More local community policing needed

Spring is the perfect time for local police departments to step up their community policing activities. What is community policing? Simply put, community or neighborhood policing involves patrol officers building positive relationships and solving problems in the district or neighborhood they are patrolling through proactive interpersonal communications with local residents of all ages.

Today, positive relations and trust between the police and citizens are needed more than ever. Over the past two years, negative media coverage of the policing profession has profoundly tarnished its image and reputation. Serious police misconduct, illegal and unethical behavior leading to arrests and convictions of officers locally and nationally has created deep distrust, discontent and lack of appreciation among those whom police officers have sworn to protect and serve.

Look no further than recent media coverage of a Michigan police officer shooting a black man face down in the head or the explosive scandals involving Massachusetts state troopers.

In a survey I conducted of college men and women in Massachusetts between the ages of 20 and 35, 75% think local police departments need to do a better job of communicating with residents, 70% think that local police are hostile or inaccessible, 70% do not trust local authorities. police departments and believe that the officers do not have a good relationship with the community. As one suburban police chief told me after hearing those results, “Wow, that’s not good.”

This is why community policing is an important tool for regaining public trust and appreciation.

A growing number of local police departments have stepped up their community outreach and relationship building efforts by creating neighborhood watch groups, youth sports partnerships, civic policy academies, cafes with a cop and community policing advisory boards. All are steps in the right direction. But more work needs to be done by individual patrol officers through personal interactions with residents.

During a routine patrol, officers must take the initiative and the responsibility to engage the citizens they meet by stopping to talk to them informally as they mow the lawn, walk their dog, take a coffee at a neighborhood cafe or with kids playing basketball in a neighborhood. to research. A friendly smile, wave and casual conversation is an effective tool for building rapport. Research and law enforcement officials believe this personal connection is key to building trust and appreciation between residents and patrollers, which is especially important in this time of a public relations crisis for the services. from police.

Bill Bratton, who headed the Boston, New York and Los Angeles police departments, asked NYPD patrol officers to park their radio cars and walk the streets to speak to store owners and local residents. “Riding around in a three thousand pound patrol car with rolled up windows prevents officers from engaging, connecting and building trust with the public; they must park their radio car and meet and greet those they are protecting,” Bratton said.

A former president of the Massachusetts Major Police Chiefs Association said the police uniform could be an intimidating barrier to community policing, so informal conversations with residents help break down that barrier. “Today’s officers should be seen as friendly and approachable human beings. Driving around in a patrol car all day causes officers to lose their connection to the community, which leads to mistrust. Park and talk is what officers should do.

It is up to every department head to understand the importance of stop-and-go communications and to continually motivate their patrol officers to adopt and perform this important function during their patrol shifts.

Billerica resident Rick Pozniak has had a distinguished career as a public relations and crisis communications manager. He authored a white paper on the image and reputation crisis affecting policing which was cited by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Pozniak, who taught at the New England Institute for Law Enforcement Management at Babson College, continues to teach communications at several colleges, including Middlesex Community College.