Law enforcement is making community policing work
The Patriot Ledger
QUINCY — This past Sunday, “60 Minutes” featured Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone and his model for reducing crime in the city of Springfield. Cutone served as a member of the Army's Special Forces during the war in Iraq. Upon his return to Springfield, he recognized that many of the tactics insurgents used to intimidate civilians were being used by gang members in Massachusetts to control their neighborhoods. Citizens were too afraid of the gangs, too mistrustful of the police – even when those same citizens were the victims of a crime.
So how did Cutone stop gangs from intimidating citizens and induce people to call police? He made friends.
What Cutone did, essentially, was build trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. It's exactly what local officials are doing with great success.
Last month, the Quincy Police Department was honored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy for its program to equip every cruiser with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. Quincy Detective Lt. Patrick Glynn was specifically cited for his work in partnering with public health agencies and the public itself to save lives.
But it didn't matter how many cruisers carried naloxone, or how many health agencies assisted the city. Trust was the issue. What made the difference was police assuring drug addicts and friends and family members of addicts that they didn't need to fear prosecution if they turned to police when a loved one overdosed. It took time to work, but as a result, 160 lives have been saved since 2010.
We commend police Chief Paul Keenan, Lt. Glynn and the rest of the department for intelligent, compassionate community policing.
We see a similar effort in Weymouth, where hypodermic needles have been discarded on beaches, in parks and on residential streets. Fearing that a child might pick up a needle and become infected with a disease, Weymouth police enlisted the public's help.
Working with the mayor's office, Weymouth police put the word out that they wanted to hear from residents if a needle was found. Calls flooded the department. In addition to averting a public health crisis, having the assistance of the public has helped police track where drug users are congregating.
We commend the police, the mayor and the public for working together to combat what could have been a bigger problem.
Some of the tactics used by law enforcement are more subtle. In his remarks following the arrest of a Boston man charged with killing his ex-wife, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey said this about police being tipped off about the suspect's whereabouts by a citizen: “Because of that one call, we're here today at an arraignment.”
Some segments of the population have waged a campaign against people “snitching” to police – so successfully that law enforcement agencies across the nation have sometimes been unable to solve major crimes because of a lack of witness cooperation.
Morrissey made a point of acknowledging and thanking a person who was brave enough to come forward with information crucial to the apprehension of a murder suspect. He did it in the hope that more people will make such calls to police.
Let's hope this new brand of community policing is expanded and continues to be successful.