Improving Community-Police Relations Builds Better Communities

February 13, 2014

By Jack A. Calhoun

Jack Calhoun will serve as the lead facilitator for the interactive seminar, "Fostering Positive Police-Community Relations"  at the Congressional City Conference on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C. This NLC University seminar will also feature a presentation from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Director Ron Davis.

When asked to comment on how two of his officers have reacted to their community-oriented policing assignments, Salinas, Calif. Police Chief Kelly McMillin responded, "I've got two of the happiest guys on my force.  They report that their policing careers have never been so rewarding. They feel they've never been more effective."  The two officers, Richard Lopez and Raul Rosales, work out of a youth center in Hebbron Heights, one of Salinas' most crime-ridden neighborhoods. 

Chief McMillin continued, "they knock on doors and introduce themselves.  They spend most of their day talking to residents, mediating neighborhood disputes, following up on kids with challenges, working with community partners in education, social services and mental health.  They know the kids, sometimes going to their football games, sometimes helping them get jobs or enlist in the Armed Forces.  But when they have to, they make arrests.  Best thing of all is that they have created trust.  When these officers take enforcement action, the community knows it's legitimate, because the community knows they do everything they can to avoid arresting. Even with a 25 percent reduction in sworn staff, I'm keeping them there.  Not sure I'd have a choice anyway, because the community loves them!"

As Chief McMillin's comments demonstrate, community-oriented policing means many things, ranging from officers getting out of cars, riding bikes and walking beats, usually in targeted, high-crime neighborhoods to a comprehensive departmental shift in law enforcement culture, practice and policy. 

In many cities, community-oriented policing has meant forging relationships with and in some cases changing the practice of sister city agencies such as zoning, parks and recreation, public works, housing, public transportation and schools.  It has also meant close cooperation between police and a neighborhood's most trusted entities, such as community centers and the faith community.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) spearheads the advancement of community policing across the nation. Created through the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, COPS is an office of the U.S. Department of Justice. Through information sharing and grant-making, COPS advances practice in America's state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.  One survey showed that 76 percent of respondents reported that the community-oriented approach influenced or altered service delivery by their city government overall.

Ron Davis, the new director of COPS, formerly served as Police Chief in East Palo Alto, Calif.  Under Davis, the city's crime rate, once one of the highest in the nation, dropped 20 percent and its homicide rate plunged by 50 percent.  A 20-year veteran of Oakland, Calif.'s police department, Davis rose to the rank of captain and has held numerous posts throughout his career, among them Police Academy Director, Criminal Investigations Commander, Patrol Commander and Inspector General.

Director Davis will co-present at the Fostering Positive Police-Community Relations  seminar at the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. Director Davis will describe necessary leadership approaches to building trust and engaging residents, and how to develop and sustain partnerships with key local allies.

In this interactive training, attendees will have the opportunity to engage in a lively discussion, sharing the opportunities and challenges they face when attempting to adopt community-oriented policing strategies.

Jack Calhoun is President and CEO of Hope Matters and a senior consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice and NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families. 

Register now for the Fostering Positive Police-Community Relations seminar! 

For best rates, register for both NLC University training seminars and the Congressional City Conference.  If unable to attend the conference, select "NLC University Seminar ONLY" under registrant type.