President’s Message: The Institute for Community-Police Relations: Aiding Law Enforcement in Enhancing Community Trust

Law enforcement leaders recognize that not one single factor has been more essential to preventing and reducing crime levels than collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the communities they support and serve. In order for law enforcement to be truly effective, officers and agencies must have the active assistance of and support from every facet of our communities. Establishing and maintaining these crucial relationships in order to build a mutual understanding and level of trust with diverse communities requires time and is an ongoing effort.

In order to aid law enforcement agencies in their efforts to enhance community trust,  the IACP has established the Institute for Community-Police Relations (ICPR) to provide guidance and assistance to law enforcement agencies. The ICPR is focused on several key elements to increase trust between communities and law enforcement, including culture, policies, and practices.

Although just 10 months into its existence, the ICPR has already begun advancing a universal culture of cohesion and trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve by providing agencies with the tools, resources, and guidance needed to help build community trust and engagement, foster transparency and accountability, and safeguard officer well-being, while reducing crime and increasing public safety.

In a series of projects dedicated to 21st-century policing strategies, the ICPR is working with law enforcement and communities to improve law enforcement leadership and culture, community engagement, officer safety and wellness, and policies and leading practices.

IACP highlights and showcases community engagement approaches via its popular blog series on best practices in advancing 21st century policing (www.theIACPblog.org). Follow the series to find out more about the Louisville, Kentucky, Metropolitan Police Department’s weekly Peace Walks to build trust and legitimacy between the department and the community. The chief and several other officers walk around high-crime neighborhoods to engage the residents in a transparent and welcoming way. In Indio, California, the police department engages, educates, and supports the community through its Community Outreach Resource Program (CORP). CORP and the Community Outreach Court help reduce the effects of incarceration by working with social services and the court to reduce sentences for low-level offenders. Project Peace in Tacoma, Washington, builds a foundation of trust between historically marginalized communities and law enforcement through dialogue—the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Police Department provide the public with information about police processes and practices and the community provides feedback.

In my own agency, the Doral, Florida, Police Department, we have a Neighborhood Resource Unit (NRU), in which officers interact with residents on a regular basis, helping them to build relationships, track possible suspicious activity in the neighborhood, and stay current on neighborhood concerns and needs. With a large Hispanic population in our community, we prioritize hiring for diversity and providing culturally sensitive services. More than 50 percent of our officers come from immigrant families, and 90 percent speak Spanish at a level of professional proficiency or higher. We also recognize the importance of engaging with the youth through positive activities, such as field days, sports days, DARE, National Night Out, pedal with police events, and the radKIDS Personal Empowerment Safety Education program.

The ICPR also works in collaboration with CNA and 15 law enforcement agencies, including my own, to document and report their progress on implementing the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report. ICPR staff and consultants track the progress of each agency from the outset of its work to completion, documenting all aspects of the implementation approaches, including opportunities, obstacles, and successful implementation strategies. The 15 agencies’ work will aid in the development of best practice guides based on the pillars within the task force report. To date, ICPR staff have conducted site visits to the Tucson, Arizona, Police Department; San Antonio, Texas, Police Department; and the Camden, New Jersey, Police Department to observe programs and practices related to officer safety and wellness. Future site visits are planned for the Lowell, Massachusetts, Police Department; Gun Lake Tribe, Minnesota, Department of Public Safety; and the Indio, California, Police Department.

The IACP entered into a partnership with Howard University to implement the Policing Inside-Out program to engage students, law enforcement officers, and community leaders with the ultimate goal of gaining a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives to further enhance community-police relations. Policing Inside-Out mixes “outside” participants (university students and community members) with “inside” participants (law enforcement officers). The IACP and Howard University completed their first 15-week class in December 2016, and are currently in the process of offering a second semester of classes. I was fortunate enough to attend the final closing ceremony of the inaugural semester, where participants—students and law enforcement officers alike—shared their eye-opening experiences and discussed how they all left with a different outlook and a greater understanding of each other that they planned to take back to their daily lives, jobs, and communities.

The Motorola Foundation has partnered with the ICPR on the Piloting 21st Century Policing Recommendations in Local Communities project to provide technical assistance to three pilot sites over a six-month period. Staff and subject matter experts will help each pilot site gather input about concerns, ideas, and priorities from officers and community members. Based on that feedback, a six-month action plan will be created to address identified short-term goals. A strategic plan for long-term goals will also be mapped out. Lessons learned will be shared with neighboring communities and departments, as well as documented on the ICPR website.

The ICPR is also in the process of launching a blog series and resource page to help law enforcement companions and family members. The intent is to provide support to law enforcement from all angles and increase awareness of officer safety and wellness. The companion blog series and resource page will be available soon.

Finally, the IACP and George Mason University (GMU) developed the Evidence Assessment of the Recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing publication. This document, as well as a trifold brochure that breaks this document down into an easy-to-read format, can be found on the ICPR website.

The resources, programs, and initiatives I have outlined are just the start of the ICPR’s offerings. I encourage each and every one of you to visit the ICPR’s website at www.theIACP.org/icpr and take advantage of these valuable tools.

These resources are meant to aid you as you work to continue efforts to strengthen and enhance community-police relations within your communities today and for years to come. All relationships, especially ones with our vital community members, require sustained engagement and collaborative approaches. It is my hope and the hope of the IACP that the ICPR will be there to guide you as you work to build and maintain these relationships, which are truly the cornerstone of policing. ♦