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Police-Community Relations and Services Are Changing in a Positive Way in Cities Throughout America

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Roger L. Kemp
May 18, 2018

The public services provided by Police Departments to citizens in our nation’s cities are changing rapidly. This is due to the changing ethnic composition of our society, the national enhancement of police services, the greater use of new technologies by our Police Departments and the increasing diversity of Police Departments that is taking place to reflect the citizens that are being served with their public police services.

I describe some of these evolving best practices below. Depending upon the nature of these service changes, the funds needed to implement them, and the staffing required to do so, many of these changes can be implemented directly by the Chief of Police, while other changing services might require approval of the City Manager, and possibly the city’s elected officials, especially if additional funding is required. The evolving best practices of Police Departments in America are highlighted below.

  • Increasing public outreach to citizens by Police Officers is rapidly taking place via social media, video applications and other digital technologies.
  • Police Departments are developing “Police-to-Citizen” (P2C) websites to empower citizens with information about their community’s police services. This information is made available for citizens to access 24-hours a day, every day of the year, on their personal computers.
  • Police Departments are starting to use the nation’s “Wireless Emergency Alert System” (WEAS) to solicit citizen feedback on recent crime incidents, and to encourage citizens to help facilitate the location of the person(s) that caused them.
  • The increased use of “Domain Awareness Systems” (DAS), primarily surveillance cameras used to monitor school entrances and downtown intersections, as well as other important locations, is on the increase. The general usage of such digital surveillance technologies are increasingly being developed and applied by Police Departments nationally.
  • Police Departments in some cities are developing “Coffee with a Cop” or “Pizza with the Police” programs, to provide citizens with the opportunity to get to meet their local Police Officers at a local coffee shop or pizza parlor, and to personally get to know them.
  • More Police Departments are requiring their Police Officers to wear and to use body cameras so that they can take instant video pictures of crime incidents. Citizens can also videotape such incidents on their cell phones for immediate transmission and dissemination.
  • Many Police Departments are increasingly holding “Police-Community Forums” (PCF) for the first time ever to help educate their citizens about the services that their local Police Officers provide, and to answer any questions that the citizens may have about these services. Many of these programs are being provided annually, and sometimes even more frequently.
  • Many Police Departments are requiring their Police Officers to use non-lethal weapons when they respond to selected crime scenes. The type of weapons that they have available depends upon the type of crime that is being responded to. These Police Officer operational guidelines are usually called “Use of Force Policies” (UFP).
  • School Resource Officers (SRO’s), only a few years ago, were primarily assigned to high schools. Now SRO’s are now assigned to all local public schools — elementary, middle, as well as high schools. Students (and teachers) throughout a community personally benefit from such police service programs.
  • Police Officers, typically SRO’s, in their city’s public schools, are increasingly providing anti-drug educational programs and services to the students. Such programs, which are also sponsored by a school’s administration and its teachers, have been on the increase in recent years in public schools throughout Ameica.
  • Many Police Departments are also holding workshops for school officials, parents and students, on the use of social media so they can instruct and guide young students on the appropriate use of available internet resources. Some departments are even holding “Social Media Awareness Nights” (SMAN) to facilitate this educational process.
  • Many Police Departments are holding annual “Public Safety Festivals” (PSF) in municipal parks and open spaces to help educate their citizens on their police programs and services, as well as how they can access and use these services throughout the year.
  • There are more “Police Bike Patrols” (PBP) and “Police Walking Patrols” (PWP) in downtown neighborhood areas in cities throughout the country. Such police services make Police Officers more visible to local merchants and citizens, as well as commuters, in their inner-city areas.
  • Some Police Departments have created “Safe Exchange Zones” where citizens can pick-up items that are purchased online from a stranger in the area. Many Police Departments are making portions of their parking lots available for this purpose, because Police Officers are present, the parking lots are illuminated, and citizens can feel safe during such a pick-up process.

These state-of-the-art best Police Department practices represent many new and evolving police-community services that are being developed and implemented by Police Departments in cities throughout America in recent years. Police Chiefs, as well as their respective administrative staffs, and their Police Officers, are continually working together to build an improved police-community network for those citizens that are being served by their police services.

Our nation’s many municipal law enforcement officials—the Chiefs of Police, their administrative staffs and their Police Officers—should be congratulated for their ongoing efforts to achieve these admirable police service goals in Police Departments throughout our nation’s local governments.

Author: Roger L. Kemp, PhD, ICMA-CM, is a career city manager having worked in and managed the largest council-manager government cities in CA, CT, and NJ during his public service career. Dr. Kemp is a Professional in Residence at the University of New Haven, and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University.  Roger is also a professional speaker, and can be reached at <[email protected]>.


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