Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
Making sense of community policing in Nigeria
by Mohammed Adamu
To the perceptive, one of the puzzling changes to governance in the last 20 years is the progressive weakening of the all-powerful-state and the rise of groups, businesses and personages, who wield more influence and possess more economic resources than so many countries.
For instance, Walmart – the largest retailer in the world generated a revenue of over $510 billion in 2018 which is far more than the amount Nigeria and her 180 million hardworking citizens made that year. It is not shocking when one puts in perspective the fact that Alhaji Aliko Dangote in 2018 earned more money than some states in Nigeria.
Perhaps, it is the understanding of the changing dynamics of governance that is driving nations to outsource roles that were once jewels of state bureaucracies. Developed and developing states now outsource punishment, detention and deployment of violence to private companies; in fact a 2017 UK Guardian newspaper report states that at least half the world's population lives in countries where there are more private security workers than public police officers.
The answer to the question- what is government and who governs- has no simple answers again and this has great implications on security sector reform and governance, especially police and policing in Nigeria.
The information above is critical for proper contextualising of the recent announcement by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the adoption of a community policing system to combat growing security threats across Nigeria. There is nothing novel about the announcement, the concept of community policing is arguably the single most utilised policing tool across the world, but why is Nigeria just adopting the idea? This is a distressful hand-wringing display of impotence by the managers of Nigeria's security architecture in the face of growing insecurity?
A genuine shift in orientation and an indication of Nigeria's deepening of democratic culture?
Is it a new-found willingness by the federal government to share power of control with growingly assertive sub-national units over the police force? Agenda setting by international development partners who have invested millions of dollars in security sector reform in Nigeria? Or perhaps it is just another of Nigeria's penchant for mimicry?
Also, whose and which of the many applications of community policing is Nigeria adopting? Is the government planning to adopt the principles of community policing as the driving philosophy of the many policing actors in Nigeria? As a philosophy, the focus of policing authorities will be on a focused, problem-solving approach to public safety and security. Or does the government want to adopt community policing as the primary strategy for addressing the issue of Nigeria's worrisome security situation? As a strategy, police and communities will have to work together as partners in addressing local law and order issues. Will the government favour the Anglo-Saxon model, the French, the South African transitional justice variant or the Chinese?
Irrespective of the community policing choice that the Buhari government favours, it is essential to engage with all the representative components of the Nigerian state to decide the exact roles that the various communities in Nigeria want the police to fulfill in order to determine the type and model that will serve the Nigerian people. The police are the singular most important agency of law and order in any democratic government, therefore the responsibility of determining its ideological and functional leaning is beyond what the Inspector General of Police can single-handedly determine.
A community policing policy framework without the input of all the critical stakeholders in Nigeria is sheer waste of time.
Realistically, can any community policing policy work with the current centralized command and control structure in which the Inspector-General of Police, an appointee of the president determines both policy and operational matters? Can a policeman be reasonably tasked with driving community policing initiative in a community in which he neither speaks its language nor understands its basic cultural drivers? Can an inherited policing system that is designed to use – ‘strangers to police strangers' deliver optimally a system based on community cooperation and collaboration? Will the wide cultural, religious and linguistic differences in Nigeria be countenanced in the design of the community policy framework?
Has the government thought through the strategy for financing the proposed community policing intervention? Looking at dwindling resources and ever-increasing demand, can only the federal government be tasked with bearing the major burden of financing the community policing rollout? Or perhaps, the government expects community policing initiative to magically make the consequences of the continuous political and fiscal decisions to underfund the police?
While the constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of local policing outfits, state government financed, community-based informal policing groups and networks are ubiquitous across Nigeria and are an integral part of the security landscape, providing security services in many of Nigeria's governed and ungoverned spaces. What is the plan of the government about integrating these varied outfits into the proposed community policing framework? Is this perhaps a gradual movement towards state policing (whatever that means) and a tacit acknowledgement of the government's weakened capacity to protect life and property?
One should equally be interested in the government's plan to address the overwhelmingly negative public perception on the performance of the police in Nigeria as a precursor to the rollout of community policing across Nigeria. Can communities and the police genuinely collaborate in an environment blighted by mistrust and fear? Where are the long- and short-term plans to make the Nigeria Police Force an accountable, transparent and responsive service delivery agency?
Community policing or not, if we continue as a nation to expect police officers to personally fuel operational vehicles, pay for uniforms and other operational exigencies, print bail bonds, individually handle work-related trauma and yet bear the burden of providing security-a public good that every Nigerian supposedly enjoys, then the grim consequences is what we will daily continue to see around us.
Osasona is Lagos State Intervention Manager, Nigeria Policing Programme
In a high-tech world, community still key for police
by LISA JIMENEZ, Daily Press Correspondent
In a high-tech world dotted with surveillance cameras and abundant military-grade weaponry, good information is still key to crime prevention and protecting public safety, according to new Silver City Chief of Police Freddie Portillo, who considers community engagement the centerpiece of his department's goal to increase trust between police officers and the public they serve.
“Working together with the community is how police solve and even prevent crime,” said Portillo, who relies on daily briefings from both traffic and investigations divisions to maintain the department's proactive approach. “It's all about communication, and good communication requires trust. We rely on the public to help us do our job well and protect the quality of life and safety for Silver City residents and visitors alike.”
Expect the department to be more visible and active with other community organizations, at community events and in the schools, said Portillo, who was inspired to become a police officer after a D.A.R.E. — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — officer came to his middle school class to talk about alcohol and drug prevention. Portillo, admittedly impressed by the uniform, saw policing as an opportunity to serve his community. The father of children ages 5 and 2, he wants his officers actively engaged with the schools to build trust and confidence in local policing.
Three SCPD officers recently graduated from the D.A.R.E. training program, and have begun presenting it to elementary school children in partnership with the Grant County Sheriff's Department. This is one effort Portillo is counting on to build trust with youth, along with other special events such as the Tour of the Gila, Halloween “Trunk or Treat” events, winter coat and food drives, and the “Summer Bash” held each year at the municipal swimming pool.
He plans to continue “Coffee with a Cop,” an opportunity for informal conversation with the public, and is considering how to increase public input in department planning and decision-making. Officers are also encouraged to participate in the community off the clock, and do so as volunteers, coaches and mentors in their schools and neighborhoods.
“It's important for people to remember that police officers are part of the community too, and they want safety and security for themselves and their families,” he said. “Everyone needs to do their part to create safe neighborhoods and a good quality of life. We're all in this together.”
Portillo is clear to point out that he is building upon the foundation established by his predecessor, retired Chief Ed Reynolds, who instilled in the department the importance of training, professionalism and the expectation that officers will hold themselves accountable to high standards of conduct, on and off duty. Reynolds was also a big proponent of Neighborhood Watch, an effort that Portillo hopes to improve and expand.
Community engagement is an ongoing performance goal for officers, who are required to get out on the street and ask residents about their concerns and ideas for improvement. Portillo reviews these citizen engagement reports monthly, as does James Marshall, Silver City's assistant town manager. The vast majority of comments are positive, Portillo said, and complaints range from traffic concerns to suspicious activity, often related to drugs, a perennial problem and source of great frustration for police and residents alike.
“We get frustrated too, especially with repeat offenders, but we have to stay positive and keep doing our job,” he said. “There are privacy laws and regulations that we have to follow, even though we know where people are using and dealing drugs, which is why we're working hard to gather evidence so that we can move bigger — particularly those involving weapons, violent crime and drug trafficking — to the FBI, ATF and Drug Enforcement Administration. People have to understand that it's really frustrating for us too, especially when we work so hard on a case, only to see that person back out on the streets.”
With so many areas that officers need to police and patrol, data and information drive decision-making and resource allocation, Portillo said, and trust and partnership between police officers and the public are key to that process.
Within the department, each shift is required to forward a report to administration: Lt. Jason Woods of the patrol division; Lt. James Cruzan of investigations; and Capt. Ben Villegas; who determine where patrols and investigations personnel are sent shift-to-shift. Weekly administration meetings are used to review data from shift reports, as well as the community policing information gleaned from officers' informal discussions with citizens. GPS mapping helps administration proactively put a stop to even the smallest uptick in crime.
“It's important to address any problem areas quickly and aggressively,” Portillo said, “and we rely on the public to help us know what's happening in their neighborhoods. My hope is that citizens will continue to partner with us and help us do our job.
Yale committed to community policing in wake of officer-involved shooting
by Ben Lambert
NEW HAVEN — Yale police reiterated their commitment to community policing as they discussed the April 16 police shooting that involved one of its members and a Hamden officer who fired on an unarmed couple who had been stopped after a reported robbery.
Officer Martin Parker, one of the Yale Police Department's community engagement officers, told those gathered for a Yale University Community Breakfast Wednesday that he works to build a bridge between city residents and university police — and to help people, both in the department and in the city, see each other as acquaintances and friends instead of strangers, fostering familiarity, respect and rapport.
Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins created the position eight months ago, although similar efforts had gone on before that, Parker said.
Parker said the work is personal for him. He's a native of the Newhallville neighborhood. He's had family members shot; he's had to arrest family members. He's experienced the relationship between police and the community — and the anger and pain of residents — from both sides of the equation.
“I work for my hometown. I wear New Haven on my chest. I wear New Haven in my heart,” said Parker, in response to a question about how he balanced his loyalty to Yale and to city residents. “This is life for me.”
In addition to the other forms of the work — from turkey drives to buying Thanksgiving dinner for a Bristol Street family to intervening when a 12-year-old boy was detained for kicking a police car — Parker said he wanted to talk with the community to improve policing and the relationship between officers and residents.
He asked those in attendance and beyond to be a part of that dialogue, both now, when the energy, pain and passion sparked by the shooting of Stephanie Washington, 22, is fresh, and in the future.
Community residents are still grappling with the police shooting, in which Hamden Officer Devin Eaton and Yale Office Terrance Pollock fired at Paul Witherspoon III, 21, leaving his girlfriend, Washington, wounded. There have been many protests and rallies calling for justice and for the officers to be fired; Yale students have been part of some of the events.
“(The shooting) touched me — it hurts me on a lot of different levels. So yes, I understand the anger. I understand the pain. Right now, until the investigation's over, we can't do anything about it,” said Parker. “But what can we do as a community to more forward, to better the relationships, to change what needs to be changed?”
“Be angry — be passionate — every day to create the change that you want. Come to the police department, call Martha (Ross, a fellow community engagement officer) and myself. Come to the community management teams meeting and express your anger every day,” said Parker. “Because I can tell you — we are listening to you.”
“I hate going home every night and realizing, damn, people hate my profession. It hurts. Honestly, yes, it does,” said Parker. “I tell people: I don't want to change the world. I have no passion, no want, no need to change the world ... but I will change New Haven. I will change my community; I will change Newhallville. I can start there ... Yale PD can start there, but again we need community participation. We need to come together, we need to talk, we need to build.”
In response to a question about how Yale police were dealing with the continuing effects of racism and bias, Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk said the relationship between police and city residents had improved dramatically during his career. But trust was still being built — and, as happened with the “tragic situation” of the shooting, could be lost quickly.
“It really isn't my quote — it's the chief's quote — but it's spot on: We're gaining trust drop by drop. We gain it drop by drop,” said Woznyk. “When we lose it, we lose it bucket by bucket. And now we're back to where we started at square one.”
Woznyk also responded to the idea, raised by some protesters in the wake of the shooting as well as during Wednesday's breakfast, that Yale police officers should be disarmed.
He said he believed he and Higgins would be willing to discuss the idea, but noted that Yale officers had been armed since the department was founded in 1894, and incidents like the Argyle Street shooting were rare.
Not having a firearm may make it harder for police to do their job, he said, noting that the department could be called to respond to a shooting such as the one at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Tuesday.
The Connecticut State Police investigation into the police shooting is ongoing. Hamden officials also have begun an investigation.
Surveillance footage published Tuesday appears to show the encounter between Witherspoon and a newspaper delivery driver at the Go On Gas station on Arch Street.
In the video, Witherspoon stops the delivery driver as he attempts to step up to the front of the store; the two speak momentarily. Witherspoon appears to touch the other man, who then hands off the papers, apparently in a slot in the store's door. Witherspoon then follows the driver back to his vehicle before turning away, seeming to tap on the rear bumper as he goes.
The clerk at the gas station called 911 afterward, telling dispatchers that Witherspoon had “pulled a gun” on the driver.
This set into motion an investigation into a reported armed robbery, which ended with Eaton and Pollock firing at Witherspoon as he stepped out of a Honda Civic on Argyle Street.
The clerk later told police he had not actually seen a gun in Witherspoon's hand, according to an affidavit seeking a warrant to search the Civic.
Witherspoon told state police “that he was involved in an altercation with a newspaper delivery man at the gas station but denied ever showing a gun, implying that he had a gun, or that he was in possession of a gun,” according to the affidavit.
The delivery driver later told police that he was “100% sure that the black male (Witherspoon) was trying to rob him.”
The clerk no longer works at the gas station, a staffer there said Wednesday.
Community policing homeless areas of Concord in search of answers more than criminals
Concord police officer Matthew Lankhorst needed confirmation.
Sure, he wanted to trust the homeless woman walking along the railroad tracks, behind the shuttered liquor store, near the Storrs Street Market Basket. So did Carl Notarangeli, Lankhorst's partner, the two cops riding their bicycles during a check of known, well-hidden homeless areas.
But, both officers knew, homeless people are often desperate, willing to lie to authorities to avoid jail time or a summons to appear in court. “I'm not camping here,” they'll tell the cops. “I'm not wanted by the police,” they'll insist.
In this case, the homeless woman was telling the truth. She said she was clean, and she was.
“Laura, you're okay,” Lankhorst said. “No warrants.”
“I could have told you that,” said Laura Fortin, traveling with two companions, moving south along the tracks.
It was Sunday. Lankhorst and Notarangeli, while wearing their bike helmets, wore other hats as well. They were ambassadors of sorts, building bridges with this misunderstood community, showing compassion, understanding, patience.
They were legal representatives, explaining to the homeless that a summons follows a warning, that a property owner's complaint must be respected, that an appearance before a judge is not to be taken lightly.
They were intelligence gatherers, preparing their colleagues and themselves for any future sweeps, filing reports, documenting who's gotten a warning, who's unruly, painting a picture of what these unseen areas are like once you cross a boundary. Once you move from the normal to the hidden, a world that people often don't see and don't want to see comes into view.
Lankhorst and Notarangeli have lots of answers and advice, until the inevitable question surfaces, the one they hear all the time while enforcing the law.
“They keep asking, ‘Where do we go?' ” Lankhorst said. “We have no answers.”
Who does? Homeless people keep camping, police keep warning, local organizations keep lobbying for new, innovative plans, and people keep complaining, about strangers moving into the woods behind their homes, about loud voices, about fighting, about trash left behind.
These cops know this is a thankless job. They know how some view them. They know the homeless sometimes want to portray the police as heartless, essentially using their pitchforks to drive people away.
Lankhorst and Notarangeli, however, do everything possible to shed that unjustified image. And it didn't feel like they were staging a public-relations charade for the local press after agreeing to let us tag along.
They seemed to care. And despite the fact that some deception did emerge, no one was hauled away in cuffs on Sunday. No one got physical with the cops.
“A lot of people are down on their luck,” Lankhorst said. “Or they are addicted to something. They need help. They don't need to spend time in jail.”
Lankhorst opened this annual season of monitoring the homeless two weeks ago on bicycle patrol. The next weekend's assignment was canceled due to rain. He teamed with Notarangeli for this most recent patrol.
Lankhorst, 38, once a reservist in the 94th Military Police Company, served in Iraq 16 years ago, at the start of the war. He said some of his buddies took their lives upon returning home, and he himself had trouble adjusting, sometimes waking up at night and wondering what his role would be like once he had returned to civilian life.
He used to wear a ponytail, doing undercover work. He had tattoos on each calf, a tribute to our military that read “Some gave all.” and “All gave some,” lettering exposed because Lankhorst chose to wear shorts. That decision would haunt him later, on The Heights, where thorny bushes showed no mercy.
Notarangeli is 54 but could pass for his 40s. He seemed comfortable letting his partner do most of the talking, but he was no less affable. His career in law enforcement included time as a school resource officer. He said he loved working with kids.
Now, this. A different assignment. A new team. A gray area.
Lankhorst knew Fortin's first name from the previous sweep. She's from Berlin and moved to Concord five years ago. She wore a stud on the left side of her nose. She carried an umbrella, wore a knapsack, had a cigarette lighter attached to her belt and a knife, unseen, for protection.
“There have been fights,” Fortin told me. “Some have gotten aggressive with me, pushing and shoving. Then I got the knife.”
Her traveling companions – a man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a Notre Dame Fighting Irish hat, a woman using a cane and carrying an iced coffee – declined to give their names.
All three were homeless. The railroad company Pan American, owners of the tracks and nearby land, had called police to complain that homeless people were on their property. These three did not have overnight gear, making their story that they were not camping more believable.
Walking along the railroad is fine. Camping is not.
“If they're just walking on the tracks we won't arrest them,” Lankhorst said. “We won't bother them unless a property owner complains.”
Notarangeli succinctly explained their feelings, telling me, “You get to know them and hear their stories. You wonder if you had that same upbringing, what would you end up being like? What would your life end up looking like?”
Soon, Sgt. Timothy King drove into the parking lot in his police cruiser. He handed Lankhorst and Notarangeli a map showing town, state and private property boundaries, trouble spots where complaints had come in about illegal campsites.
Then they got a call about someone bringing groceries into the woods on Pembroke Road, behind a real estate company. A homeless person, perhaps?
“Hello, Concord PD, anyone home?” Notarangeli said outside a huge tent, a few hundred yards from the road.
No answer. No one home. A Pepsi bottle, a bed, toothpaste and food told the officers this was an active camp; someone most likely would be returning, calling it home.
From there, a deeper walk into the woods brought us to an area with an imaginary line that separated city property from Hodges Development Corporation property. Legally speaking, neither label – private or city property – is open to homeless camping.
Here's where the tattoos on Lankhorst's calves got pricked again and again by low-lying, unforgiving bushes.
“Oh God,” he said, “I wished I'd worn long pants.”
We found an inactive camp, one which had been abandoned, with its pile of garbage and sleeping bags.
“It could have been someone who walked to the store on a nice day,” Notarangeli speculated, referring to the initial call that led us to the area. “Maybe someone was carrying groceries on the way home.”
The final step brought us to another site, near New Hampshire Technical Institute, visible near the exit off of Route 393. The property belongs to Unitil, which asked police to clear it. Lankhorst had given warnings to the people living there two weeks earlier. Apparently, they had listened, not willing to take the chance of receiving a summons and a court date.
An open gate led us to the site, big enough to be called a small community, with trash everywhere, dolls' heads, old food, rusted barbecues, chocolate syrup containers, crock pots, bicycles and shopping carts filled with garbage and blankets, shopping carts from the Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx, Shaw's, Hannaford, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
“There's another big one behind Lowe's, but Lowe's hasn't complained, Lankhorst said. “We could ask if they needed help, but why stir up a bee's nest?”
They made it clear that stirring up trouble was not their mission, that adding misery and hardship to those with no place to go, involved in an issue with no easy solutions, was a bandage, not a cure.
“No arrests today,” Lankhorst said. “That makes it a good day.”
He and Notarangeli then rode off, under the 393 overpass, as rain began to fall.
Lawless: One in three Alaska villages have no local police
by Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News
KIANA, Alaska — Village Police Officer Annie Reed heard her VHF radio crackle to life in the spring of 2018 with the familiar voice of an elder. I need help at my house, the woman said.
Reed, who doesn't wear a uniform because everyone in this Arctic Circle village of 421 can spot her ambling gait and bell of salt-and-pepper hair at a distance, steered her four-wheeler across town. There had been a home invasion, she learned. One of the local sex offenders, who outnumber Reed 7-to-1, had pried open a window and crawled inside, she said. The man then tore the clothes from the elder's daughter, who had been sleeping, gripped her throat and raped her, according to the charges filed against him in state court.
Reed, a 49-year-old grandmother, was the only cop in the village. She carried no gun and, after five years on the job, had received a total of three weeks of law enforcement training. She had no backup. Even when the fitful weather allows, the Alaska State Troopers, the statewide police force that travels to villages to make felony arrests, are a half-hour flight away.
It's moments like these when Reed thinks about quitting. If she does, Kiana could become the latest Alaska village asked to survive with no local police protection of any kind.
An investigation by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica has found one in three communities in Alaska has no local law enforcement. No state troopers to stop an active shooter, no village police officers to break up family fights, not even untrained city or tribal cops to patrol the streets. Almost all of the communities are primarily Alaska Native.
Seventy of these unprotected villages are large enough to have both a school and a post office. Many are in regions with some of the highest rates of poverty, sexual assault and suicide in the United States. Most can be reached only by plane, boat, all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile. That means, unlike most anywhere else in the United States, emergency help is hours or even days away.
When a village police officer helps in a sex crime investigation by documenting evidence, securing the crime scene and conducting interviews, the case is more likely to be prosecuted, the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center concluded in 2018. Yet communities with no first responders of any kind can be found along the salmon-filled rivers of Western Alaska, the pancake tundra of the northwest Arctic and the icy rainforests in the southeast panhandle.
The state recognizes that most villages can't afford their own police force and has a special class of law enforcement, called village public safety officers, to help. But it's not working. In the 60 years since Alaska became a state, some Alaska Native leaders say, a string of governors and Legislatures have failed to protect indigenous communities by creating an unconstitutional, two-tiered criminal justice system that leaves villagers unprotected compared with their mostly white counterparts in the cities and suburbs.
ProPublica and the Daily News asked more than 560 traditional councils, tribal corporations and city governments representing 233 communities if they employ peace officers of any sort. It is the most comprehensive investigation of its kind in Alaska.
Here is what we learned:
Tribal and city leaders in several villages said they lack jail space and police stations. At least five villages reported housing shortages that prevent them from providing potential police hires with a place to live, a practical necessity in some regions for obtaining state-funded VPSOs. In other villages, burnout and low pay, with some village police earning as little as $10 an hour, lead to constant turnover among law enforcement.
In villages that do have police, more than 20 have hired officers with criminal records that violate state standards for village police officers over the past two years. They say that's better than no police at all. Our review identified at least two registered sex offenders working this year as Alaska policemen.
Alaska communities that have no cops and cannot be reached by road have nearly four times as many sex offenders, per capita, than the national average.
The lack of local police and public safety infrastructure routinely leaves residents to fend for themselves. The mayor of the Yukon River village of Russian Mission said that within the past couple years, residents duct-taped a man who had been firing a gun within the village and waited for troopers to arrive. In nearby Marshall, villagers locked their doors last year until a man who was threatening to shoot people had fallen asleep, then grabbed him and tied him up. In Kivalina, a February burglary closed the post office for a week because the village had no police officer to investigate. Elsewhere, tribes mete out banishment for serious crimes from meth dealing to arson.
“There's no one you can call and go, ‘Oh hey, my neighbor is going crazy right now,'” said Kristen George, tribal administrator for the Bristol Bay town of Clark's Point, which balloons from 55 people to several hundred during the commercial fishing season.
If someone started shooting, George said, “they could probably wipe us out before troopers came.”
Many of the unprotected villages are in western Alaska, where sex crime rates are double the statewide average. (Alaska's statewide rate, in turn, is nearly three times the U.S. average.) Rape survivors, as in the Kiana home invasion case, are told not to shower and must fly to hub cities or even hundreds of miles to Anchorage to undergo a sexual assault examination.
The problem is getting worse. Our investigation found the number of police provided through the state Village Public Safety Officer Program is at or near an all-time low; the few who remain are often unhappy and overextended.
When the lone VPSO in the northwest Arctic village of Ambler investigated a domestic violence call in April, for example, he said he was attacked by two people in the home who each grabbed one of his arms. In a subsequent report, he described it as one of the scariest moments of his life as he struggled to break free and grab a can of pepper spray.
“I was unable to get any assistance as I am the only law enforcement officer in this village within about a 100 square mile radius,” he wrote.
Rather than raise pay or boost recruitment, Gov. Mike Dunleavy this year proposed a state budget that would cut $3 million in funding for vacant village-based police officer jobs. The reductions are a small part of a proposed $1.8 billion reduction in state spending as cash-strapped Alaska struggles to live within its means while avoiding an income tax and continuing to pay annual Permanent Fund dividend checks to all eligible residents.
Dunleavy, a Republican, campaigned on promoting public safety, but he also promised Alaskans that they wouldn't have to give up the annual oil wealth checks, and that those checks might increase. Under his proposed budget, each Alaskan would receive a more than $4,000 payment in October, the largest ever. (State lawmakers are working on a competing spending plan with fewer cuts, which would maintain VPSO funding at current levels and provide potentially smaller dividends.) Dunleavy has said growth in state spending is the problem, not annual checks to residents.
Whether each Alaskan also receives basic public safety protection — the ability to dial 911 and have a police officer or trooper show up at the door — depends largely on whether they live in cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, or off the road system.
Martha Whitman-Kassock, who oversees self-governance programs for the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents, grew up in rural Alaska and said the state appears to have no strategy for adding cops in villages.
“Public safety infrastructure and service in our region is a crisis,” she said.
A Fight Over Public Safety Funding
Alaska is the size of Texas plus California plus both Carolinas, Florida and Maine. Purchased from Russia in 1867, the frontier attracted a flood of gold miners and church missionaries. The newcomers brought Western diseases — diphtheria and influenza, smallpox and tuberculosis — killing thousands of Alaska Natives. The missionaries built churches and, soon, boarding schools. So many village children were sexually abused by priests that a class-action lawsuit bankrupted the Fairbanks Diocese.
Lost in the talk of how best to spend Alaska's dwindling revenue is an unanswered question: Did the state ever meet its public safety obligations to villagers?
Alaska's state government settled a 1997 lawsuit demanding equitable funding for village schools after a judge called the state spending system “arbitrary, inadequate and racially discriminatory.” Alaska Native rights advocates contend that funding of public safety remains unfair.
In 1999, the Native American Rights Fund sued the state on behalf of 10 Alaska Native villages, including Kiana and Clark's Point, calling the absence of police in remote communities racist and unconstitutional. The villages claimed that the state had violated Alaska Natives' equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by both opposing tribal courts' authority to oversee criminal justice through traditional means while at the same time failing to provide armed police.
The Alaska Supreme Court upheld rulings against the villages in 2005, saying the lack of certified village cops could be explained by “financial and geographical constraints” rather than racial bias or purposeful neglect.
Early Alaska legislatures and state police saw the crisis coming.
In 1979, the state created the Village Public Safety Officer Program to place lifesaving peacekeepers in remote communities. The commander of the Alaska State Troopers at the time, Col. Tom Anderson, said the program was intended to “address some of the most serious, life-threatening problems of rural villages,” where accidental death rates are highest, by training officers to be firefighters and emergency medics as well as cops.
The number of these VPSOs, unarmed peace officers paid for with state funds but employed by regional nonprofits and boroughs, has plummeted from more than 100 in 2012 to 42 today. In some cases, promising VPSO recruits accept higher-paying offers in urban police departments or private security, leaving villages without their local officer.
Troopers' ranks, too, have dwindled. Citing “critically low staffing levels,” the Alaska Department of Public Safety closed eight trooper posts between 2015 and 2018. Five years ago, the state employed 333 troopers statewide. At the end of last year, that number had shrunk to 293.
Law Enforcement on the Cheap
Outside Kiana City Hall, ravens pinwheeled above the trees on a weekday afternoon in March. A breeze carried snowmobile exhaust and wood smoke above newly built homes on stilts in the upper village down to old-town log cabins.
Inside the city building, council members in Carhartts and snow pants held their monthly meeting. For 90 minutes they shared powdered doughnuts and talked about utility rates, until it was time for Annie Reed to give a public safety report.
There had been several assaults over the past two weeks, said Reed, the village police officer who investigated the home invasion rape. “I was sick, so I didn't do so much rounds. About 300 calls.”
When a village has no VPSO and no trooper, the only remaining option is an officer like Reed, hired by the local city government or tribe. Called village police officers or tribal police officers, they receive no benefits and are the lowest-paid and least-trained form of law enforcement in Alaska.
Reed makes about $20 an hour in a village where groceries cost twice Anchorage prices. These kinds of officers often find themselves performing tasks intended for armed, fully trained police. Reed thought she was going to be enforcing city ordinances like curfew and stopping underage drivers, not refereeing armed fights.
When people in Kiana need help they don't dial 911, which would ring through to the Kotzebue Police Department nearly 60 miles away. They call Reed's cellphone directly. The problems range from barking dogs to suicides to domestic brawls. She is never off duty.
“I have to drop my cooking and go. Or if my [grandkids] are getting ready to go to bed, I'm not there to say good night to them,” Reed said.
Suicides are worst. Calls involving domestic violence are common.
In Kiana, a series of trails and unpaved roads connect the neighborhoods, spilling onto the frozen rivers below. On one corner, a man with a mop of wild hair sat in his living room talking about the time he called Reed for help when his adult son began kicking him in the ribs. The man's wife, left eye bruised, sat crying, saying she wished the local liquor store would close for the sake of Kiana's children. The parents snapped at each other. As they argued, their daughter became angry. Why was everyone sharing family business, she asked?
The father leaped to his feet and pushed her across the living room. The young woman silently caught herself and slumped on the couch, her eyes returning to the TV.
“I don't do meth,” her father said, although no one had asked.
A current VPSO, who asked not to be named and is not based in Kiana, said opening the door on one of these family fights is the most frightening task facing any solo Alaska peace officer.
“The No. 1 most dangerous call you could ever go to is a domestic violence call. Hands down,” the VPSO said. “So we are doing the most dangerous call that there is on a consistent basis, by ourselves with no backup [and] no communication with dispatch other than a cellphone and no way to defend yourself.”
While state law allows for communities to arm VPSOs and even city-hired village police officers like Reed, the director of the Alaska Police Standards Council said he is not aware of any employers that do so, partly because it could make insurance liability rates skyrocket for small communities.
In Savoonga, a Bering Sea island community closer to Russia than to mainland Alaska, the police chief, Michael Wongittilin, said that the first time he put on his uniform, a man aimed a shotgun at him. “About 92% of this community have high-powered rifles,” he said. “We don't even have [bulletproof] vests. We don't even have Tasers.”
Reed said she's never been shot at and tries to talk her way out of any scary encounters. She began working as a cop about five years ago when a family member said the job would suit her. “She said I was a strong and outgoing person.”
Reed's home is a warm cocoon in the upper village, where an ebony finger of baleen, the broom-length filtration system from the mouth of a bowhead whale, hangs on the wall above a tornado of small children and small dogs. The whale hunt souvenir is one of the only signs that Kiana, an upriver village, is Reed's adopted hometown. She is originally from Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in the United States, where whaling is a seasonal rite.
Family ties between police, crime victims and offenders are impossible to avoid in villages of a few hundred people. Many officers said those inherent conflicts make the job less appealing to potential applicants.
A quick walk from Reed's house, Franswa Henry, 40, stepped into the blowing snow with his hands in his pockets. His breath steamed in the cold, his teeth clenched. Two bounding white puppies circled his feet.
Henry said he's on probation and recently got out of jail in Nome, where someone broke his jaw. He was there serving time on an assault charge that Reed had investigated.
“I had a shotgun pulled on me. You know, I grabbed an ax,” Henry said. It was a messy family dispute between stepbrothers in January, with kids inside the home. Hours before a state trooper was able to get to the village, Reed arrived and took statements. Kotzebue prosecutors filed charges and Henry turned himself in a few days later, pleading guilty to fourth-degree assault. But he said Reed can't possibly be impartial — the kids in the house were her grandchildren.
She said arresting neighbors is never easy.
“I still have a few friends out there and a few families that still talk to me,” she said. “It's pretty hard when you have to arrest somebody and they'll start hating you for a while.”
Henry noted that Reed, like many village police officers, has a rap sheet of her own. She pleaded guilty to a harassment charge in 2016 and to misdemeanor assault in 2012. Both cases involved fights with family members, a record that would prevent her from working as a police officer in Anchorage or other large departments. (Reed described the cases as minor events that do not interfere with her work. She otherwise declined to comment on them. “It's the past,” she said.)
Under state law, village police officers are not supposed to have felony records but misdemeanors can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Alaska Police Standards Council Executive Director Bob Griffiths said domestic violence convictions of any kind usually disqualify someone from receiving state approval to be a village officer.
But village police officers with criminal records are routinely hired without a background check because village leaders do not inform the state of new hires, and the regulation requiring them to do so has no teeth, Griffiths said.
“There's Not Anybody There Looking”
Not everyone wants more big-city style, badge-and-gun policing in Alaska villages. Often, city and tribal leaders seek a mix of traditional peacekeeping and modern law enforcement.
The lakeside fishing community of Igiugig has requested a VPSO for years, said AlexAnna Salmon, village council president, but it has not received one. “The tribe just takes matters into our own hands when there are issues.”
“Severe troublemakers are banished. We usually purchase them a ticket out of Igiugig and then ask airlines to put them on a no-fly list,” she said of the Alaska Peninsula community.
About 140 miles to the east, in the Alutiiq village of Nanwalek, the chief of the traditional council has kicked a meth dealer out of town for good, a form of banishment known in Alaska as a “blue ticket.” “Basically the council has been able to handle a lot on their own without support from law enforcement,” tribal administrator Gwen Kvasnikoff said.
In the meantime, Alaska's congressional delegation has attempted to hand more federal money, and more authority, to tribal courts. A pilot program proposed by Rep. Don Young, a Republican, would give special criminal jurisdiction to five Alaska tribal governments under the Violence Against Women Act.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who has pursued federal funding for village tribal courts, recently called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to visit Alaska villages to see the public safety problems firsthand.
But there's a big difference between the court system and on-the-ground police, Murkowski said when informed by the Anchorage Daily News of how many Alaska communities have no police whatsoever.
“If we don't have the law enforcement in the first place, it's really hard,” Murkowski said. “People know that there's not anybody there looking. It makes it easier to be the perpetrator.”
Research suggests that factors such as self determination, the presence of prominent traditional elders and employment opportunities — rather than more police — are the key to reducing suicide, alcohol abuse and other problems that have troubled many Alaska villages. But dozens of village and tribal leaders told the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica they want and need police protection.
“When I'm here by myself and somebody comes pounding on my door and wants to beat the living daylights out of me, it would have been nice to have a VPSO in that next office,” said Mary Willis, tribal president for the Kuskokwim River village of Stony River.
In Wales, where a judge recently ordered the school district to pay $12.6 million after an employee sexually abused multiple girls, City Clerk Gerald Oxereok said the village hasn't had any law enforcement for 20 years. On the shores of the Bering Strait, the whaling town is the westernmost city in mainland North America.
“Nobody has been applying for it,” Oxereok said of the vacant VPSO job. Some locals who might want the work don't meet minimum requirements such as a high school diploma. Or they smoke pot or have a felony record, both of which are disqualifying.
When a screaming man broke the door to the tribal office in Kokhanok, a village on the shores of Iliamna Lake with 168 people and no police, tribe employee Lysa Lacson said she was forced to evacuate the building.
Troopers arrived three days later.
That was in December, Lacson said. The tribe told local airlines that the man was forbidden from flying back to Kokhanok. But that doesn't always work. Sometimes the banished fly in to a different village and boat home, she said.
“We're not trained in responding to those things,” Lacson said.
On the same day that Annie Reed investigated the home invasion rape case, a man attacked three people with a butcher knife in the Yup'ik fishing village of Kotlik some 280 miles to the south. Troopers say the suspect appeared at a schoolhouse vowing to kill the principal, who in turn warned villagers of the attack over VHF radios. The custodian locked the school doors and teachers herded students into the gymnasium and lunchroom, where adults stood guard at entrances.
Kotlik tribal administrator Pauline Okitkun said the town sometimes has village police officers, depending on funding. There was a young woman employed as one at the time, she said, but the call was too dangerous for her to handle unarmed and alone.
The man stabbed three people, including one who struck his arm with a piece of rebar to try and knock free the 8-inch knife, according to charges filed against him. The suspect also stabbed his sister in the stomach, but she was able to snatch the weapon away, according to the charges. Villagers held him in a cell until troopers arrived by plane more than two hours after the attack and school lockdown began. A Bethel judge ordered a competency evaluation for the suspect, who is awaiting trial and, according to the court clerk, has not entered a plea.
Kotlik, near the mouth of the Yukon River, is in Western Alaska, an area with the highest rate of reported sex crimes in the state. Leaders from 56 tribes in the region have listed public safety as their top concern in each of the past two years, according to the regional nonprofit, the Association of Village Council Presidents.
The council visited 45 communities in Western Alaska in 2018 to photograph dilapidated public safety buildings and count police officers. The resulting report found that eight villages had no jail cells of any kind. In others, if there were local police, the officers worked in headquarters with boarded doors, broken windows or no indoor plumbing. In one of those buildings, two inmates burned to death on April 28 while locked in their cells. The council researchers had flagged problems with the window, door lock and stairs months earlier.
“The idea that there are places in the United States, a first-world country, that do not have public safety … a basic human right, was horrifying to me,” said Azara Mohammadi, a council employee who worked on the survey.
In one of the larger surveyed communities, Mountain Village, population 804, the nonprofit found only one village police officer remains after another officer had been charged with stealing from the scene of a homicide. The Yukon River village's public safety problems continued on a Friday afternoon in March, when the Mountain Village officer arrested a man accused of raping two people and took him to a jail cell housed within the steepled city office.
When an Alaska state trooper arrived the next afternoon, he discovered the jail empty and no guard on duty. The 19-year-old suspect had escaped overnight. By the time the trooper found and arrested him, he'd been missing for 16 hours. He has pleaded not guilty on charges of sexual assault, giving alcohol to a minor and felony escape.
Two Classes of Alaskans
Oil taxes, and savings accounts that were built upon oil taxes, pay the bills in Alaska. But even in times of plenty, when 2 million barrels were flowing through the trans-Alaska oil pipeline every day or when North Slope crude prices skyrocketed, the state has struggled to provide core services to villages.
Today, thousands of rural homes in 29 villages still lack running water and flush toilets, according to the state Village Safe Water Program. The road system reaches only about one out of every five communities.
Unapologetic in directing billions in federal spending to Alaska, the late Sen. Ted Stevens argued the young state's isolation and the unique needs of Alaska villages demanded heavy government investment. At the height of his funding powers as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Stevens backfilled the VPSO program with $1.5 million in federal funding when the state cut spending on those officers in 2003.
Dunleavy, who was elected governor last year and subsequently declared a “war on criminals,” has proposed a spending plan that includes defunding vacant village police officer jobs while funding trooper recruitment. But troopers don't just serve villages, they respond to crimes in highly populated areas on the road system — including much of the fast-growing Matanuska-Susitna Borough that Dunleavy and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin call home.
Dunleavy said the cuts to the VPSO program reflect the decreasing number of village officers. (Saying the program is now “plagued with high turnover and poor retention,” the Alaska Legislature this month announced the creation of a working group that will attempt to rebuild it.)
“The drop in VPSOs employed occurred despite pay increases, retention bonuses and approved funding for equipment and office improvements,” Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said. “As a result, Gov. Dunleavy's budget proposal aligns funding and historic expenditures within the VPSO program.”
Shuckerow said that starting pay for VPSOs has increased from $16.55 an hour in 2008 to $26.79 today. That amounts to about $56,000 a year, wages that VPSOs say is still woefully low given they receive nearly identical training to Kotzebue-based troopers who make three times as much.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, warned that the spending plan creates two classes of Alaskans when it comes to public safety protection.
“If you were living in that community for a year and we had someone going out and shooting up the place and you did not have an officer to go to talk to, I think you would feel as unsafe as they do,” Hoffman told the state budget director in January.
As rural Alaskans learned of the proposed cuts, Kiana city manager Ely Cyrus received an email from the head of the VPSO program in his region.
“Ely, just an FYI at this point in time we will not be hiring a new VPSO for Kiana,” it read, referring to the state-funded police officer job that offers higher pay and requires more training than Annie Reed's role as a city cop. “The state is withdrawing funding for three positions in order to help provide the money to give the Alaska state troopers a 7.5 percent raise.”
Cyrus, who sometimes moonlights as a snowplow operator, gave a tour of the village public safety building with its two jail cells and a stack of paperbacks for the guards. Next door sat a mud-flecked home, housing for the VPSO, for the sporadic times there is one. Plywood covered the shattered living room windows.
When a home invasion rape occurs in Alaska's largest city, the Anchorage Police Department sends patrol cars with sirens blaring, Deputy Chief Ken McCoy said. One uniformed officer makes sure the victim is safe while others search for the suspect. Paramedics appear. A detective from one of two special sex crime units joins a victim's advocate and a nurse to begin the investigation and rape kit exam. Back at the crime scene, an officer stands guard to preserve evidence.
Two plane rides and several hours away, above the Arctic Circle, all the village of Kiana had on the night of the home invasion rape was Annie Reed.
When she arrived at the scene, she said, it was too late to find an overnight safe house for the victim. The suspect, 42-year-old Edmond Morris, had a history of rape, pleading guilty to sexual assault in 2016. While in Kotzebue in 2017, he broke into the home of a legally blind woman who lives alone, according to charges filed against him. The woman hid in the bathroom to call police. Morris had spent the past 15 years in and out of jail before returning to Kiana.
“Holy crap,” Trooper Anne Sears said she thought. Sears looked up Morris' criminal record after learning of the alleged attack from Reed and investigated the case. “Everything he's done. He's done it before. Even his other cases were leading up to something similar.”
Reed said that when she asked the man to leave, he lingered around the home. With nowhere else to go and the midnight sun about to set, Reed took the woman to spend the night in her own home. (“Annie is freaking awesome,” said Sears, a longtime state trooper. “Kiana is lucky to have her.”)
One of Reed's daughters fixed the woman a cot to sleep on in the living room, beneath the baleen and dreamcatchers. Another daughter traveled with the victim the next day to Kotzebue, but because there was no nurse available that day to begin a sexual assault exam, the victim flew another 550 miles to speak with city detectives in Anchorage. Her neck and wrists bruised, the young woman carried the gym shorts and ripped tank top she was wearing during the attack as evidence in a plastic bag.
It took three weeks for troopers to complete an investigation and arrive in Kiana to arrest Morris. During that time, he returned to the home where the attack occurred several times to ask if the family planned to press charges, prosecutors allege. He faces charges of sexual assault, assault and criminal trespassing.
In a phone interview from the Nome jail, Morris said he did not attack the victim and said she let him in the window. When the victim's mother told him to get out of the house, he did, he said.
Morris is awaiting trial with a hearing scheduled for July. The window that Morris is accused of breaking open in order to commit the sexual assault is now covered with plywood, adorned with smiling hunting photos torn from a calendar. Dents still tattoo the front door, but that happened later.
The young woman, after returning to Kiana, took an ax to the doorknob. She'd been drinking and tried to break down the door after an argument with her mom. When that didn't work, she climbed through the same window that, according to troopers, her rapist had pried open. She was later found sitting in the living room, sobbing.
Her mother doesn't know exactly where she is now. Probably Anchorage. They talk on the phone sometimes, but never about that night, the mother said. “She just keep it inside her.”
Reed, in the meantime, has a decision to make. A troopers sergeant in Kotzebue said she is among the most reliable of the village police officers in the region. But after fielding hundreds of calls in a recent month, and deaths in the family, she has started looking for a job with days off. Or at least benefits.
“I'm tired,” she said.
A long sigh.
As the anniversary of the home invasion rape approached, something unexpected happened. The VPSO who said he was attacked during a domestic violence call in the village of Ambler, 70 miles upriver, was reassigned by the borough. On April 30, he showed up in Kiana, the city manager said. Backup for Annie Reed.
But the move had a downside: It made Ambler, population 287, the 70th village in Alaska to have no police of any kind at some point this year.
Providence, RI - Chicago
Chicago looks to Providence for community policing
by Steph Machado
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Chicago had nine homicides last week. The week before, the Midwest's most populous city clocked in at 11 homicides.
It's about as many murders as Providence investigates in an entire year. So what can Chicago Police learn from a police department in a New England city one-fifteenth its size?
More than you think.
"A city with a major crisis of gunfire and gang activity and homicides by guns looked around the country for answers," Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements said in a recent interview with Eyewitness News. "They're in the news every single weekend. And they looked to Providence, Rhode Island."
The Chicago Police recently sent four commanders to Providence, along with several community partner groups, to learn about how Providence is using community policing to tamp down on violent crime including gang shootings and homicides.
Violent crime down in Providence
Providence Police data shows a consistent downward trend in overall crime over the past two decades, cutting the crime rate nearly in half. In the year 2001, there were 14,185 crimes in Providence, according to FBI data. In 2018, that number was 7,302, city data shows. (The full FBI crime report for 2018 has not yet been released.)
From 2013 to 2018, homicides in Providence were down 21%. Aggravated assaults were down 14%, with firearm-related assaults down 27%. Overall violent crime was down 7% over the five year period.
Only sexual offenses saw a statistical increase, up 19% over five years. Clements attributes that to increased reporting of those crimes, rather than an increase in incidents. The only other violent crime that didn't see a decrease in the time period was robbery with a firearm, basically flat at a 1% increase, though robberies overall were down 9%.
"Had you told me as a young patrolman, '15 years from now Providence Police will make half the arrests they make now,' I would say, 'Crime will double,'" Clements said. "But it's not. Crime has been cut in half."
And he's clear on how he thinks it happened: "How much of our success can be related to community-oriented policing? I'd say all of it."
The community policing model isn't new in the U.S, and it's not new to Providence. The program launched in 2003 under then-Col. Dean Esserman. The idea: decentralize the police department, setting up districts throughout the city instead of focusing on one headquarters and a shift model. There are nine police districts in Providence, and Clements was a district commander when the program first launched.
"You're a mini-police chief in your area," Clements said. "We brought the police department ... to the community." He said the key to community-oriented policing is partnering up with neighborhood groups, activists, social service agencies, elected officials and other law enforcement agencies. There are more groups than Clements can count on the so-called "power chart."
At the same time that community policing launched, Clements said the department started using the CompStat program, which tracks day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year crime stats to allow police to pinpoint trouble spots, direct resources and study overall trends.
At a recent Tuesday morning meeting of the Providence command staff, the stats from the previous week were displayed on an overhead projector as officers gave reports to the commanders. Five guns were taken off the street that week, one officer reported. There had been no shootings.
Providence still has its share of violence. There have been some particularly violent weekends, like in September when three people were shot in one weekend, one fatally, and shots were fired near a Pop Warner football game. Or in January 2018, when there were five shootings in four days.
"It's not perfect and we're going to have our upticks," Clements said. "When you look in the long run for the three-month period ... or you look at the year or the five-year average, it's really impressive what we've done over the years."
Chicago looks east for answers
Chief Clements is clear: "We're not going to teach the Chicago Police anything about policing." The Midwestern city has hundreds of homicides per year with a great deal of experienced detectives working to solve them. But when it comes to community efforts, he said the commanders "marveled" at what he called "the success that we've had over the last several years."
"They're looking at their individual district commanders and what they can do to replicate Providence, and replicate hopefully the success," Clements said.
While Providence's violent crime rates were going down over the past several years, Chicago's spiked in 2016. According to FBI data, there were 768 homicides that year, the deadliest in two decades. The number decreased to 653 in 2017.
Chicago Police Commander Ernest Cato said police are looking all over the country for input, from major metropolitan cities like New York and Los Angeles to smaller cities, like Providence.
"Just because a city may be smaller, that doesn't mean a larger city can't learn from them," said Cato, who runs that city's 15th district. "We have to listen to everyone — everyone who has an idea — because the main goal is to reduce violence."
Chicago has actually had a community policing program in place since 1993, but a 2017 report determined the department had lapsed in its efforts. The report, released by the Community Policing Advisory Panel, said "the department's failure to continue focus on community policing has eroded the gains made in the early years of implementation."
The panel was commissioned to make recommendations to reimplement community policing, and was made up of police officers, community members, public safety experts, and more. The group held multiple community conversations, writing about several issues in the report including multiple comments that officers "never get out of their cars unless they are responding to calls."
Following the report, the Chicago Police Department announced plans in 2018 to reinvigorate its community policing efforts as part of Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson's new strategic plan.
When visiting Providence, Cato said he was particularly impressed by the access community members had to high-ranking police commanders and even the mayor's office.
"What I was gathering was the relationship they had built with the gang interrupters," Cato said. And he said he learned it can useful to involve community members in the conversation who have previously committed crimes or even been incarcerated. "We have to collaborate with community organizations.
We have to be more open minded to those that may have created the violent act so that we're able to utilize them in a positive manner," Cato said.
One of the major groups that works with Providence Police is the Nonviolence Institute, headed up by P.J. Fox. Fox says the relationship between the Institute and the police wasn't always so positive.
"The culture was much different than it was when I started at the Institute," Fox said. "The department has come a long way." His organization's street workers deal directly with at-risk youth and gang members to try and prevent violence.
"It's a very fine line, because there is still a lot of mistrust for law enforcement," Fox said. "And we have to acknowledge that and we have to operate around that premise. ... Some of the damage that has been done with policing and the community, it didn't happen overnight. It was kind of a systemic issue that built up."
He agrees with Clements that community policing efforts have contributed to the overall decline in crime in Providence.
"It's very hard to prove what you prevented," Fox acknowledged. "But you can see the trends over the years ... you can see the change in the crime rates."
Room for improvement
Moving forward, Clements said an increase in officers will allow Providence to increase and improve its community policing efforts. The department will add 50 officers to its ranks this summer, bringing the total number to 453.
Clements says the plan is to have more foot and bike patrols in neighborhoods throughout the city.
"With our limited resources we've been unable to do that," Clements said. "So I think what we can do better is put out those foot-posts once we go plus 50."
Fox agrees the increase in officers will benefit community efforts.
"The more manpower they have, the more they can commit to getting out of the car, having substations open," Fox said.
The new recruits graduate in late June.
Atlantic City to launch community policing program Tuesday
by MOLLY BILINSKI
ATLANTIC CITY — The resort's new community policing initiative is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning, starting with a news conference at City Hall.
The Neighborhood Coordinating Officers Program, which will place two officers in each of the wards and four in the Tourism District, aims to improve police and community relations in the city, something the department, city and state officials want.
The officers will engage with the community to help with quality-of-life issues and with navigating city government, police Chief Henry White has said.
Atlantic City police add 18 to ranks to help community policing efforts.
The news conference is slated for 11 a.m. in City Council chambers, according to a news release from the city, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the state Department of Community Affairs, which has fiscal oversight of the city.
The need for better community and police relations is one of the points stressed in special counsel Jim Johnson's 2018 report, which outlines recommendations for the city to move toward regaining local control of its finances and operations.
Johnson, Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, Mayor Frank M. Gilliam Jr., Council President Marty Small, White and CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty are scheduled to attend, according to the release, as well as the officers.
CRDA funds $7.5 million to community policing program in Atlantic City.
The initiative is made possible by $7.5 million from the CRDA, approved in March.
Popsicle drive benefits JPD community policing
by Katie Woodall
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - AlticeUSA's Suddenlink branch in Jonesboro helped collect some sweet treats for our local officers to hand out over the summer.
The popsicle drive is something the company has done in the past- but it's the first time they've done it in Jonesboro.
Jenny Massey, VP market engagement for AlticeUSA sent the following statement:
Altice USA, parent company of Suddenlink Communications, is proud to partner with the Jonesboro Police Department as well as other Police departments across Arkansas and Missouri to donate more than 10,000 popsicles to help officers build relationships with the youth in the communities we serve. We recognize the critical role these officers play in our safety and the well-being of Jonesboro, and wanted to publicly thank them during National Police Appreciation week.
–Jenny Massey VP Market Engagement AlticeUSA
This is the first time JPD will be passing out the frozen treats while doing community policing, something Sgt. Lyle Waterworth says is key to helping keep communities safe.
“We get a more open line of communication between us and the community so that one we can prevent crime and two if crime does occur, it becomes more solvable,” said Waterworth.
If you weren't able to make it to Suddenlink but still want to donate some popsicles, Waterworth said you can still help.
Popsicles can be dropped off at the police station on Caraway Road during business hours.
Neighbors app puts community policing into hands of Naperville residents by sharing video from Ring devices
The Naperville Police Department is partnering with the makers of the Neighbors, a smartphone app that allows residents to share videos of suspicious incidents and police to send emergency and crime alerts.
by Suzanne Baker
Posting home security video on social media platforms has become the Neighborhood Watch of the 2000s, and the Naperville Police Department is partnering with one of those platforms to help solve crimes and alert residents.
Neighbors by Ring is a free app available on Apple or Android devices that allows people to post and watch home security videos of suspicious people or incidents in and near their neighborhoods.
Deputy Chief Jason Arres said in Naperville, the app is the chance for residents to help keep city neighborhoods among the safest in the country and provide police with valuable information to help catch crooks.
The app not only allows users to watch and share videos so everyone can see what's happening nearby, it lets the police issue real-time crime and safety alerts, Arres said.
People don't need a Ring security camera or any other video doorbell device to download the Neighbors by Ring app.
Arres said residents can use what they see on the app to identify possible suspects or vehicles and that, in turn, can provide vital information for investigators trying to make arrests.
That said, the deputy chief stressed the app should never replace alerting police of a crime.
“What we know is that crimes are committed and they are not reported,” Arres said. “Sometimes people don't think it's a big enough deal.”
Such was the case recently when a Naperville resident posted a video on the app of a thief stealing a package off the porch.
When Arres reached out to the resident, he learned no police report was filed because all that was taken was pet food.
While the incident seemed trivial to the resident, Arres said that's not always the case.
“For us it's important because this could be the start of a pattern,” he said.
Arres sees the app as supplementing traditional door-to-door canvassing by police.
In the case of home burglaries, for example, Arres said thieves tend to park their car blocks away, not in front of the house. A canvass of nearby homes sometimes won't net any residents who might have seen a strange car parked on the block, he said.
“We could knock on 50 doors, but what if it was the 51st door that could provide information,” he said. “The app can be the 51st to 100th door.”
Arres said videos on social media are tools and cannot replace face-to-face contact with police officers. “It's just a new form of community policing,” he said.
And because the Neighbors app is not monitored 24/7 by police staff, residents need call 911 in an emergency, he said.
Neighbors does not reveal how many Naperville customers are signed up on the app, but when the police department joined the network, they were told more than 5,500 already were using it here, Arres said.
“This partnership offers another unique opportunity that we believe will benefit our community and enhance the strong collaboration we enjoy with Naperville's residents,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said in a release.
“We're eager to join the crime and safety conversations that are already taking place through the app as well as expand our investigative reach by encouraging residents to share photos, videos and information to help us reduce and solve crime in their neighborhoods.”
Jamie Siminoff, chief inventor and founder of the home security company Ring, said in the release the company is excited to have the Naperville Police Department join Neighbors and keep the community up-to-date on local crime and safety information.
“Over the past few years we have learned that when neighbors, the Ring team and law enforcement all work together, we can create safer communities,” Siminoff said. “Neighbors is meant to facilitate communication between these groups, while maintaining neighbor privacy first and foremost.”
Ring donates free security devices to the city based on the number of people in the community who are enrolled in Neighbors. Those Ring doorbell cameras are given to crime victims who've lost their sense of security or to people who can't afford them, Arres said.
To download the Neighbors app on iOS and Android, go to https://download.ring.com/naperville or text napervillepd to 555888 from a smartphone.
Residents can opt-in to join their neighborhood or customize the geographic area for which they want to receive notifications. Users must verify where they are located and cannot participate in other neighborhoods.
Focused on Solutions: Jackson Police turn to community policing to fight crime
The Jackson Police Department gave WJTV 12 unprecedented access to JPD joining them on the ground alongside Commanders and Deputy Chiefs as they combat crime in the capitol city.
Amid an officer shortage Jackson Police Chief James Davis is tasked with finding the right solutions to the city's crime.
He says it's something the department can't do alone.
"I'm always telling people , if you see something say please say something," Davis said.
Building trust between those wearing the badges and the citizens is something police chiefs have long tried to do - Davis says his operation safe streets initiative is doing just that.
Commander Abraham Thompson of precinct 1 said, "It's very important to let the community know that hey we're not out here to just write tickets."
Deputy Chief Tiny Harris of JPD's patrol division agrees.
"This does not necessarily means that someone is going to jail or receiving citation this gives us an opportunity to engage the community," he said.
The checkpoints are often in high crime areas like the Queens subdivision.
"Those roadblocks are just to let the citizens of Jackson know that they are safe , we're doing measures we're being proactive," Davis said.
Neighbors we spoke with say they've noticed a difference and they are impressed.
"I have been very pleased with the police department," one neighbor said.
Commander Randy Avery is in charge of precinct three - covering the Northwest part of the city - he tells WJTV 12 they have seen some breakthroughs in their crime prevention.
"One thing for sure is we can not do it by ourselves and we've always been soliciting help of the community," Avery said. "First of all everyone wants to be safe and second of all it's their civic duty to help us out and third of all it's our duty to make sure that they're safe so working together really works."
However, gun violence is still prevalent in Jackson - in 2018 , the city logged more than 80 homicides investigation.
"People take it upon themselves to pull out guns and resolve their issues with shooting someone they in having a conflict with and it's very difficult to police that," said Davis.
With only 8 months into the full time chief position Davis is sticking to community policing as his number 1 solution to crime.
"I'm encouraged about what I hear I cover every corner of this city I attended the neighborhood association meeting and people see the police, but it's very unfortunate when people take it upon themselves to pull out guns and resolve their issues with shooting," said Davis.
Jackson Police also performs blue light patrols in neighborhoods and business parking lots as an additional way to deter would be criminals.
Letter: City must listen to ideas about community policing
I have been attending and observing Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's Community Safety Advisory Commission meetings for more than a year as a concerned citizen. Ginther initiated the commission to bridge the gap between the community and the Columbus Division of Police. The "gap" has resulted in several high-profile shootings by CDP, aggressive behavior by officers with little or no accountability and communities of color being overpoliced and profiled.
Community concerns about police racism have been long-standing, as in most other U.S. cities, and evidence increased when more than 20 clergy members in Columbus held a press conference in October 2018 to demand improvements, charging racial injustice and discrimination against black officers within the division.
While the commission has listened to hours of presentations of all the rules, policies, discipline and leadership of the division, I have observed little dialogue on how it actually works and plays out on the street. The general community will now have the opportunity to share its concerns in public hearings on June 5, from 3 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.
Columbus police reform activists are urging members of the public who care about this issue to attend on June 5 and for those with specific issues or recommendations to sign up to speak.
For real change to occur, recommendations must include the creation of an independent community and citizen body to ensure that the commission's work results in real change.
Deborah Crawford, Columbus
Kenmare police department places focus on community policing
Kenmare's Assistant Chief Christopher Almlie and Police Chief Allisha Britton stand next to one of the department's vehicles April 8, 2019 in Kenmare, N.D.
by Jill Schramm
KENMARE, N.D. (AP) — Community policing means lunching with kids at the school, giving sober rides after bar hours and sharing stories with the truckers and staff at the local Cenex. It's also trading the badge for a medical responder title when there's an ambulance run and feeling the community's pain when arson strikes a city landmark.
Community policing is important to Kenmare's two-person police department. The department consists of a transplanted California mom as chief and a multi-lingual assistant chief raised in Asia, but the officers are fully bonded to their small Ward County community.
Police Chief Allisha Britton and Assistant Chief Christopher Almlie say their complementary strengths help them cover all the bases in serving their adopted community.
"The town is a good fit for us. He and I work very well together and complement each other's skills and abilities," Britton told the Minot Daily News.
"We see this as a long-term lifestyle — not a job or a career," Almlie said.
Britton's boyfriend had family in the Kenmare area, so with jobs more plentiful in North Dakota, they moved from California in 2013. She had graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration in 2012. She joined the then four-member Kenmare police force in 2014. She was promoted to sergeant in January 2016 and became chief last August.
Almlie came to Kenmare at the encouragement of a friend who had moved to the area.
Almlie had lived in Bangkok, China, and Seoul, Korea, where he had been born on an Army base. His father works for the U.S. State Department. He came to the United States in 2009 and earned a bachelor's degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. Since his familiarity was with big cities, it was a major change to come to Kenmare, population 1,096, in November 2015.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "It sounded like a great dynamic. Instead of getting a badge number, you get to be an actual individual officer interacting with the community."
Almlie knows multiple languages — from the Korean that is his mother's native language to other languages of Thailand and the Philippines. He drew on his knowledge of Mandarin Chinese during a traffic stop.
The department deployed Almlie for a few months to assist during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, while Britton covered his shifts on the then three-person force.
Although city budget constraints have since reduced the size of the department to two, Britton estimated the department responds to about 200 calls a month.
The demands of being so often on call feel less demanding because of the close relationships they've developed through their involvements with the community, they said. Almlie said speaking at the high school's junior-senior banquet, serving in a fund-raising dunk booth or dressing up as the Easter Bunny or Santa are among the enjoyable aspects of the job.
"We do it all here, from social work to a taste tester for chili, programming DVRs to chasing dogs in the street or trying someone's cookies," Almlie said.
"We see more and more of the community policing fading away in some areas, and we definitely want to maintain that," he added. "That's what allows a better bond of trust between us and the community. Without that, we will never be able to solve crimes possibly. You will never be able to have that proper interaction. You lose out on a lot."
Britton said she has worked to create a stronger relationship between the department and the community. As a woman and mother of five, she feels she brings a different mindset and approachability as police chief.
"When I first started in 2014, they weren't doing any activities in the school," Britton said. "I have definitely aimed toward changing that."
Britton and Almlie utilize Facebook as a tool to stay in touch with their community, share information and take feedback. In May, they started a cooperative program with the Berthold and Stanley departments in which people can provide anonymous tips via a website or Facebook link or through mobile app.
They hope the new tool generates leads on an arson fire, which damaged the community's Danish Mill in January. A reward fund has been established. Minot Air Force Base personnel have offered services to help with repairs on the mill, which are to start as soon as weather permits.
Kenmare City Council member Jamie Livingston said the city is happy to have two officers who have been able to strengthen a department that had been in some disarray.
"They have worked hard to turn things around," he said.
The department hasn't been without its struggles, though. Livingston noted the city has had to adjust to a two-person force that no longer can provide around-the-clock coverage, and the two young officers have had to respond to situations without the benefit of extensive law enforcement experience or training under more veteran cops.
"But their passion for Kenmare and keeping the community safe is there," he said.
Britton and Almlie are cross-deputized with the Ward County Sheriff's Department to be able to assist on calls in the county's gooseneck. They also assist Renville, Mountrail and Burke counties.
"It makes a good working environment to be able to maintain those relationships," Almlie said.
Britton said relationships with area departments were weak when she took over as chief, but she and Almlie have reached out to strengthen those connections. The department is organizing an area SWAT training course with a grant from the veterans club.
Britton and Almlie also serve as emergency medical responders on the ambulance squad, and Almlie is on the volunteer fire department. They carry medical bags in their vehicles because they often are the first on a scene.
The medical calls are in addition to calls for stray dogs, domestic disputes, assaults and traffic incidents that take a good share of law enforcement's time in a small town.
"We are spread thin in an attempt to do all of it," Britton said.
But they also have come to know everybody in town, which gives them a good feeling.
"It's more than I ever envisioned — being part of a community," Almlie said. "I never thought I would be going out on Valentine's Day and giving out baggies to kids of stickers and candy."
It's definitely a fun job at times, Britton agreed.
"It's very important to make the best of it," Almlie added. "Law enforcement, as well as any first responder's job, is stressful, and a lot of us are stubborn to not get help, so it's important for us to maintain that good relationship with our community so that they are almost like a therapy for us — to know there's still good, and there's still positive interaction.
In El Salvador, a Thin Line Between Community Policing and Vigilantism
by Tristan Clavel
INVESTIGATION: Authorities in El Salvador are keen to expand a much-praised local policing model believed to have helped two rural communities tackle bloody gang control. But a visit to the areas revealed a murky combination of factors behind the security gains, including indications of vigilantism.
On a dirt road leading to the villages of Guajoyo and Miramar in the municipality of Tecoluca, some 80 kilometers east of the capital, San Salvador, a rusty checkpoint barrier blocks an unpaved path cutting through the countryside.
Uncultivated fields sprawl on either side of the dirt road, in one direction to the foot of a mountainous forest looming in the distance that once served as a hideout for guerrilla insurgents who fought in El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s.
*This article is part of an investigation on state and community responses to extortion in Central America and was carried out by InSight Crime as a joint project with the Global Initiative. See the rest of the series here.
A few kilometers back stands the landmark “Golden Bridge,” one of the biggest and most impressive engineering feats in El Salvador until it was famously blown up in 1981 by a commando from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN), the guerrilla group that later became the governing political party.
The civil war is long over, and the FMLN flags flying above so many of the rural households here now represent a non-violent political movement rather than armed revolution — a sign of how far the country has come in securing peace. But the war in this region gave way to another conflict, this time between the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs as well as state security forces, which turned the area once again into a battleground.
Juan José Leyva, a sturdy man in his mid-fifties who is an officer with Tecoluca's municipal police (Cuerpo de Agentes Municipales – CAM), remembers that the presence of gangs began expanding in 2012.
Early one evening in 2014, he was stationed in Tecoluca's central plaza when he says three gang members walked up to him, two with weapons visibly tucked under their shirts, the third with his gun in his hand.
“So tell me, if we kill someone right here are you guys [the municipal police] going to get involved?” Leyva says they asked him.
The police officer says he told them that if they attacked innocent men, women or children, then yes, the CAM would retaliate. But if they happened to run rival gang members out of town and deal with them elsewhere, it wouldn't be of the CAM's concern.
“We'll take that into account,” Leyva remembers the young gang member saying.
Under increasing pressure from urban security forces in the 2000s, gang members had migrated to the countryside, setting up some of the same activities that make up their bread and butter in cities, such as extortion. With this geographical shift, violence increased, with rising homicides blamed on extortion and score-settling.
Another Tecoluca police officer, José Ambrosio, told InSight Crime that the situation around Guajoyo and Miramar quickly worsened in 2014 with the arrival of a hardened Barrio 18 gang member, Apolonio Neftalí Rivera Durán, alias “Polo.” By 2015, some businesses near the Golden Bridge were paying up to $100 a week in extortion to the gang — nearly half the monthly minimum wage for a commercial employee.
In June 2015, things came to a head. A police operation to arrest the gang's second-in-command in the area resulted in the suspect's death. The following day, members of the Barrio 18's Revolucionarios faction dragged the daughter of a local Guajoyo community leader from her house onto the main road, and in broad daylight executed her and her father, who tried to intervene.
Shock to the System
The motive behind the killings was uncertain — the daughter reportedly was in a relationship with one of the local gang members — but the bloody incident sent ripples through the community. Fourteen families fled, while the rest organized to create a local committee for violence prevention and increased their cooperation with local police, which helped lead to the dismantling of the gang, according to authorities.
Ambrosio, the police officer, says that the development of community policing in the area dates back as early as 2010, but that it was the desperation provoked by the killing of the leader and his daughter that really brought the local population closer to law enforcement, who simultaneously saw the opportunity to launch an outreach campaign.
“First, [law enforcement] succeeded in gaining the population's trust,” local community leader Miguel Ángel Cruz told InSight Crime.
“Before, we would have community meetings and there would be no law enforcement participation. Since then, there hasn't been a single social meeting without a member of the police present, giving out a speech or training,” he added.
The renewed trust spurred the sharing of information by locals that allowed police to take down the local gang structure. By the end of 2016, all fourteen families had returned to their homes.
Praising the security gains achieved in the area since the peak of the violence, authorities at the national level are pushing to replicate a model known as the Local Violence Prevention Committee (Comité Local de Prevención de la Violencia – CLPV), through which law enforcement and the Guajoyo and Miramar communities cooperated. In April, the government announced that it was hoping to see 23 new CLPVs in the area.
Ambrosio's superior, Police Commissioner Gerson Pérez, in charge of the department of San Vicente, also insisted that the community's social cohesion was key to the successful model.
“These are places that have remained organized since the war,” Pérez noted.
Community Policing or Vigilantism?
There is a consensus among officials and non-governmental observers that the lack of trust in Salvadoran law enforcement is one of the main obstacles to bringing down extortion levels and prosecuting gang members. Improving the flow of information from communities to law enforcement appears to be a step in the right direction.
But improved cooperation alone may not fully explain how such a powerful gang presence was dealt with so quickly.
Two sources requesting anonymity told InSight Crime that extrajudicial killings and executions of gang members had taken place during the period in which locals were trying to force the gangs out of the area — a period during which murder accusations against security forces jumped by 630 percent at the national level.
Such a hypothesis would be in line with a national and regional pattern of extortion victims taking justice into their own hands. Some politicians are advocating for a bill to legalize self-defense movements against gangs. The president of Congress, Guillermo Gallegos, has even boasted about financing the arming of a vigilante group.
At the national level, extrajudicial killings by Salvadoran security forces have also become an issue. Several investigations have revealed the existence of death squads led by police and military, sometimes in coordination with community members. And local press reports suggest that a combination of policing efforts and a vigilante movement by locals pushed gang members out of Miramar and Guajoyo.
Ambrosio vehemently denies these claims, but Commissioner Pérez told a different story.
“It doesn't really matter if they [the civilians] were armed or not,” Pérez told InSight Crime, choosing to highlight the communities' concerted effort to coordinate with local authorities.
Officials and experts consulted by InSight Crime concurred that the ability of a community to organize itself is essential to resisting gang infiltration and criminal activities like extortion. All agreed that measures such as Tecoluca's community policing program can go a long way in undermining gang structures.
But the story of Guajoyo and Miramar suggests that attempts to replicate this model in other communities should take into account the potential for abuses by both community members and security forces.
Community policing coming to Middletown under new chief
by Joe Irizarry
As Middletown's new police chief enters his second month on the job, he's establishing his philosophy in town.
"We want to be much more visible and much more interactive with the community," said new Middeltown Police Chief Robert Kracyla
Kracyla believes in community policing. The 37-year veteran in law enforcement was sworn-in on March 4, 2019. He was most recently chief of the Seaford Police Department, and he was a Delaware State trooper for 27 years.
Kracyla said he's started foot patrols.
"So, you should see our officers out there in their communities walking around," said Kracyla. "Their foot patrol can be just like what you think, on the streets, but it's also something you can do by walking into a community event," said Kracyla. "So, if you want to have lunch with a second grader at Bunker Hill Elementary School, you can do that, and that would be your foot patrol for the day."
Kracyla believes forging a relationship with the community will help people trust the police enough for them to come forward with crimes and other information, when needed.
Policing evolves but it's still all about community
A colorful look at police
According to www.odmp.org: “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation, which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. This week pays tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty."
There are 20,267 names etched on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, with more being added this week. Their names seem inevitable Peace officers have chosen a dangerous profession.
Regrettably, too many in our nation have accepted this belief. I have not, and I offer this letter as a way forward. Important things do not always come with instructions. Sometimes, we have to behave our way into new paradigms.
Police + community = collaboration
First, we must acknowledge that police do not always seek community input. Yes, we use catchphrases such as community policing and problem-oriented policing, but many decisions made are solely at the discretion of police.
Real community leadership, however, begins with relationships and not positions. To help address this, police must involve stakeholders in far more conversations. We must go into the community and, as I say often, show up and shut up. We must actively listen, even when our natural instinct is to defend or posture.
We must work collaboratively to build community fabric, also called social capital, while recognizing this truth: we use the word community almost as if we are already one. We are not as homogenous as most think. Many things divide us. The path forward will necessitate leadership collaboratives.
The root word of collaborate is "labor." Because communities are not homogenous and do in fact represent microcosms of many different cultures in a single city, scholars believe the solution to building community-wide competencies is through collective action. By identifying members of each culture or sector embedded in a community, a leadership collaborative can be formed and put to work.
A message from Austin Elementary School students
This team then requires selective incentives or rewards to work toward truer community, social pressure, surveillance (oversight of members to ensure accountability and follow through), building new norms about compliance, communication, and most importantly, creating trustworthiness.
They ultimately can work to reduce poverty, decrease division and increase unity and resilience, reduce crime and the fear of crime, and yes, actually safeguard residents and peace officers from harm. We must conduct social autopsies of our cities and counties, because trauma affects competence.
There is nothing more powerful than a changed mind.
Progress in Abilene
On this note, this work is already underway in Abilene.
Abilene's Collective Impact effort has been working toward these goals since last year, and I am excited to see our future. Much more work remains, and it is my hope that we will do it together.
What about the police? What is their role?
We must recognize that we are working in an emotional economy. Gone are the days when residents will do what they are told simply because someone of authority is telling them to do it. You grow through what you go through, yet many of us have experienced very different lives. Police must acknowledge that and communicate much more, deescalate always, and be flexible and sociable.
A sign of appreciation from schoolkids
The goals of de-escalation include increasing distance, decreasing intensity and effectively communicating. Police must explain why…why I am arresting you, why I am searching you, why it took me so long to get to your call for service? The whys are important.
Ego and high self-awareness cannot coexist, so police must recognize that we police as part of the community. We do not police the community. We are peace officers, called upon to bring peace with us. Resilience is the intelligent regulation of our emotional energy. All of us would be well-served by remembering that.
Police taking care of ... police
Police also have a huge role in safeguarding their profession by focusing on internal behaviors. Too often police kill themselves. We have a culture of speed, and it is literally killing us.
Nearly 65 percent of all accidental deaths are caused by automobile and motorcycle crashes. We must weigh risk versus need, while recognizing there is never a response that outweighs the situation.
Too often those killed in vehicle crashes are not wearing seat belts. Yet, there is no exemption in the law for first responders. Body armor is also a must, yet many agencies still have not adopted mandatory wear policies. Abilene has.
Heart attacks continue to plague policing, so fitness is foundational. Fit officers use less force, and they use force less often.
Backing the Blue
And lastly, tactical competencies must be taught over and over, if we are going to safeguard our peace officers.
Protecting our nation's first responders is of paramount importance, yet it has become a platitude. A platitude is a remark or statement that has some moral content, but it is used so often that it is no longer thoughtful.
I encourage us to become more thoughtful, as a community … as an Abilenian. We must safeguard our democracy, our residents and our peace officers, but we must do it together.
I'm in. Are you?
New Community Policing Program Being Rolled Out in Belmar and Lake Como
by CATHY GOETZ
BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — Belmar Police Department continues to roll out its new Community Policing Program, with the final meeting to be held on Thursday, May 16 in Belmar's west patrol zone.
With the summer seasons several weeks away, the program is designed to give Belmar and Lake Como residents a more active role in addressing quality-of-life issues within their neighborhoods.
Divided into four specially designated zones, residents will be working “hand in hand” with the patrol division assigned to those zones to identify and resolve issues pertaining to noise, trash, overcrowding, parking, property maintenance or any other ongoing disturbance.
The May 16 meeting for the west zone — from Main Street to the Belmar marina on the west side — will be held at 7 p.m. at the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.
Meetings already have been held for the north zone — from First to Ninth Avenues on the east side of town and the south zone — from 10th Avenue to North Boulevard on the east side — as well as in Lake Como.
During those meetings, residents are provided with an overview of the program, including the roles of resident block captains or the resident zone chief. Applications to serve in those volunteer positions will be available.
During the Belmar Council's meeting on May 7, Councilwoman Patricia Wann said that the program received an enthusiastic response from residents in the south zone during the meeting with their assigned patrol squad.
“It was incredibly impressive how many people showed up,” she said, adding that it was “neighbor meeting neighbor and talking with the police officers who will be working with them. It was very encouraging. Thanks to everyone for getting involved.”
Led by Belmar Police Detective Capt. Thomas Cox, the program will work as follows:
-- A volunteer resident chief and resident block captains will be selected for each of four patrol zones.
-- Each patrol zone is led by a sergeant and several officers, who will serve as the department's community outreach specialists.
-- In each zone, the squad's members will work directly with the resident chief who in turn receives information on a specific issue or problem from block captains assigned throughout their zone. These captains will be the first point of contact for residents in a particular zone.
-- It is then the responsibility of the resident chief in each zone to forward this information to the zone's sergeant and Cox. The sergeant will brief officers in the zone about the issues and take any steps needed to resolve them, including notifying other borough officials about concerns that fall under their responsibilities.
-- In his role as program supervisor, Cox will review every police report on every issue — whether or not a summons is issued.
Residents in both towns should still notify the police department immediately if an issue is an emergency, including noise complaints. And they can remain anonymous.
New Savannah police assistant chief praises community policing efforts
by Will Peebles
During her first public press conference Thursday, Savannah police's newest command staff hire, Assistant Chief Stephenie Price, said she would be doubling down on community policing efforts.
Savannah police announced the hiring of the 20-year veteran of the Kansas City Police Department back in March. Price held several positions with KCPD, including commander roles in KCPD's Patrol, Internal Affairs, Vice and Narcotics, the Training Division and Fiscal Services Division.
Price has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Park University, a master's degree in business administration from Benedictine University and also served as an adjunct instructor, teaching criminal justice courses at Park University.
Price said Thursday she and Chief Roy Minter were still "establishing our priorities for the department."
"So for right now, I am his assistant, and I help him do all those different things and set goals and strategies. Again, still learning and excited, though, to be here," Price said. "He's a really great man, and I'm excited to work with him."
She stressed the importance of community policing and expanded on her definition of the term.
"Community policing means actually being a part of the neighborhood. Officers spend more time with the community than they do with their own family, with the exclusion of sleep," Price said. "That means that you are in it. You are there. You are physically present. You're interacting with the community because those are the eyes and the ears on the ground."
While Price said she was still learning how crime in Savannah differs from crime in Kansas City, she did offer some insight into the differences between the gangs in the two cities.
"The gangs in Kansas City are a little bit different than the gangs here. They're more nebulous. They were gangs of opportunity, not necessarily of loyalty," Price said. "The gangs there would come and go as they please, so what we would do is look for the prolific offenders, not necessarily what gangs they were in. That's what we'll be doing here."
The new assistant chief praised the officers and recruits of Savannah police and their dedication to the community.
"One thing that I really liked about Savannah is how proud the officers were to serve their community," Price said. "You can really tell in the way they talk about the initiatives they're starting, the ones that they have been doing and about how their responses to crime are.