COPS (the U.S. Department of Justice’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services) defines community policing as “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,” adding that this involves three main components: “problem solving”, “organizational development” and “community partnerships”.
To truly understand what community policing is, it helps to look at real-world examples. We were fortunate enough to reach Chief Christopher W. Boyd (Citrus Heights Police Department) and Chief Jennifer Tejada (Sausalito Police Department) to pick their brains. Both were recently honored with 2013James Q. Wilson Awards for Excellence in Community Policing (presented by the Regional Community Policing Institute-California).
Chief Boyd was the recipient of the 2013 James Q. Wilson Award for his department’s Sayonara Drive Revitalization Project. (In 2012, Chief Boyd and the CHPD also received the award for their “Community Based Domestic Violence Intervention: The Citrus Heights Model; and in the history of the award, no other department has ever received the James Q. Wilson two years in a row! )
Chief Boyd became chief of the CHPD when the police department was created in 2006 (originally the city fell under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department). As the leader of a new law enforcement agency, Chief Boyd wanted to practice community and problem oriented policing from the get go, and he hired those that believed in the same philosophy. By 2008, the CHPD had created the Problem Oriented Policing Unit (POP).
“One of the key functions of POP is to work with and empower citizens of our community to recognize, identify, and assist in the resolution of problems, and problem locations within the community,” said Chief Boyd via e-mail. “The POP team meets on a daily basis with citizens and a variety of city departments, including: Police, Finance, City Council, Building, Public Works, and the Chamber of Commerce. The POP team also works closely with the Fire Department and the City Attorney’s Office. Working together with these departments and citizens, the POP team has been successful in improving the quality of life for those in Citrus Heights.”
At its inception, POP began addressing the crime issues specific to Sayonara Drive, an area of the city that at one time had 32 times more police calls than anywhere else in Citrus Heights. To build a positive relationship with the community, POP officers began regularly visiting the Sayonara Children and Youth Center (an organization that provides after school programs, tutoring and other services to kids in the area). This opened up the doors for POP officers to form relationships with the adults in the community, which led to door-to-door canvassing to find out what each resident thought would make their neighborhood safer. The community wanted things like a reduction in crime and gang activity, lighting and traffic improvements and better management of residential facilities. From these insights, streetlights and traffic calming methods were installed, a neighborhood watch group was formed, the police partnered with landlords and the City Code Enforcement Division and the Sayonara Neighborhood Park was built.
“[The Sayonara Drive Revitalization Project] involved every City department and called into play many partnerships within our community,” says Chief Boyd. Other partnerships have ranged from Walmart (which sponsors the annual Shop-with-a-Cop program) to Allied Waste Management (who would come and pick up heaps of garbage discarded on the street during the revitalization process).
As a result, the Sayonara Drive Revitalization Project has made a significant difference: The number of calls requesting police service to Sayonara Drive decreased by 78% from 2007 to 2011, and the number of violent assaults decreased by approximately 81%!
Chief Boyd says that the CHPD is also working on other community policing programs, including having a POP officer present full time at the Sunrise Mall to provide law enforcement and crime prevention services. “Recently, the POP team was instrumental in drafting the city’s new panhandling ordinance,” Chief Boyd adds. “POP officers worked with business owners, community groups, and homeless persons to provide an ordinance that preserved the rights of the community to quietly enjoy businesses and services in the city, without infringing on the constitutional rights of the homeless to seek assistance.”
Stay tuned for our next blog where we hear from Chief Jennifer Tejada about the Sausalito Police Department’s Homeless Advocacy Program and other effective community policing efforts.