Community Policing: Improving Relationships, improves policing

The Golden Rule

While police in the United States have been under heavy scrutiny with calls to restructure. There might be a solution in the way police function in a community. With none other than “Community Policing”. The objective of this video is to inform the public on different ways Police can be effective. Chief Todd J. Bereda, offers some incite into how his police department functions in it’s community and how small-town policing can be translated to larger urban environments.

Produced and edited by Chris Giacobbe. Video footage provided by Storyblocks.com and audio provided by www.fesliyanstudios.com

Love thy Neighbor

By Christopher Giacobbe

 

What goes on behind the walls of a police department? The average person might be rather inexperienced in what’s going on inside. This wouldn’t mean the average person doesn’t get a bit curious from time to time…

Community Policing and Traditional policing are ways that police departments can operate in the United States. Community policing focuses on being involved in the community and establishing a connection by living and interacting with the members on a daily basis. However, Traditional Policing is perhaps what most people are familiar with. The term refers to a form of policing that involves officers responding to calls and identifying how to solve community problems within law enforcement agencies. Despite traditional policing having its place in certain parts of the country; community policing could be a better choice for those who want to know their local police officers on a more personal level.

Officer William Ortiz has been a patrol officer for the Runnemede NJ Police Department for the past 25 years and is very proud of the relationships that his department has built around his community.

“[We’re] a small-town police department in a small town you become very aware of the residents and the residents become aware of you,” Officer Ortiz said.

“We only have 16 police officers. So over the course of time, you definitely developed very strong bonds with the residents and the neighbors and stuff. They know who you are, you know who they are, they know your children. You know, their children, their children go to school with your children. So it's very intertwined. It becomes a very close-knit group inside of the confines of the town”

The intertwining, as Ortiz articulated it, of both the officers and the members of the community they protect is “All around, a positive change”. Rather than in Traditional Policing where officers are coming into communities to solve problems. “Most officers agree that in order to be effective, police need to understand the people in the neighborhoods they patrol. About seven in ten (72%) say it is very important for an officer to have detailed knowledge of the people,” Officers where there is community policing and have prior knowledge of what’s going within their community to assist them in decision making. “The fact that I live and work in the same town,” Ortiz continued. “I can go down any street in this town at any given time and know what cars belong on what street, where, and who should be where. So from a crime-fighting standpoint, it definitely gives us an upper and upper edge on what's going on as far as what's going on in the town.”

In today’s climate, where the police are under heavy scrutiny considering the recent Black Lives Matter events catalyzed since George Floyd’s passing. Community policing would provide officers with the best thing for officers they could have while patrolling: information. This could help mitigate the risks of an officer responding incorrectly or disproportionately if they are familiar with the area and the people in it. In a way, community policing is simply trying to enforce the golden rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-40).

While Community Policing may seem like the easy answer it’s not as easy as simply legislating your way out of every problem. Sometimes fixing an issue isn’t as simple as putting a new law in place that say’s “Be nice to everyone”. You have to start from the individual, and more specifically, the mindset of the individual, only then can we hope to see change. Therefore the issue of bridging the gap with the community comes down to the morals of each officer. Thankfully, Officer Ortiz offers a solution for individual officers, to do a little more around their towns and do not hesitate to stretch their legs a little bit to take that opportunity to really intermingle with community members.

“Stay involved, walk around! You know? ...Walk down the street and meet people, and store owners… If cops would just stop and walk the Black Horse Pike and just… you know, get to know [the community] a little bit better. That strengthens a lot of the community ties that you have with the Police Department," Ortiz said.

The Neighborly Way

For this interview, I chatted with Probation Officer Vanessa Bauman who works in Camden City, NJ. In this interview, Officer Bauman has 15 years of experience in her job and she talks about her role in her community and sheds some light on what police officers on an individual scale can do to help strengthen bonds, with their community members while still being able to do their jobs.

Produced and edited by Chris Giacobbe.

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