By H. Lloyd Perkins, Chief of Police, Village of Skaneateles, New York, and Thomas Winn, Chief of Police, Camillus, New York
he Tallahassee Police Department has found that limiting participation to one year enables more youth to be exposed to the benefits of the Defy program. This exposure serves to channel youth away from the adverse surroundings that plague them. To date, the TPD Defy program has served 40 youth in the city of Tallahassee, 20 during the first year and 20 in the current program.
The Defy program is a magnificent opportunity for the Tallahassee Police Department to enrich the lives of children and to provide a sense of fulfillment for the officers (mentors) who choose to work with them. Our agency is willing to assist any agency interested in implementing this worthwhile program. For more information, please call Officer Danielle Davis, Defy coordinator, at 850-891-4844, or write to her at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Located in central New York, the town of Camillus has a population of approximately 25,000. The police department has 24 full-time officers. The town is a bedroom community located between the cities of Syracuse and Auburn, with several shopping centers and some small industrial developments.
Under the direction of the former chief, Chief H. Lloyd Perkins (now chief at village of Skaneateles, New York), the Camillus Police Department started an outreach program called Building Community Bridges three years ago. The program was intended to improve access to the Camillus Police Department by minority groups.
After receiving the support of the Camillus Town Board, a key component was securing the support and input of the police union. While initially received with some apprehension, the union’s active participation has demonstrated their support for this program, its goals, its accomplishments, and its potential.
To understand the purpose and goals of the project, representatives from numerous minority and advocacy groups were invited to an inaugural meeting to form an advisory group, the Camillus Bridges Committee. The police union group was also asked to participate in this advisory group. As part of this group, union officials have the opportunity to interact with leaders from a diverse segment of their community, and the minority group leaders could start to view the police union officials as professional associates and allies.
At this initial meeting, the Camillus Bridges Committee was asked for their input in rewriting the department’s mission statement. Police hopes that the invitation would help the minority communities see that the department was sincere in reaching out to the community.
Since that initial meeting, the committee has rewritten the department’s internal affairs policy and created a department policy prohibiting bias-based policing.
In a bold and proactive effort, the department invited representatives of diverse groups directly into departmental planning sessions, where they were given an excellent opportunity to have their concerns heard. Organizations such as the Onondaga Commission on Human Rights, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Inter-religious Council of Central New York have attended these meetings. Additionally, the town of Camillus’s elected officials, the Spanish Action League of Syracuse, and the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility have participated in the meetings, as well.
A citizen police academy was held to introduce members of the Camillus Bridges Committee to the residents of the town, and continue to show our community and our extended community that we are committed to the fair treatment of all people.
These open lines of communications have served the department and the community well. Various members of the committee are regularly called upon for their input regarding civil rights, personnel complaints, and administrative issues. By initiating this openness, the department was able to demonstrate its commitment to fair and impartial treatment of all citizens, the media, and department members.
Traditionally, police departments and police unions have felt a sense of being at odds with the leaders in minority communities. By bringing these groups together in one committee, the department has demonstrated, not only to each group, but also to the media, their commitment to fair and impartial treatment to all citizens.
The current police chief in Camillus, Thomas Winn, was one of the architects of the program, as a major in the department. He relies on the members of Camillus Bridges Committee for their counsel and input. He knows that the issue is not if a high-profile complaint will be made but when, and he feels that the committee will alleviate many of the problems associated with these complaints.
The single most important purpose of the Building Community Bridges program was to engage members of the department and the police union from the start. The program changed the officers’ traditional sense of being at odds with the leaders in minority communities and vice versa. When an incident does occur, this entire group now works toward a fair resolution of the issue. The Building Community Bridges Program still requires a fair amount of hard work but the benefits to such a program are immeasurable.
For more information on this program, please call Chief Thomas Winn at 315-487-0102, or send a message to him at (email@example.com).