By Michelle Gahee Kloss, J.D., NIOT Director of Community Engagement
Not In Our Town works extensively with law enforcement agencies all over the country, providing support to police chiefs, sheriffs, and officers through our films and educational resources.
The current turmoil in Ferguson, MO has brought the issue of community-oriented policing into the spotlight. Would the situation in Ferguson be as volatile if the police department had a strong community policing program in place? Would the incident even have happened?
Community-oriented policing is a strategy of policing that focuses on police building ties and working closely with members of the communities. It is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
The idea is for police departments to know and interact with all members of their community. To build ties and communication streams before an incident happens. This work can be both preventative and provide a framework for response, based on the strengths, weaknesses, anger and satisfaction of the community it serves.
For the past three years Not In Our Town has been working with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Office (COPS) to build resources and engage law enforcement agencies nationwide to increase their knowledge of and ability to institute this community policing model in their communities.
In light of the recent events in Ferguson, MO, NIOT wants to highlight effective ways for law enforcement agencies to to engage with their communities in response to tragedy. Important principles to follow include proactively reaching out to the community, supportive leadership at the local level, and as much transparency as can be afforded.
Hopefully, Ferguson can follow the examples of other successful locales, such as the police departments of Oak Creek, WI; Redlands, CA; or Long Beach, CA. The Ferguson police will not recover the trust of the community overnight, but to begin that process will require open, honest, and genuine engagement.
Find law enforcement resources at NIOT.org/COPS.
Additional reporting contributed by Brian McMahon.