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Addressing critical issues through community policing

COPS Office report summarizes creative ways LE agencies are deploying community policing principles



A new report from the Office of Community Policing (available in full below) provides examples of community policing efforts from around the country funded by federal microgrants.

The funded projects were required to be grounded in the essential community policing practices of strong community partnerships, organizational transformation and problem-solving.

Of the examples selected, are there commonalities that could provide lessons for other local projects? Let’s see.

Mental health outreach in texas

The City of Irving Police Department noticed a significant increase in calls for service related to mental health crises. An analysis of officer dispositions showed that officers were using emergency detention at a rate higher than a mental health clinician would.

“The IPD developed a Behavioral Health Leadership Team (BHLT) in partnership with the Irving Fire Department, Metrocare Services (a medical and social services agency), and other behavioral health and community partners. The BHLT conducted a thorough assessment of mental health-related calls for service and active cases of individuals with mental illnesses who were in crisis. In addition, members of the BHLT work 40 hours per week to respond to 911 calls with a behavioral health component. The team’s ultimate goal is to reduce the number of emergency health arrests and detentions and divert individuals with mental illnesses to the medical and social services they need to recover.”

The city designated a full-time clinician to support the BHLT, reviewing policies and helping establish response guidelines, implemented new training for communications officers, encouraged referrals from the fire service where appropriate, and improved reporting of cases involving mental health even where there was no detention.

Program developers recommend a high level of interagency collaboration and feedback on the program from officers. As with other profiled grant projects, long-term results have not been measured.

Police1 Resource: Lessons learned from implementing a co-response police-mental health team

Opioid abuse response in kentucky

The Allen County Sheriff’s Office recognized the epidemic of opioid abuse was disproportionately high relative to the population and the rates of other states. The crisis was packing the state’s prison population and had left nearly 10,000 children in state custody.

The agency’s grant request was for a prevention program aimed at the county’s youth: “The Allen County Care Project consists of three main elements: (1) community meetings, (2) in-school training programs for high school students, and (3) a diversion program. Community partners include the Scotts County Drug Force Community program, the Allen County Attorney, the Allen County Public Schools, the Scottsville Faith Coalition, and the Allen County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.”

Meetings were reported to have been well attended. Citizens were given information about the extent of the problem and what law enforcement and health agencies. Presenters offered ideas for citizen participation.

The agency coordinated with public health, other criminal justice agencies and treatment professionals to reduce the supply and demand of opioids.

Police1 Resource: A new approach to opioid overdose cases

Pre-arrest diversion in new york

The Albany Police Department engaged in an effort “to reorient the city’s criminal justice response to substance abuse, mental health-related disturbances and poverty-driven contact with law enforcement. The LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program’s operational protocols call for the pre-arrest diversion of residents who commit low-level, nonviolent offenses that are spurred by addiction, mental health problems, poverty, or homelessness. The offender, victim, and officer must all agree that referral is the right course of action.”

An already robust partnership and interaction with the local Catholic Charities organization was engaged to provide case management and needs assessment to coordinate services for the offenders. The program uses other grant funds and monies from their operating fund for support. Attempts to bill insurers for some of the programming has not been a successful support strategy.

The agency involved officers who might be assigned to LEAD in advance of completing the structure of the program in order to get their feedback and input. This was deemed to be an important part of the implementation. Follow up on LEAD offenders is included in the program plan.

Police1 Resource: How a pre-arrest opiate diversion program is saving lives in Wisconsin

Successful reentry after incarceration in California

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office operates the Santa Rita Correctional Facility serving Oakland and surrounding communities. With a recidivism rate of 72%, the agency established a program to improve successful reentry after incarceration. The Intensive Programming Unit (IPU) targets inmates at high risk for recidivism.

As related in the report: “The intention of the IPU would be to provide cohort-based programming designed to address inmates’ mental health and substance abuse issues, past traumas, and previous negative relationships. The program would also provide practical support to increase inmates’ life skills and employability. These services would include correctional education, vocational and job readiness skills training, reentry planning, and legal support.”

Correctional deputies were provided with additional training to deal with the select inmates including a variety of counseling skills. The office partnered with some outside agencies to provide services and education to inmates prior to release. The original project was planned around obtaining three separate grants that included additional staffing. The staffing grant was not awarded, so the agency pivoted to alter its plan and still provide the intended services. Outcomes will be measure in the coming years.

Police1 Resource: How a health and wellness reentry course is helping incarcerated women

Lessons learned

The purpose of the report was to report on grant recipients’ ideas, and how each plan faced challenges. It was not a research paper, nor was it a report on outcomes. Its value for law enforcement leaders is in pointing out the creative pathways for dealing with issues faced by individual agencies and their constituents. Keeping in touch with grant opportunities provided up to $150,000 for the agencies desiring projects that are not otherwise budgeted.

Police agencies have always looked for ways to build trust and cooperate with non-law enforcement agencies, but the pressure has never been greater. It is likely that the success of the efforts reported in the document will be hard to report and may have a barely measurable effect. The real value, regardless of the measures, may lie in simply trying and letting the public know about the efforts. Collaboration is never wasted when it draws on dialog with citizens and agencies invested in law enforcement’s efforts.

Lessons to Advance Community Policing by epraetorian on Scribd

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at