UMass Dartmouth Department of Public Safety wins 'Best Small Community Police Force' award
by Michael Gagne -- Herald News Staff Reporter
DARTMOUTH — The New England Association of Chiefs of Police named the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Department of Public Safety New England's “Best Small Community Police Force of 2013.”
The association's chairman, Theodore Smith, the chief of police in Lincoln, N.H., presented the department with the award Monday morning.
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman said it was the first time a university police department has been named the award's recipient. It is the third time the award has been given.
“The Department of Public Safety has demonstrated what a world-class university police force looks like,” Grossman said. “My fellow presidents and chancellors have all complimented our police force.”
She further noted compliments university police received in collaborating with FBI investigators in the days and weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings and then last week from the Secret Service when Vice President Joe Biden visited the campus to stump for U.S. Rep. Edward Markey's bid for the Senate.
UMass Dartmouth Provost and Chief Operating Officer Deb McLaughlin said the university's police force is committed to “stopping problems before they start” and focused on the university community.
“Real policing is all about communication and prevention,” McLaughlin said, noting that the university's police force is consistently “aware of what's happening on campus.
"We're pleased but not surprised," McLaughlin said.
Members of the department were originally informed of the NEACP award in April, before the Boston Marathon bombings had occurred, and before the campus evacuation and investigation that had followed.
“I am grateful for this award, which recognizes our commitment to being a proactive police department," said Col. Emil Fioravanti, the chief of public safety at the university.
“This could not have been possible without the dedication of a lot of men and women,” he said before recognizing several of the department's police officers, including Officers Justin Silva, Steve Mello, Mark Andrade, Lisa Cabral and dispatcher Chakira Gonsalves.
Fioravanti called Gonsalves a “go-to person” for UMass Police, and that she is “unflappable,” despite working “a high-demand, high-stress job.”
Fioravanti noted it was Gonsalves who first linked bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to UMass Dartmouth.
“Her efforts have contributed to the safety of the community and of our officers. She earned rock star status during the morning of April 19th,” Fioravanti said.
Gonsalves didn't discloses exactly how she was able to link Tsarnaev to UMass, except to say that she did so by “cross-referencing his name through three systems.”
She said she has been a dispatcher at the university for almost 10 years. She typically works the overnight shift from midnight to 8 a.m.
Delmont police patrols help to engage public, deter crime
by Amanda Dolasinski
Officer Blake Danowski stepped out of his squad car to walk along a bustling neighborhood street in Delmont as his radio crackled in the background.
He scanned Apple Hill Drive, frequently stopping to chat up dog-walkers and porch-sitters enjoying the warm Friday night.
“You just want the presence in the community,” Danowski said. “You can't deter crime without the community.”
Delmont police Chief T.J. Klobucar calls the foot patrol a public relations strategy to engage residents.
It also works as a crime deterrent, officers said.
The effort started four years ago.
In the summer, Delmont police officers drive to different neighborhoods and then walk through residential streets and the business district.
“The police and public both have responsibility to make the community safe and reduce crime,” said Todd Miller, chairman of the community policing committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The main precepts are partnerships and problem solving,” Miller said. “Foot patrol by itself isn't considered community policing, but when you consider that agency is out, parking their cars and walking, they're getting to know people and building trust. As they meet their citizens, that creates a relationship that can provide information to solve crime.”
The philosophy of community policing can be traced back to London in 1829. It gained traction in the United States during the 1980s when a police chief in Houston called on officers to engage the community, Miller said.
Community policing fell by the wayside after 9/11, when law enforcement shifted its focus to terrorism, he said.
“The problem is, you can't have homeland security without hometown security,” Miller said. “Many citizens recognize strange behavior, especially in the Boston bombings, and they'll share that with the local police because that's who they know.”
He called the initiative “proactive” and said officers likely catch incidents they wouldn't, had they stayed in a car.
That was the case when Danowski walked through another Delmont neighborhood. He spotted a woman in a parked car on the street with the windows rolled down, music buzzing.
“That looks a little suspicious,” he said.
Danowski walked up to the passenger side window, surprising the driver, to check it out.
The woman explained she was waiting for a friend to get home from work. Danowski asked her a few questions and moved on when he decided she was not a threat.
Each street he walks, he stays conscious of the distance back to his squad car. The department is small, and if the other officer on mobile patrol needs backup, Danowski must hustle back to the car.
It's not a problem for the young officer, who spent almost six years serving in the Marine Corps in Turkey, Peru and Israel. Still, he's aware — keeping an eye on the street and an ear on the radio.
Most calls in the borough are responded to in fewer than three minutes, he said.
At the end of a cul-de-sac, Danowski spotted a woman holding her infant daughter while carefully watching her son doodle with chalk on the sidewalk. He walked over to shake her hand and introduce himself.
“It means a great deal to us,” Amanda Bauer said, holding her 3-month-old daughter, Evi. “It's a comfort seeing them at night.”
Another neighbor stopped Danowski to chat about a downed tree. Most drivers waved as he continued walking the streets.
“They walk by to check and make sure your door is locked,” said Heather Caldwell, who owns a massage therapy business in addition to her home in the borough. “It makes me feel secure knowing they keep an eye on my business and where I live.”
Danowski continued patrolling, passing through the parking lot of apartments known to be a trouble area as well as desolate side streets.
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Community policing adds overview of Islam to officers' toolbelt
Rockford-area leaders aim to reduce racial, cultural bias in police work
by Jeff Kolkey -- RRSTAR.COM
ROCKFORD — Shpendim Nadzaku perhaps took a step Friday in bridging a cultural divide.
The Muslim Association of Greater Rockford imam's skull cap, traditional white robe and his thick beard, which hung just beyond his shoulders, stood in contrast to the mostly clean-shaven law-enforcement faces looking back at him.
It was all part of a tour police chiefs and command staff from Rockford, Rockford Park District, Loves Park, Winnebago, Cherry Valley and Winnebago County took of the Muslim Community Center mosque in hopes of improving cultural awareness.
Police officers unfamiliar with the myriad cultures that make up the Muslim community could find Nadzaku's dress, accent and manner strange. On the other hand, some of the 500 Muslims who regularly attend services at the mosque, 5921 Darlene Drive, have a deep distrust of law enforcement.
“By being able to understand and learn more about each other it helps to alleviate ignorance that sometimes can cause problems,” Nadzaku said.
Among the next steps to enhance police efforts in the Muslim community is to send female officers to meet and talk with the group's women's committee.
Rockford Park District Chief Theo Glover suggested sending pamphlets about police activities and law enforcement procedures to the 125-family congregation. It might ease some of their concerns, teach them about their rights in the U.S. and familiarize them with the role of police in the community.
Nadzaku told the law enforcement leaders that Muslims are far from the homogeneous people they are often thought to be. He speaks several languages — including English, Arabic and Albanian — but members of his congregation also speak other Arabic dialectics and languages.
Some of the Muslims in Rockford are converts; most are immigrants and refugees from Middle Eastern, Asian and North African countries. Some are engineers, doctors and professionals who can't find work in their professions because they can't speak English well enough, Nadzaku said.
They are often people who fled regions that have abusive police and government forces.
“Naturally people who have faced that kind of cruelty in their own countries, when they come here, they bring that fear and concern with them. To try and change that, it doesn't happen right away.”
As a result, they can be nervous when detained by police for something as simple as a traffic stop. There are also often delays in reporting crimes locally because of the distrust of authority.
YWCA CEO Kris Kieper works with law enforcement leaders to improve cultural sensitivity and reduce racial bias in police work. She helped to arrange the meeting and tour.
Kieper, who wore a head scarf as a sign of respect, was the only woman at the meeting. But how police officers can best work with Muslim women was one of the key topics.
The mosque faces Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the holiest of Islam's religious sites. There are no pews in the prayer hall, only a few chairs for those who are physically limited, because of the frequent change of posture — standing, kneeling, prostrate — during prayers.
And no one wears shoes inside; they are left in any of the dozens of cubbies outside the sanctuary.
Women and small children worship in a room adjacent to the mosque. They can see the service through one-way glass, but the men inside can't see them. Women also can enter the prayer hall to worship, but they do so at the back of the room.
Law enforcement leaders were concerned about how best to ask a Muslim woman to uncover her face if she is wearing a burka, or veil, as is worn by the extremely devout.
Islam teaches its followers to dress plainly and calls for Muslim women to dress in loose-fitting clothes and, at a minimum, to cover their hair. More stringent readings require women to wear a veil when with men who are not their husbands.
If an officer needs to write a ticket, he would have to see the woman's face or the citation could be challenged in court. Refusing the officer's request to reveal her face could potentially lead to a charge of obstruction of justice, Rockford Chief Chet Epperson said.
One officer suggested that taking a thumbprint could be a substitute for removing the veil, but that would require the officer to touch the woman's hand — an even deeper discomfort than allowing a stranger to see her face.
A solution emerged, although potentially inconvenient: Call in a female officer to whom the Muslim woman could expose her face without violating her beliefs.
Epperson plans to send a bulletin saying just that to Rockford officers.
“We are a diverse community and becoming an even more diverse community,” he said. “This is part of our continual efforts ... to learn more about traditions, customs, religious beliefs in the area because law enforcement comes into contact with many diverse individuals.
“The more we can learn ... the better off we will be as a law enforcement community.”