NEWS of the Day - August 29, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - August 29, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...




Eye on city streets

Surveillance cameras appear to be helping crime-ridden areas

Columbus residents deserve to live in safe neighborhoods. They shouldn't have to cross the street or stay in their homes to avoid prostitutes, drug dealers and shoot-outs, which is why the city should continue to assess a new police tool.

Surveillance cameras, installed in a pilot program a year ago, appear to discourage crime, generate tips and make residents feel safer.

Four of the five test neighborhoods saw crime drop significantly — by 14 percent to 46 percent. That's according to city safety data comparing this May and June with the same months in 2011.

But it's hard to tell whether the cameras are responsible or if there are other factors at play. Crime did go down in the Mount Vernon, Linden, Hilltop and Weinland Park communities. But it went up by 14 percent in a Downtown area of E. Livingston Avenue.

Maybe the cameras around Livingston Avenue were too few and far between. Maybe rapid community redevelopment in Weinland Park is helping to chase away crime.

Maybe the criminals are camera shy.

Just ask Fred Tompkins, 74, a former block-watch organizer who credits police patrols and the cameras with helping to clean up the area at Clarendon and Sullivant avenues. “This was a corner for prostitution and drugs,” he said.

It's great that residents like the cameras, but they are just one tool for police. They don't replace officers on the beat. And they don't replace watchful neighbors.

And their use is still so new that cities are studying whether the investment is worth it: Columbus spent $2.2 million for its 114 high-resolution, digital cameras.

But the technology is not infallible. Because of malfunctions or bad weather, sometimes the cameras don't provide useful images. If jurors know surveillance cameras were in place at a crime scene but the prosecutor is unable to provide photographic evidence backing up the charge against a defendant, this could weaken the prosecutor's case.

Columbus officials this fall plan to study whether the cameras actually stop crime, or just push it to other areas. That's a valid question in need of an answer.

But so far, Columbus seems to be on the right track, said Nancy La Vigne, lead author of a national study on surveillance cameras for crime control and prevention by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center.

That study, published in September 2011, looked at Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C. It found a significant impact on crime when the cameras were monitored by a trained staff and properly placed. That study found no evidence that the cameras displaced crime.

Instead, said La Vigne, the biggest complaint by residents was, “Why isn't there one in my neighborhood?”

Columbus is working on it. The city council has set aside $2.3 million to buy additional cameras this year.

Police can't be everywhere, and the cameras don't invade the privacy of residents any more than if an officer were standing on the corner observing the same activity. As government budgets get tighter and technology improves, safety forces likely will rely on more devices to fight crime.

The city already uses traffic cameras to prevent drivers from running red lights. It makes sense to use this technology to thwart other serious threats to public safety.



North Carolina

Law enforcement wraps up community policing project

by Mallory Brown

The Rockingham Police Department and Richmond County Sheriff's Office partnered up this summer in a joint community policing project at Crown Pointe and Gardenwood Apartment complexes in Rockingham. The project was designed to bring residents of high crime areas and law enforcement together to lessen crime and provide a more family friendly environment.

“The police department took two officers from their normal positions and put them down at (Crown Pointe and Gardenwood Apartments), and that basically became their city for the entire summer,” said Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly. “They worked there all summer and didn't leave — they patrolled on foot, by way of golf cart or A.T.V. Also, the Sheriff's Office sent deputies down there … We worked with both complexes, making sure people that didn't belong there were made to leave.”

Clint Neeley, an officer with the Rockingham Police Department, said he saw a decrease in crime levels while law enforcement was there.

“This year, arrests went down dramatically,” Neeley said. “I believe we had three arrests for the whole summer. Two of them were trespassers and one of them was a subject that just happened to be in the area that had warrants on them. Three arrests — that's really low compared to prior years. We didn't have any drug arrests … basically there were only minor offenses.”

“I feel like it was successful,” Kelly said. “When we first started (the project years ago) … we had multiple arrests. We had very few arrests down there this year. I believe it was more because of officers presence, they knew the officers would be there.”

Although the Rockingham Police Department has participated in the project for several years, this marked the first year that the Sheriff's Office joined the project, and both agencies said the collaboration was well-received.

“It was a great experience working alongside the Rockingham Police Department officers — who are great guys,” said Detective Sergeant Robert Smith of the Sheriff's Office. “We have a great working relationship with them. To get to work alongside them on a daily basis was a great opportunity to get to know them better and see how they work.”

During the project, lawmen also walked around and interacted with children, often playing games with them, Kelly said.

Interaction with the youth in the community included weekly events, such as movie and popcorn afternoons.

“I was really impressed with the kids,” Smith said. “They were a well-mannered group that seemed to enjoy the movie nights … It was great to be on a first-name basis with some of them, and it's nice to let them see a positive side of law enforcement.”

Neeley said the tenants at both apartment complexes also responded well to the project.

“A lot of the residents also help us by letting us know if something is going on,” he said. “We've built a good relationship with some of the residents out there and we get good feedback from them if there's problems in the area.”

The project concluded Aug. 22, when officers of the police department and the Sheriff's Office handed out school supplies, along with hot dogs, chips and refreshments to young residents. Officers of both departments also encouraged the youth to remain in school and do well in their academics.

“Sometimes when you work with other agencies, you come closer as a whole,” Smith said as he considered the rewards of the project. “Hopefully we made a difference — even if we made a difference in just one of them, then it was a working program.”




Collaboration and coercion in community policing

Collaboration in its rawest and most effective form involves the equality of each participant and an open mindedness that defies conventional police interactions

by Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

Collaboration is an essential skill of community policing, but a skill that is seldom effectively taught. Coercion is taught very well, is highly valued, and therefore necessarily shows up where other skills are not balanced and acculturated.

Coercion is modeled by police academy trainers, police academy structure, and training officers — it is the essence and purpose of the law itself. Coercion is forced conformity with behavior predetermined by one who has the power to impose that conforming behavior. It is the substance of police manuals and policy. Many leadership styles are predicated on coercion in one form or another.

Instructors and field training officers work on the trainee's skill in projecting authority and control. Officers learn about eye contact, posture, and voice inflection as means of establishing supremacy in their interactions. Domination and intimidation become such a part of the police persona that officers' personal lives and relationships often suffer.

Coercion should not and will not be removed as a fundamental means of what must be done in policing, but problem solving requires a keen awareness of where coercion tends to show up when we think we're collaborating.

Collaboration, the means of problem solving that we find at the opposing end of the collaboration-coercion continuum, is often mischaracterized in concept and in practice.

Most simply, as the components of the word itself reveal, collaboration is co-laboring, working together. Collaboration doesn't necessarily imply that those working together are of like mind or even desire to be on the same team. Collaboration in its rawest and most effective form involves the equality of each participant and an open mindedness that defies conventional police interactions.

A typical working example of what is thought to be collaboration in police work would be seeking a solution for problems at a public park that has been the subject of complaints regarding crime and disorder. The coercive response in traditional policing would be the imposition of intense law enforcement measures including increasing police presence and making more arrests. A typical community policing response would be take the complaints at face value then assemble interested parties together to work toward a solution under the leadership of the police department.

This model of collaboration fails to achieve its potential. First, by assuming to define and characterize the problem to which subsequent solutions are attached, the police carry the first big stick. The authentic collaborative process begins in collaboration over what the problem is in the first place. Any collaborative process that begins at the point of designing the solution has missed an essential component.

A second failure in our crime-ridden park example results from the default position of coercion embedded in police culture. The police define who gets to be collaborative partners, and who gets to lead the collaborative effort. The assumption that leadership belongs to the police reflects police power.

It is against police culture for the police to be merely a seat at the discussion table.

Police authority, or police veto power over suggested responses, is often reflected by the fact that the police official is leading the discussion, or seated close to the political leader in community decision making. This is often quite appropriate and logical but to assume that it should always be the case is contrary to the essential equality of partnerships in true collaboration.

Honest, open-minded discussion and reflective listening skills are the pillars of creative thinking in collaboration. The metaphor of everyone singing off of the same sheet of music demonstrates true collaboration only if everyone had an equal role in deciding they should sing in the first place.

False ‘collaborators' who force a solution and call it teamwork are applauded by those who give mere lip service to collaboration. Imposing leadership in groups where non-conforming opinions are quickly dismissed may be effective and result in an excellent solution but should not mistaken for collaboration.

If we are to continue in a path of community policing, police training must drastically improve development of collaborative skills and communication. Officers are less likely to resist such training when they see that the tools of coercion will not be taken away and will remain a viable and necessary component of law enforcement.

About the author

Joel Shults currently serves as Chief of Police for Adams State College in Alamosa, Co. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He currently serves on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.