*|MC_PREVIEW_TEXT|*Co-responder models | 9/11 exhibit | Building community TRUST
September 15, 2021 | View as webpage | Too many emails? Update Subscription Preferences

For the second year in a row, the in-person portion of the IACP conference was canceled, and the event held virtually. While it was disappointing for the Police1 team not to be able to attend the conference and meet many of our authors who were speaking at IACP 2021, we have been busy viewing online sessions to report back on the latest policing best practices transforming communities nationwide.  

Our coverage so far has reviewed: 

In addition, IACP speakers shared summaries of their presentations on creating evidence-based recruitment videosusing digital forensics to gain drug intelligence and what the data shows about police suicide

Bookmark our complete IACP 2021 coverage here, sponsored by Getac Video Solutions.  

Stay safe, 
— Nancy Perry 
Editor-in-Chief, Police1


How to establish community TRUST
By Chief Nick Borges 

I strongly believe that community partnership is by far the most successful crime reduction tool we have. But to develop a healthy relationship with all members of the community, police agencies must first earn the trust of their communities.

Establishing community trust first begins with input from stakeholders, accounting for and responding to each neighborhood’s unique cultural and socio-economic dynamics. The acronym TRUST identifies several critical components that are designed to strengthen law enforcement’s relationship with our communities.

Building trust requires:

T - Transparency

R - Receptiveness

U - Unity

S - Service

T - Training

Here are examples of the TRUST model in action that you can incorporate within your department.


A TRUST program should invite civilian community leaders or citizens to participate in the oral board phase of the selection process for hiring new officers. This allows for community members to see and interact with potential police officer candidates, as well as learn what their department is looking for in a police officer. It empowers community members by including them in determining who is selected to police their neighborhoods.

Police departments should also invite community members to public demonstrations of new equipment and practices such as what to do during a traffic stop. Citizen police academies allow for your organization to meet with community members on a regular basis and inform them on various aspects of how and why we operate. I would suggest agencies consider academies with alternate languages that are appropriate to each jurisdiction.

Finally, we must be transparent with our police policies through sharing information on social media and other outlets. We do not need to compromise officer safety by sharing procedural tactics, but general orders are important to share with the public.

Police1 resource: How to set up a community outreach event to review police policy


We can never adequately serve our community unless we understand their perceptions. To be receptive is to be open-minded and willing to listen to other points of view. This can be accomplished through quarterly, bi-annual, or annual listening sessions. Listening sessions can be hosted at a community center, faith-based facility, school, or any other neutral location that is welcoming to your respective community. These can also be done virtually.

These sessions should be exactly what is in the title: listening. It is the community’s opportunity to have a voice on any topic, concern, idea, or complaint they choose. The role of the police is to hear them. I have found these sessions to be very useful in making minor changes that have major positive impacts for our community. I am confident it will do the same for you.

Police1 resource: 6 steps to hosting an effective community meeting


To truly endorse and inspire our positive non-enforcement interaction, we should start by reviewing and restructuring our performance evaluations. While nearly every agency uses a different evaluation system, I can say we fail to emphasize non-enforcement activity during performance reviews. Why not fully embrace and encourage concepts through performance reviews so staff can discern exactly what they are required to accomplish? For starters, evaluation criteria could encourage and monitor positive non-enforcement interaction such as:

  • Regular business contacts and positive, non-enforcement interaction.
  • Participation in community-based projects, outreach, and/or other activity related to enhancing community relations.

To further unite your organization with your community, embrace a volunteer program. Consider coordinating with schools in your district. Many high schools require students to achieve a certain amount of community service hours to graduate. Volunteer programs within your agency can assist them while simultaneously establishing healthy relationships. Another program that provides a platform to interact with our youth is the Police Activities League (PAL). The PAL program allows for staff to become involved with coaching and mentoring the youth in a variety of sporting activities.

The Boston police department invested in an ice cream van to bring ice cream to underserved communities. My agency took this idea and established a caravan-style vehicle that drives through our community and hands out healthy food snacks, sports equipment and school supplies to our youth. These actions not only serve as community outreach for our youth, but they also send a powerful message that our police promote healthy living, positive activities and higher education.

Uniting with our youth, parents and schools should be a priority. Several years ago, my community experienced a spike in gang violence. Our officers reached out to the families of those impacted by gang violence, ex-gang members and community leaders. Together, we held a peace summit at the local schools. It was very impactful and enhanced relational building between our staff and all involved. Partnering with those who have made changes in their lives and want to help others is a powerful experience that we should embrace. Creating a peace summit with local experts brings the community together.

Shift projects are another way to inspire patrol teams to engage in opportunities to unite with the community to resolve problems. Each patrol shift should identify a community-based shift project at the beginning of each shift rotation with a focus on one of the following:

  • A charity that benefits a group or individual within our community.
  • Youth outreach (coaching, mentorship, presentations, etc.).
  • Community problem-solving and/or criminal activity resolution.
  • Community partnership program.

This platform makes officers feel heard and creates an environment of participation and even a little healthy competition among shifts. It is okay to have some fun, so long as we are working to enhance public safety and relationships. Shift projects allow for our line-level experts to think outside of the box and develop creative community policing measures that administrators often overlook.

Police1 resource: How to police from the heart in your community


When appropriate, police personnel should follow up with victims and/or citizens that come to us for assistance to see how they are doing and determine if there is anything else we can do to assist.

It is also critical that we facilitate unfiltered feedback on how we are doing, which can be obtained through companies that provide survey services, free online surveys, or community meetings. I often receive follow-up surveys for services I engage in, yet this is not required in the law enforcement profession. This should be a professional standard for all agencies. We need to hear from our communities how they perceive our performance. Just like you see the “How is my driving?” stickers on the back of a public sector company vehicle we should have a similar sticker on our squad cars that asks, “How is my policing?” with a phone number to the watch commander’s office. 

Finally, we often forget that celebrating our employees and citizenry are significant motivators. People appreciate acknowledgment for doing good things. Establish quarterly employee recognition awards for actions taken by your staff when they have positive impacts on your department and community. We know this is a motivator and encourages others to engage in similar actions. You could also extend the recognition and award your citizens for actions that also contribute to a safe and healthy community.

Police1 resource: How citizen surveys improve community engagement with police


Community relations training should be incorporated into your FTO programs so new police officers can begin their careers with a solid foundation in community-oriented policing. FTOs cover a broad spectrum of topics to pave a path of success for our police officers and the earlier we train, the easier it will be to maintain the culture years later.

We should include scenario-based training focusing on treating people with dignity and respect, being neutral and transparent in decision-making, conveying trustworthy motives, and being receptive during contacts. In addition, part of the FTO program should include meeting members of our community, as it relates to self-initiated activity.

We need to shape a culture of getting to know people in positive encounters at the earliest stages of policing as possible.

Police1 resource: 6 ways beat officers can make a difference through community policing


Law enforcement cannot effectively address public safety problems alone. To be successful, we must philosophically change our approach and incorporate authentic community policing throughout all levels of our organizations. I believe community policing is defined as a partnership between police and the community, working together to solve problems and enhance public safety by way of building trusting relationships. We must not lose focus of that. Following the TRUST model is one way to transform your law enforcement organization into a fully unified, community policing agency.

NEXT: Why cops need to get out of their cars: Strategies for community engagement

About the author

Nick Borges is the acting police chief for the Seaside (California) Police Department. He has been with the department for 19 years and has served as a field training officer, detective, corporal, sergeant, commander, deputy chief and SWAT commander. Chief Borges is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, session 277.

Co-responder models in policing: Better serving communities

By Dean M. Esserman

Over the last 30 years, a growing number of agencies have increasingly adopted police-mental health collaboration (PMHC) programs, also known as co-responder models, to provide an enhanced response to victims of crime or people in the throes of an emotional or behavioral health crisis.

Utilizing this model, law enforcement and mental health clinicians respond to these calls for service together, providing an improved and immediate response to crisis situations by conducting a more accurate needs assessment on scene for the person in distress, and connecting them and their families to community-based resources.

A victim's journey does not end with a 9-1-1 call 

While co-responding is certainly not new, it is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to working with victims of crimes.

The journey of a victim does not end with a simple 9-1-1 call, in fact, it is only the beginning of what may be a long journey toward recovery. As law enforcement and community leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our efforts are not limited to a law enforcement response but rather include holistic victim services and support.

My first experience with PMHC programs came in 1992 when I was part of a team that built a partnership between the New Haven Police Department and the Yale Child Study Center that focused on children exposed to violence. This collaboration led to the creation of the Child Development/Community Policing Program, in which law enforcement officers and clinicians established training and orientation sessions for one another and worked to establish and implement joint protocols. Eventually, the partnership evolved into responding together to calls for service. The work we did in New Haven was later recognized by the White House, which designated the Yale Child Study Center as the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

Go Team partnership

In 2003, serving as Providence Police Chief, I received a call from Family Service of Rhode Island (FSRI) CEO Margaret Holland McDuff who asked if I would be interested in working with them to address the needs of children exposed to trauma and violence. I arranged for a team of clinicians from FSRI along with a team of Providence police officers to travel to New Haven as guests of the Yale Child Study Center for a week. Upon their return, the Providence team built a collaborative model, which came to fruition in 2004, with the implementation of the Go Team Partnership program.

As part of the Go Team, we worked to ensure that we were serving victims of crime more fully. From the initial response call, the team provided immediate assistance, referrals and continued support. The co-responder model was successfully adopted in Providence and grew to include court proceedings, financial assistance, and emotional support.

Over the course of the last 17 years, Go Team has taken a life of its own. It has created a better service model for victims in need and fostered better relationships with the public, strengthened trust and bonds between law enforcement and survivors, and raised awareness about co-responder model programs across the country.

“Communities and local leaders can use the model to develop a crisis continuum of care that results in the reduction of harm, arrests, and use of jails and emergency departments and that promotes the development of and access to quality mental and substance use disorder treatment and services,” writes Ashley Krider and Regina Huerter of Policy Research Inc. and Kirby Gaherty and Andrew Moore, National League of Cities.

Sometimes a joint response is needed

Police officers touch families every day – and to see officers as only enforcers of the law truly misses the point of what officers can and should do to help their communities and what, in fact, communities need from them. From lost or truant children to landlord-tenant disputes; from family disputes to emotionally disturbed individuals needing assistance in a moment of crisis; from victims of home burglaries to a child assaulted on his or her way back home, police officers are called as an agency of last resort.

Officers respond to an array of needs from the community. Whether they are new officers on the beat or veteran officers, police officers often work alone or side by side with another officer; however, at times, we must acknowledge that the partner they truly need does not actually need to wear a police uniform. Frequently, a different set of skills and training are what is called for – and that is where co-responder models can assist.

In New Haven, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island, this realization has been acted upon. And not just with a new number to call for requesting assistance or making referrals, but rather a joint response with a social worker or a mental health clinician working side by side in a police car and responding as a team to calls for service.

Much of the work does not end with the taking of a police report or the arrest of an offender, but also must extend to the victim and quite possibly, their families. The continuum of care is launched at the moment of crisis and not as a follow-up to a referral from some weeks later. To do this, both law enforcement agencies must continue to train police officers on mental healthcare and child development needs, and clinicians must undergo a similar orientation on law enforcement and policing before being ready to work together as co-responders.

With this partnership at hand, we can truly begin to more fully protect and serve our communities – cops and social workers can be natural partners in serving communities.

NEXT: IACP Quick Take: Social work and law enforcement: A crucial collaboration

About the author

Dean M. Esserman is a former chief of the New Haven (Connecticut) Police Department. Prior to that, he served as chief of police in Providence, Rhode Island; Stamford, Connecticut; and the New York State MTA-Metro North Police Department. Prior to that, he served as general counsel to Chief William Bratton of the New York City Transit Police. He started his career as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, and as a special assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

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