Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 22:48:59 -0700 (MST)
From: thekoba  (K J WALSH)
Subject: Community Based Policing
Cc: thekoba , snail ,,,

Dear Joel,

I attended the second session of the Citizen Police Academy tonight. It was at a different location, Elwood and Central, the 911 and dispatching building of the Phoenix Police (911 calls for fire protection, ambulance service and other non-police emergencies are routed elsewhere).

The first presentation was on 911 and dispatch. We were paired with 911 operators and then dispatchers and were able to listen in on what they did. The 911 operator takes data from the informant and transfers it electronically to the dispatcher. The dispatcher assigns calls to officers. While at the 911 terminal, I overheard a wide variety of calls. There were two traffic accident calls, one suspected domestic disturbance call, one complaint of slashed tires by an estranged boyfriend, one complaint of a broken window by unknown neighbourhood children, one very peculiar call about an old woman trying to force her way into a house, claiming that someone told her she had half an hour to procure crack cocaine, and one stupid woman who complained that a man had "threatened" her by telling her to get off his property in a discourteous way. I was impressed by how rapidly both the 911 operator and the dispatcher could enter data, how readilly they understood all the codes, and the relaxed manner in which they handled the high call volume. It can't be an easy job, and I expect there is more burnout than they admit.

The second presentation was about the concept of Community Based Policing. The presenter explained that in response to corruption in police forces, by mid-20th Century, emphasis was placed on detachment and professionalism among police (the "just the facts ma'am", Joe Friday approach). Now, he explained, the emphasis is more on trying to solve the community's problems by interacting more with citizens to try to address their law enforcement concerns. Why they think this won't go back to corruption, I'm not sure. He spoke of the need to be "pro-active" (a silly word that isn't in the dictionary but which my nemesis Captain Swart used as an excuse to eliminate civil liberties in government workplaces) rather than reactive. Evidently the theory is that by cracking down on minor crimes, major crimes are prevented. The example used was the New York City subways. Supposedly there was a serious problem of muggings, rape and other violent crimes on the subways. The consultant they hired told them that they should crack down on people who jump turnstyles and make sure everyone who got into the subways paid. The authorities were skeptical, thinking that while this might help transit revenue, it wouldn't likely prevent serious crimes. Supposedly it did cause a significant drop in crimes, because "transients" weren't getting into the subways, and they were the ones who were committing these crimes. I suppose by that logic, the cure for crime is to eliminate the homeless from everywhere. I'm all for ending homelessness, giving everyone a job and a home--the means to make an honest living, but I'm not for turning a status into a crime, as this seems to propose.

The main emphasis was that police should communicate with citizens and encourage citizens to communicate with police regarding the goings-on in neighbourhoods. Big brother is watching.



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