Police-community relationships are one of the most significant barriers facing police officers. This is why positive police-community relations are critical for active crime prevention, officer safety, and successful police-citizen relationships. Many groups are examining and implementing what they need from their police departments.
Police agencies make efforts to connect with the general community through local meetings, police academies, and public education.
Programs such as National Night Out, target specific efforts needed to make connections to underrepresented communities and ethnic communities. Building relationships within all populations is critical for achieving the goals of community outreach.
So, what are the goals of community outreach?
• Increase citizen motivation to report crimes.
• Build trust and familiarity with the community.
• Create opportunities in which to engage community members.
• Increase officer safety.
Achieving these goals can foster an understanding of expectations on both sides of the police officers and the community. Every community operates differently and will have their own unique set of goals. There have been some great community outreach efforts this year and these may inspire your community to do the same.
A few examples of successful police community outreach:Coffee with a Cop
This program offers citizens to join officers for a cup of coffee. There are no speeches or agendas, just an open opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know each other. Coffee with Cop events have been hosted in more than 2000 communities in 48 states. The key is opening doors for interactions outside of crisis situations that typically bring law enforcement officers and community members together.
Back to School Picnic:
In 1995 a police Chief was asked to sponsor a child with school materials. The police department took it into their hands to make sure his school had the right supplies. In 2003 they started the back to school picnic for over 200 families. The picnic provided children with school supplies and clothes for the year. Other police departments have picked up on this idea and are hosting their own back to school picnic and donation events. It is also a great opportunity for police to talk to parents and community members. Not only can they talk to them about the importance of community and school safety, but get to know them and build relationships.
National Night Out:
Celebrated just recently this month, National Night Out is an annual campaign that promotes police-community relationships to make neighbors safer. Communities across the country host block parties, festivals, parades and other fun events with demonstrations, speeches, and opportunities to talk with one another. These events enhance camaraderie and provide the opportunity to come together in a positive environment.
There are many wonderful community outreach programs for police officers throughout the nation. What programs have worked for your community? Share with us in the comments section below.