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Collaborative Partnerships to Solve Community Issues

By Georjean Trinkle, Associate Director, Northwest New Jersey Community Action Partnership, Phillipsburg, New Jersey; and Todd A. Miller, Director of Public Safety, Mankato, Minnesota

Thriving communities are those where law enforcement is engaged with varied cross-sector partners serving, restoring, and sustaining a community.

IACP Community Policing Committee

The IACP Community Policing Committee comprises 30 members representing law enforcement, academia, and business partners. The committee is tasked with helping to define community policing and promoting the philosophy throughout the IACP membership through publishing research, articles, and reference materials. The committee identifies, promotes, and rewards the best practices in community policing around the world through the IACP and Cisco Community Policing Awards, which are given out annually at the IACP Annual Conference.

The Committee does the following:
  • Promotes, administers, and judges the IACP and Cisco Community Policing Awards, currently in its 16th year
  • Manages a website, as a resource for community policing practitioners and as an online site to submit applications for the Community Policing Award
  • Authors articles on partnerships and community policing for the Police Chief magazine and the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology
  • Develops training—including a workshop on Strategies to Help Prevent, Deter, Respond, and Recover from Critical Incidents and Threats in Your Community for the 2013 Philadelphia IACP Conference (Saturday, October 19, 2013, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Room 115AB.)
  • Provides training and community policing implementation information to U.S. and International police agencies
  • Fosters community policing innovations, including development of a model for “Community Policing TV” as a means to promote and share best practices in community policing among the IACP membership
For more information on the IACP Community Policing Committee contact IACP Staff Liaison Rosemary DeMenno at
Historically, in low-income areas, residents can have low levels of trust in the police department. This may be the result of a general distrust for authority or lack of understanding of police procedure; language, or techniques; or it can be the result of a negative experience with misconduct by the police. Perhaps, most of all, distrust occurs when there is a lack of a relationship between residents and law enforcement. Distrust of police creates a barrier when dealing with crime and people in low-income areas and encumbers the fragile relationship between police and citizens.

Crime factors and criminal activity are different in each community, yet what remains constant is the need for public safety to be part of a community solution to address them. Crime is not a singular problem to be solved by law enforcement alone. While it may be a challenge to involve and include many different partners, the short- and long-term benefits of consistent partnerships and collaborations are too abundant not to explore and fully embrace.

Just as the standard definition of collaboration includes common purpose, shared goals, or a joint effort,1 the standard definition of community policing resources includes community partnerships and problem-solving techniques.2 The premise of partnerships in law enforcement reinforces acceptance that crime is not only a police issue but also a community issue. This is a critical approach to changing the mind-set and silo-based approach of crime resolution to a shared mind-set of improving the community through collaborative efforts that encompass a proactive approach with many partners and a multi-faceted approach to community policing. Creating comprehensive partnerships is not easy work; however, the benefits are long lasting and impactful.

Building community partnerships is a necessary step toward not only transforming the police approach to solving crime but also empowering the community. The establishment of community policing partnerships through community oriented law enforcement strategies increases crime prevention opportunities and creates additional strategies to enhance and improve neighborhood conditions.

Once the mind-set of community engagement is accepted, it is essential to select partners who have a shared vision, are trustworthy, and will enhance the efforts of creating a stronger community. This is especially true in low-income areas where the distrust in law enforcement is likely to be high and the connectivity to citizens can be low. Not only can partnerships mitigate distrust toward a police department but also increase cooperation and dialogue with law enforcement personnel. When the police partner with reputable community-focused organizations, the partnerships they create demonstrate increased credibility to the community, which allows police organizations to be more effective.

Partner selection should include an assessment of community and faith-based providers who have an established trust in the neighborhood. The selection process is critical to a long-lasting, meaningful collaboration of groups working toward the achievement of mutual goals. One natural partner when working in low-income areas should include community action agencies (CAAs). CAAs have been providing direct services in low-income areas since their establishment in 1964. There are 1,060 CAAs connected to a national network serving about 16 million people in the United States every year. These CAAs are nonprofit, private and public organizations that provide an array of self-sufficiency programs for the extremely poor. They provide programs such as Head Start, Housing, Emergency Services, and nutritional programs. The majority of CAAs focus on community collaboration, which includes low-income residents’ involvement in neighborhoods, community organization, and information and resource development.3

CAAs are focused on serving the needs of low-income individuals and are experts on poverty issues and communicating with people in poverty. Police departments that seek a partnership with CAAs to increase their education on patterns of people in poverty and collaborate on community activities will enhance their police department’s ability to relate to the people that they serve; people that are all too often overrepresented in statistics as victims of crime. CAAs also collaborate with many different faith-based and social service partners, are well versed in grant funding, and are experts in outcome-based programs, creating a natural partnership with law enforcement. Taking advantage of a partnership with CAAs will speed a police department’s ability to build trust with low-income populations and better enable the department to effectively impact crime in low-income neighborhoods.

Another essential community engagement function beyond partner selection and engagement is communication. Frequent communication with partners provides an opportunity for meaningful, honest discussion and an opportunity for transformational change. Allowing community input will help to redefine police priorities and result in an opportunity for police to support and encourage citizen input. In addition, police officers that become more aware of the community- and faith-based partners can offer citizens a resource or referral to a specific service that will help to establish a relationship and provides proof that officers have a vested interest in the needs and outcomes of citizens. This creates an emotional connection that may help to motivate and engage residents and add to a sense of a shared community.

nother strategy of successful community engagement is the establishment of an advisory committee. An advisory committee should bring together a cross section of partners, which—with strong leadership—will create a common need, vision, and goal. An active advisory committee that sponsors seminars to educate the public on community needs, the role of law enforcement, crime prevention strategies, or other critical community issues can help to create a positive mind-set in the public towards the police. This committee can sponsor forums, prevention activities, festivals, or other events that create opportunities for citizen involvement and for law enforcement to interact with those they serve in a non-enforcement role. An advisory committee can also create a strong volunteer base for community clean ups, recreational activities, youth involvement, and citizen patrols—along with other opportunities to engage the community. An advisory committee creates a platform for citizen input and frequent communication between police and invested stakeholders on a regular basis.

Partnerships that are successful have stated and defined responsibilities of each partner. A written agreement is critical and should value the process of each partner. For example, if working in a partnership with elected officials, a signed resolution helps to not only formalize the partnership, but also raise the expectations of the defined responsibilities of each partner and serve as a written reminder of the shared vision and anticipated outcomes. The added benefit of a signed resolution is the transparency it provides to the public.

Partnerships in community policing essentially fall into place with two components: police working in partnership with others and residents being proactive and engaged in their neighborhoods. Approaching crime resolution as a community issue provides an opportunity to build and establish meaningful relationships with varied partners and to deploy and redeploy public and private community resources to more effectively resolve crime issues.

These relationships can be profound and impactful if they are approached with consideration and stakeholders are open to all of the possibilities that partnerships offer to their communities. But, first, the notion that police are the lone authority on crime must be dismissed, so the framework to allow for the empowerment of all citizens and the work of creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that truly improve communities and citizen’s quality of life can begin. ?

1Merriam-Webster Online, s.v. "collaborate,” (accessed July 1, 2013).
2“COPS Office: Core Community Policing Resources,” COPS Office, (accessed August 12, 2013).
3“ Home Page," Community Action Partnership, (accessed July 1, 2013).

Georjean Trinkle is the associate director of the Northwest New Jersey Community Action Partnership (NORWESCAP). Georjean has over 15 years of experience within the Social Service field with a particular emphasis on working with low-income families, grant management, and innovative program design, as well as strategic planning, advocacy, and outcome-based programming.

Todd A. Miller is the director of Public Safety at the Mankato Department of Public Safety in Minnesota. He also serves as the chair of IACP’s Community Policing Committee. Contact Chief Miller via email at

Please cite as:

Georjean Trinkle and Todd A. Miller, "Collaborative Partnerships to Solve Community Issues," The Police Chief 80 (October 2013): 26–27.


From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 10, October 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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