a neighboring small town found itself understaffed and unable to continue 24/7 patrol, the Gun Lake Tribe agreed to provide officers to cover the 6:00am to 6:00pm shift, alternating weeks with the Michigan State Police. Gun Lake officers staffing the shift not only built relationships with the town police and government, but with the residents as well. The Gun Lake Tribe provided these services at no cost to the town, lacing a high priority on public safety and on being a good neighbor.

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. Gun Lake 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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