The holidays are a time to give back. The season inspires people to contribute to their communities in the form of time, like a volunteering commitment, or resources, like a donation to an important charity or cause. This time of year also presents many opportunities for law enforcement professionals to connect with the neighborhoods they work in. Across the country, many local police departments have already invested in community policing initiatives to do just that. These programs give officers the chance to meet and communicate directly with citizens, and better understand and serve the neighborhoods in their community.
What is Community Policing?
What is community policing, and how can law enforcement participate during the holiday season? Community policing, or community-oriented policing, is a strategy that focuses on building trust between citizens and law enforcement through mutual understanding and collaboration. These programs are also meant to encourage partnerships between local police and first response teams, local government, non-profits and other organizations, small businesses, and most important of all, citizens. In towns and cities across the country, community policing is becoming a crucial common practice.
How Does Community Policing Help?
Community policing measures are helping law enforcement better manage safety in their communities, while enabling citizens to have a voice in public safety management. It helps ensure that communities are served by culturally-fluent cops who approach their work in a way that is empathetic and with the best interests of the people in mind. There are lots of ways for the community to participate, and these programs can help build key relations between law enforcement officials and the community.
The holidays, with toy drives, holiday gatherings, and increased time for community meetings, are the perfect time for law enforcement to get more in touch with neighborhoods they’ve sworn to keep safe. The season of giving is also an opportunity for local safety managers to provide much-needed assistance for more vulnerable communities.
Here are 7 real examples of community policing so far this holiday season:
1. Delivering Turkeys for Senior Citizens – Washington, DC
In Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Police Department delivered turkeys to J.W. King Senior Apartments in the Sixth District. Thanks to this community policing effort, those who might not have been able to go out for a traditional Thanksgiving meal had it brought to their door. It was also an opportunity for police to chat with local residents and hear their thoughts.
2. Thanksgiving Luncheon for Homeless Veterans – Miami, Florida
The Miami-Dade Association of Chiefs of Police held a Thanksgiving luncheon for homeless veterans at Marlins Stadium. This provided a chance for officers and other law enforcement to sit down with people from a vulnerable community and learn what they can better do to ensure their safety.
3. Kids Community Holiday Party – Norwalk, Connecticut
Another great job by our Community Policing Unit organizing the annual Kids Community holiday party. Great turnout. pic.twitter.com/hqKVcs1uIs— Chief Tom Kulhawik (@NPDChief) December 10, 2016
In Norwalk, Connecticut, the Community Services and Community Policing Unit plan and coordinate events for both children and adults. Their initiatives include a Coffee with a Cop program.
A highlight is surely their annual Children’s Holiday Party, which draws a crowd of over 150 kids and provides lunch and entertainment. The holidays can be an expensive time, and the event is meant to make the holidays more inclusive of the city’s more vulnerable families. The officers hand out gifts to every kid at the end of the party.
4. Toy Drive – St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
In St. Thomas, Ontario, police officers stood in for Santa to get gifts for families in need.
5. Thanksgiving Turkey Drive – East Brooklyn, New York
Turkey giveaway in East New York Brooklyn @ School JHS 218 was a success. Thanks to the 75 PCT Sector Charlie -Police Officer Gessner and Officer Diaz. 20 families received turkeys. Community Policing at its best. Thanks @NYPD75Pct @NYPDONeill. @NYPDnews— Julio Diaz (@PresidentNLOA) November 21, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/66H1lDECMb
In Brooklyn, New York, police officers gave out up to 20 turkeys for families in need. It’s a great example of local law enforcement engaging with their community and giving back.
6. Spreading The Word With Santa – St. Cloud, Minnesota
In St. Cloud, Minnesota, a local officer took this funny picture with Santa to promote the cities 'see something, say something' policy. A safe and secure way to report suspicious activity is anonymous 2-Way Tip Texting.
7. The Santa Squad – Woods Cross, Utah
Loved meeting this sweet family at @WoodsCrossPD!!! They're very excited about the station's newly added role: "Santa Squad." I'll explain at noon on @KSL5TV & on @kslbrowser50! #porchpirates #tistheseason #seasonodgiving pic.twitter.com/zXCK8cnohF— Caitlin Burchill (@newsyCaitlin) November 29, 2017
In Wood’s Cross, Utah, citizens can ship their holiday packages to the local police department if they’re worried about porch theft or inclement weather. It also creates an opportunity for local law enforcement to chat and connect with the community as they stop in to pick up their holiday packages.
Year Round Community Policing Initiatives
These acts of community policing were holiday-oriented. In addition to contributing to these seasonal activities, many local law enforcement agencies continue their year-round community programming well into the winter months. These four acts of community policing are four other recent initiatives that, while not holiday-themed, capture the spirit of giving back to the community. Citizens and law enforcement alike are continuing to keep lines of communication open with these
1. School Supply Drive – Lansing, Michigan
COMMUNITY POLICING:— Lansing Police (@LansingPolice) November 27, 2017
Officers assisted with school supplies at Baker Head Start. pic.twitter.com/NfV04niUvP
In Lansing, Michigan, officers helped distribute supplies in a local school. In addition to helping the school with crucial supplies, it gives young students a chance to ask questions about safety in their community.
2. Friday Night Tennis Match – Boston, Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the Boston Police Tennis Program, or Volley Against Violence, engages youth with tennis in a way that builds positive relationships and helps develop crucial life skills. In addition to weekly games of tennis at local tennis courts, the evenings begin with community meetings and discussions, and often end with tutoring sessions.
3. Citizen’s Academy – Covina, California
In Covina, California, law enforcement professionals host a Citizen’s Police Academy that provides citizens with information about how the police department works. The goal is to increase understanding and communication between citizens and police, and to help the police find practical solutions to neighborhood problems. The program is almost in its 20th year and builds trust between the community and law enforcement.
4. Classroom Visit and Community Service Q&A – Worcester, Massachusetts
Lt Sean Murtha spoke to all of the classes at the Alhuda Academy about community service. Students did a great job asking questions about ways they can help the community and their neighborhood. #worcester # communitypolicing pic.twitter.com/4DnLaMMAbd— Worcester PD (@WorcesterPD) November 17, 2017
In Worcester, Massachusetts, local lieutenant Sean Murtha visited classes at Alhuda Academy to discuss community service. The students got to ask questions about how best to help out in their community and neighborhoods.
The holiday season presents unique opportunities for local safety managers to reach out to their communities, but community policing efforts can be instituted year-round. If a city or town makes a commitment to community policing, it can help improve lines of communication, bonds of trust, and improve overall community safety.
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