I attended the all-town St. John VIPD Meeting Friday night and believe that there is a significant change happening within the police Dept. esp. with the tone and approach demonstrated by the "top brass" on a number of levels. This is very promising.
This leadership "Team" clearly understands that nothing less than a trusting relationship between citizens and our Police is needed to combat crime in our Community.
Consequently, citizen input and active involvement is now being actively sought, considered and respected as the "piece" that will ensure us in taking back our communities.
There was once a time when "Police/Community" Meetings were either Police talking at us -sometimes even scolding us for how we were not calling in and reporting crimes or concerns; not properly locking our homes; cutting down brushes, etc., putting most of the responsibility on reducing crime squarely on the shoulders of the community.
Very little responsibility was "owned" within the Police dept. in changing what happened when citizen did report crimes and police concerns; the "why's" behind citizens losing trust in working with the Police: little response to crimes reported; poor attitudes and communication skills of those behind the desk.
Many citizens stopped going to the Police because it was such a bad experience. We often left shaking our heads–feeling like we had been treated like the criminal when all we were attempting to do was inform the Police of a concern. Some citizens gave up.
Needless to say, this has contributed to the poor relationship we struggle with today.
To those citizens I say there is a positive change happening!
It is very obvious that our top brass under Commissioner McCall and his very able Asst Commissioner Novelle Francis are working hard at addressing these issues.
Changing the Police Department's perspective and attitude internally is the biggest challenge for them.
We must be patient and do whatever we can as citizens to help with this change; to do our part in being partners with the police to reduce crime as new Training and attitudes are developed.
Interestingly, I have heard a number of Police officers say they are ready to retire or leave the Police Dept.; that they do not like the changes; that things were "easier" before; that there was less accountability, etc. My guess is that these officers may not be right for the challenges ahead; they may be more "old school" of law enforcement, perhaps simply too invested in the personal power of being a Police officer, a great hindrance in Team Work or in serving people and fighting crime.
Emmett Hansen III, the VIPD Recruiter and a very personable individual, clearly demonstrated the vision, the hard work and skills being done internally to recruit Police officers as well as Axillary Police who understand the importance of team work between citizens and officers through clear communication, problem-solving and customer service skills and most importantly in developing trust, the basis of all successful relationships. I am hoping that more of our officers will receive training in Community Policing which focuses on these important skills.
It was a good Town Meeting and I believe that our VIPD is making great gains in moving both our Police force and our community forward.
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