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Outreach is more than just a word

If the first time you meet your community is after a tragedy, it’s too late. Your job is to know your community before you need to know them

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It’s no secret that you care about the people you’ve taken an oath to protect. But do you really know who these people are? Do you know what they care about? Or how they manage the daily business of living and raising families? If not, you might want to think about outreach.

Outreach is more than just a word. It’s a series of organizational strategies that involve partnerships, problem-solving techniques and collaboration between the police and the community.

Sounds important, right? Well, guess what? It really is. We used to call it community policing. And the intent was to use those strategies to build trust, reduce crime, and find ways to better relate to the diverse population we serve. This isn’t advanced rocket science folks! We should be doing this every day. So, here are some tips for proactively engaging with your community.

Create opportunities in a positive way by starting up a youth athletic league, an anti-bullying reading program, or partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. This is a great way to connect with the young people in your community. Build relationships and trust by getting out of your car and greeting people. Or develop a citizen’s police academy. Those programs use education to foster positive relationships between the citizens and the police.

Increase communication between community members and your agency by holding town halls or other question-and-answer sessions. Transparency is essential to positive police-community relationships. Finally, pay more attention to recruitment. Hold job fairs, conduct outreach, and use Explorer programs. Help applicants navigate the hiring process whenever possible.

These are just a few things that come to my mind. But most importantly, get involved. Stay connected and make an effort to be part of the community.

Many, many, many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet one of the high-ranking executives of the London Metropolitan Police Department. When she gave me her card, of course, it had her name on it. But underneath, I was surprised. You know what it said? “My job is to know my community before I need to know them.” Truer words were never spoken. If the first time you meet your community is after a tragedy, it’s too late. Your job is to know your community before you need to know them.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Get more tips from Gordon here.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.