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Strategy: Educating Residents About Law Enforcement Operations

Strategy Law enforcement outreach programs educate residents about police activities and increase community support for law enforcement and prevention. . . .


Law enforcement outreach programs educate residents about police activities and increase community support for law enforcement and prevention.

Community Problem Addressed

Community residents are often uninformed about services provided by their law enforcement agency and about successes of apprehension and prevention programs in the community. This lack of information can lead to apathy or even hostility among residents and law enforcement.

Key Components

Law enforcement agencies can bring important information to the public through large community meetings, citizen academies, small seminars, public classes on police services, printed information, and local television or radio talk shows. Law enforcement can also work closely with judicial partners, such as the court and corrections systems, to educate the community about problems and solutions. Printed materials that explain new programs can be distributed at meetings or through other channels such as community fairs. Law enforcement agencies can publicize programs through newsletters.

Key Partnerships

Efforts to disseminate law enforcement information can be the focus of a partnership among the department's public affairs officer and other specialists, the media, community groups (such as business or service clubs), youth program officials, and any other public forum. Law enforcement informational brochures can be distributed at centers where residents go for other assistance, such as health, drug problems, food assistance, or housing.

Potential Obstacles

It is important that public information be honest and comprehensive. Public cynicism can increase if meeting presenters and members of the media are not forthcoming and available for questions. Although this strategy aims to inform the public about what is going on, gaining feedback from them is not always successful. The exchange can tend to be one-sided with law enforcement always giving information and not getting any in return, so prompt follow up by law enforcement must be made in order to keep the lines of communication open. It is important to keep the articles relevant and interesting in order to keep the attention of the community.

Examples of Success and Results

The chief of police in Ft. McDowell, Arizona, a Native American community with a population of 900, saw a need for more information sharing among the police department and citizens after witnessing the positive results of sharing information in neighboring communities.

Police Beat was first printed in 1997. This newsletter is printed and distributed monthly in Ft. McDowell and is written and edited by members of the police department. A patrol officer delivers copies to libraries, churches, and the post office. The cost is minimal (only the price of copying); the police budget funds the newsletter.

Since increased outreach through newsletters and increased community engagement began in 1997, a department survey showed that officers are more willing to engage the community on issues of public safety, and the community seems to be more receptive to the ideas of the police and more willing to communicate its needs and concerns. There has been a substantial increase in the number of participants in police-run safety programs, such as bike rodeos and safety fairs, since the newsletter Police Beat was first published.

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