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New focus for officers: Community policing

Public furor over police shootings of black Americans, coupled with the sniper shootings that killed five officers in Dallas last week, may cause police departments nationwide to refocus on community policing principles.

Research suggests increasing the presence of officers in communities, on foot or bike, and not in a vehicle, greatly reduces the fear of crime and policing, said Harry Dolan, former chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department and now CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based firm Dolan Consulting Group LLC.

But following the terror attacks of 9/11 and other terrorism-related incidents, police departments shifted training resources to shootings — at the expense of community-policing techniques and training.
In Detroit, Police Chief James Craig has touted community-policing since arriving from Cincinnati in 2013. He launched the Neighborhood Police Officers Program in 2014 to get to know businesses, residents, churches and neighborhood groups in their assigned precincts. The program has been credited with improving the trust of Detroit residents. Additional training for officers has focused on defusing volatile situations officers encounter.

The chief also initiated community advisory groups within each precinct to meet regularly with the captains in those districts, said Cathy Govan, executive director of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, which raises money to support police programs not covered by city budgets.

Dolan, who served as the chief in Grand Rapids from 1998 to 2007, agrees that working with business in city neighborhoods can help boost community policing efforts.

“Businesses have established incredible mechanisms to reach people,” Dolan said. “They can play a vital role in coordinating information sharing and support these initiatives beyond the resources available to local (police) departments.”

Dolan and his consulting firm are hosting a training session, called “Winning Back Your Community: Improving Public Perception of the Police,” on Aug. 3 at the Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

The original article is published at Crain’s Detroit Business.

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