Policing for Progress
Law enforcement professionals can work with communities of color to build upon trust and understanding, while maintaining the partnerships that address community concerns. The following programs exemplify policing for progress.
The Law & Your Community is a national initiative driven by NOBLE chapter members who partner with community stakeholders to improve communication and provide citizens with information on federal, state, and local laws. Sworn officers and law enforcement personnel use PowerPoint slides, videos, and role playing to engage community members of color in dialogue about civil and constitutional rights, self-defense laws such as “Stand Your Ground,” the benefits of mentorship, the realities of working in law enforcement, and navigating communication with law enforcement officials.
In response to a rising number of hate crimes, the Los Angeles County (California) Sheriff’s Department developed the Stop Hate and Respect Everyone (SHARE) Tolerance Program. Deputies use state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment to engage middle school, junior high school, and high school students in dialogue around hate crimes. SHARE participants start with viewing a documentary about hate crimes. After the film, deputies facilitate a discussion on tolerance and the importance of respecting people’s differences.
The Clearwater (Florida) Police Department, in collaboration with United Way of Tampa Bay; St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus; Pinellas County Schools; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice; Clearwater Parks and Recreation; and the Upper Pinellas Ministerial Alliance developed Operation Graduate to help at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 18. Operation Graduate introduces participants to college experiences and provides families with service referrals and interventions. Clearwater Police Department provides mentorship, facilities for recreational and educational activities and scholarships alongside its educational partners who provide credit repair advice and access to college courses.
The Mundelein (Illinois) Police Department provides crime victims with the Victim Assistance Notification form, which lists pertinent information about the criminal case, and possible service providers for referrals. For Hispanic residents who lack English proficiency, a Spanish version of the form is used. Additionally, the department supports victims through a collaborative partnership with A Safe Place, a local domestic violence service provider.
Growth of the Asian community in Des Moines prompted the Des Moines (Iowa) Police Department to create the Asian Outreach Resource Officer (AORO) position. Officers who speak Asian languages are assigned to make daily contact with community members to provide an understanding of the role of law enforcement, welcome the Asian community to assist law enforcement, and encourage the Asian youth to pursue careers in law enforcement.
The Duluth (Minnesota) Police Department implemented the Safety and Accountability Audit in response to concern over the lack of prosecutions in cases of sexual assault against Native American women. The audit identified problem areas, such as a policies which could compromise a victim’s safety. Changes in policy and training were implemented in order for the department to improve its services.
The Mankato (Minnesota) Department of Public Safety created the Tapestry Project to build a stronger community through education, mentorship, and cross-cultural learning between immigrants and lifelong residents. The project provides an opportunity for people to share experiences and build community connections. Immigrant members of the community are nominated to attend a seven-week course alongside interpreters and “community connectors” such as faith leaders to discuss tenant-landlord relations, basic public safety needs, neighborhood relations, integration into housing, and city services aimed at improving the quality of life.
The St. Louis NITES Basketball League is a partnership between the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department; St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry; Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS); and Fathers’ Support Center. Police officers serve as coaches to 10 teams of men between the ages of 18-35 during an 11-week basketball league. The league provides positive interactions with the police and opportunities for mentorship. To play in the league, participants take six life skills classes coordinated by Fathers’ Support Center. The life skills classes teach young men about health and fitness, financial competency, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and the realities of fatherhood.
The New York City (New York) Police Department launched Operation Conversation: Cops & Kids to address the need for positive relations between inner-city youth and the police. The Cops & Kids workshop uses improvisation and conversation to help teenagers and police officers improve relationships in a non-hostile environment. Since the program’s inception, more than 100 workshops involving thousands of youth and police officers have helped strengthen the relationship between the Department and the youth of the city.
The Austin (Texas) Police Department created the African American Outreach Program to improve relationships with the African-American community. Officers assigned as community liaisons participate in community programs and events. The community liaison links the African American community to the Austin Police Department— and with other city departments, law enforcement agencies, businesses, churches, and schools— by providing referrals to other agencies or health and human services; participating in neighborhood meetings; speaking to citizens regarding crime or other issues; assisting the community with identifying volunteer opportunities within the Austin Police Department; and providing crime prevention resources.
The Fort Worth (Texas) Police Department designed a 12-week police academy to give ministerial volunteers from inner city neighborhoods a detailed overview of the investigation of offenses and the preservation of crime scenes. Following graduation from the academy, ministers are given identification cards, portable radios, and distinct clothing to identify their relationship to law enforcement. Officers are made aware that MAC is a welcomed presence at police scenes, within limits established by the program. Ministers serve as an ally to the police during a crisis to prevent escalation and provide support to victims where a minister is requested or needed.
To address their city’s rapidly growing youth population, the Purcellville (Virginia) Police Department created eight community policing sectors. Assigning an officer to each sector helped community members and law enforcement build relationships. Outreach strategies include basketball games with youth, public safety days, an end-of-school picnic, homework assistance, Christmas caroling for senior citizens, and a competition for scholarships.
The Hamilton (Ontario) Police Service implemented the Social Navigator Program (SNP) as a street-level, multipronged social service solution to help break the cycle of arrests, divert individuals from the judicial system, and improve the quality of life for its community members. Hamilton and Ontario Provincial Police officers identify and refer repeat offenders and at-risk individuals to a “social navigator,” a social worker or health care professional. The social navigator interviews the referred individual and redirects the community member to the most appropriate social agency.
The following videos show law enforcement departments working with their communities to build trust and understanding.