Thursday, February 10, 2011


Over the years there have been a variety of community policing programs by police agencies all over the country.

There was Chicago’s ‘Walk and Talk’ program where cops were assigned to the housing projects and instructed to engage black youths in idle chatter at every opportunity. (A couple of cops got shot while walking the projects.) There are the neighborhood ‘Store Front’ cop shops where officers sit around all day waiting for people to come in and make complaints about crime, as well as pot holes, garbage pickup, broken street lights and other faulty city services. There are programs where cops go door-to-door to take neighborhood surveys.

The problem is that community policing programs usually end up as nothing more than feel-good projects. There is really no way of accurately measuring the success (or failure) of such programs.

New chief says that although residents gave the PD high marks in 2008, few had direct contact with officers

By Lisa P. White

Contra Costa Times
February 8, 2011

MARTINEZ — New Martinez Police Chief Gary Peterson is launching a community policing program in the next few weeks to strengthen ties between police officers and the public.

Peterson, who replaced former Chief Tom Simonetti in December, described community policing as traditional law enforcement tactics combined with problem-solving, crime prevention and involving the residents.

He noted that although residents gave the police department high marks in a 2008 survey, few of them had any direct contact with officers.

Benefits of community policing, Peterson said, include creating a strong sense of ownership and a personal connection to an area of the city among officers, and building trust with residents and business owners.

Two police officers and a supervisor will be assigned to each yet-to-be-drawn geographic area in the city. In addition to patrols, officers will hold neighborhood meetings to share information about crime in that area and about crime prevention strategies. The police department's website will include a map of the areas in town with links so residents can e-mail officers about concerns in their neighborhood.

Although the Martinez police department is fully staffed with 39 officers, a narcotics officer and two patrol officers have been assigned to patrol to replace colleagues out on long-term leave due to injury, Peterson said.

"In the long run, this initiative will collectively help us solve problems, make our neighborhoods safer and make us all closer as a community," Peterson said.

Across the state, police departments of all sizes, from Monterey to Oakland, are using community policing. The Monterey Police Department adopted community policing about six years ago, according to Sgt. Frank Russo said. Two police officers are assigned to each of the 20 distinct areas in the coastal city of 35,000. Officers are expected to get out of their patrol cars and establish relationships with the people who live, work and visit Monterey.

Russo said that although the notion of bonding with police officers may seem kind of "loosey-goosey" on the surface, the strategy helps combat crime because residents are more likely to tip police off about criminal activity if they know and trust the officers.

"What we're finding is it's actually really tough on crime and at the same time we're getting to know our community and they're getting to know us, too," Russo said.

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