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Our department had a couple events planned focused on developing relationships with teen groups. Unfortunately, due to the type of event, we had place them on hold due to the pandemic. Tentatively, we have an interactive event with SAMS still in the planning stages wherein the youth and the officers will interact in ways that will include role playing, a Q & A session and finally a roundtable discussion. We are always looking for more opportunities. Click here for some examples of our community engagement work.
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Full question: Can the police be more proactive? Could this presentation be done for the community more broadly? It sounds like Marty did this at Boulevard but that is a K-4 school. We have so many other sites that could benefit from that information. Here is what the ACLU says we should teach our children: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/stopped-by-police/
Answer: Marty Dunn is currently the only officer in our Community Relations Unit, but he regularly attends meetings throughout the community and would be glad to present this information anywhere it would be helpful. During the pandemic, some of these opportunities for engagement have been limited, but Officer Dunn is available for Zoom meetings until in person meetings can take place. Because of the importance of community engagement, increasing our staff in the Community Relations Unit continues to be an organizational goal.
Full question: How do we create a police department that engages the community and lessens the divide? I look at some of the things that Camden, NJ police force has done to build greater rapport such as having new officers introduce themselves to the neighborhood they patrol. Also, I feel it’s important that communities that have been historically oppressed by LE must find a way to inspire youth to serve. The police must reflect the communities they serve and should/must include those from the community. A two way effort needs to happen for the future. All about the long game.
Answer: See answer above. In addition, all of our officers work to find ways to engage the community. For example, officers are often found playing basketball on local playgrounds, practicing skateboarding with kids, throwing a football when they see a game underway, handing out “tickets” for a Frosty at Wendy’s for being “caught” doing a good deed, or chatting with residents while out on bike patrol. Officers are encouraged to find ways to get out of their cars and connect with residents in the community, not only because it’s part of their job, but also because they value getting to know residents.
Regarding inspiring people to serve: We agree and take this very seriously, which is why we have worked hard to transform our recruitment practices https://www.shakeronline.com/720/Recruitment-Hiring to expand the number of qualified applicants who chose to apply.
As the Chief of Police, I am unaware of any recommendation made to our Department to join this group. We would certainly be open to the idea.
Full question: We hear a lot about what parents tell their Black children about how to interact with the police to hopefully stay safe, but I would like to hear from the police about what they want to tell all children, teens and adults about what to do and not do when interacting with the police to reduce the risk of things escalating. I think it would also be a good idea for the police to know the specific information parents are telling their children so the police are aware of those instructions and won’t be surprised or confused about someone behaving a certain way.
Answer: Our Department regularly presents this kind of information to groups throughout the City, though it has been difficult during the pandemic. Our presentations focus on what to do when questioned by the police, either as a driver of a car, a witness, or a victim.
As an aspect of these interactions and presentations, we discuss appropriate actions when stopped by the police in a car. These appropriate actions include keeping your hands where a police officer can see them, limiting movements while in the car, especially at night and simply not running away from the police. We always talk about issues surrounding a person’s refusal to identify themselves and what to do when officers may be executing a search warrant and what it means to give consent to searches. We have had some conversations with SHHS students, residents and specific community groups to learn more about what parents are telling their children about what to do if they are stopped by police. It is incredibly helpful for us to understand this better and we appreciate this kind of dialogue. We are always open to learning more.
Full question: Would it be possible for our officers to be more proactive? For instance, for the two examples shared tonight: Visit each place of worship 2-3 times/year. Work with high school groups regularly - even create a youth advisory group.
Answer: Our Department is continually looking for new and additional opportunities for community engagement. Click here for examples of recent community engagement work. Please fill out our community engagement request form or direct suggestions should be directed to Sgt. Tim Grafton.
Young people have something important to say. We learn more about them through conversation. For example – 3 officers met with 3 African American male students at the high school. Students asked questions and officers were able to offer explanations and let them know they were empathetic to the young men’s concerns.
The students left with a better understanding of what officers go through. In addition, the officers gained a better understanding of the young peoples’ perceptions. Everyone agreed at the end of the evening that honest and open communication can be extremely beneficial to the betterment of the relationship. Parents that observed were pleased with the interaction.
There are also visits by officers to the high school football practice, just to converse with the young men.
These types of exercises establish relationships. Research shows that through communication there is a correlative decline in allegations of bias based policing. Our Department understands that establishing these relationships and links in the community will allow us to become more successful and legitimized to our community as a police department.
We are working to develop a communication process for this. We do plan to post new policies on the Police webpage and will include the date of the most recent update.
We have given a great deal of thought to this concept, including possible a junior police academy that may be offered for high school credit.
Sgt. Tim Grafton supervises the Community Relations Unit. Ptl. Marty Dunn has been a Community Relations Officer since 2014 when he applied for the position. At that time, we had two officers in the unit and one has since retired. We have not been able to replace that officer due to staffing shortages that have not been filled through the hiring process.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we participated with the Recreation Department on Zoom meetings with teens. We have also participated in the lunch give away where officers were present and interacting with the youth. When school began, our officers, through Zoom, have been instructing high school students on internet safety. Lastly, we have tentatively set up an interactive event with SAMS where youth and the officers participate virtually in role playing, a Q & A session and finally a roundtable discussion.