In May 2013, while conducting a priority monitoring site visit with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBCSO), the COPS Office Grant Monitoring Specialist attended a presentation designed to demonstrate how PBCSO advances the principles of community policing. This demonstration proved to be very impressive and resulted in the need to share PBCSO's model for implementing successful community policing efforts. Not only are they institutionalizing community policing, they are determined to track their success.
Organizational Culture and Institutionalization of CP
The PBCSO has been organizationally transformed to ensure that community policing principles are infused in departmental culture and practiced through the empowering of deputies to utilize community policing strategies that address crime problems and negative community perceptions, and improve quality of life for its citizens. In 2008, PBCSO decentralized their Community Policing Division and allowed district level oversight over individual community policing units. The new Community Services Division (CSD) incorporated the liaison responsibility and mission from the previously held centralized community policing unit to: “address, through innovative approaches, long and short-term problems through the use of police and social service resource referrals and provision.” In order to do this, the CSD relies on old and newly formed relationships and proactive meetings to develop needed resources and act as liaisons to service providers for their district and assigned communities.
The demographics of the county vary and so do the various types of community policing services. As a part of ensuring that community policing is not just a division focused approach to policing, and is impactful for the diverse communities throughout the county, PBCSO uses certified Regional Community Policing Institute instructors to teach community policing classes to all deputies throughout the year. In addition, the PBCSO field training office (FTO) program for new deputies includes five community policing corporals and a community policing sergeant who instruct new hires in community policing principles and goals, and evaluates them on their understanding and demonstration of community policing activities. The three-prong approach of: providing and requiring community policing training to all deputies, offering a community policing field training component, and developing an agency-wide community policing division is proving to be a successful model for institutionalizing and advancing community policing principles within the PBCSO organization.
In addition to the district community policing units, the CSD established a community policing liaison unit (CPLU) with a specific focus of assisting and monitoring community policing activity throughout the sheriff's office. After a year of initial community policing implementation, the CPLU reported the challenges of the newly developed community policing division as follows:
As a result of the report, the CPLU worked with the PBCSO Information Technology Unit to utilize an existing Community Policing Site Summary Page to develop a database designed to address these four challenges. This would be the “tipping point” for becoming the agency's epicenter for tracking community policing resources, activities, and the successful exchange and use of information to help combat and reduce crime. The PBCSO Information Technology Unit added a rarely used community policing link titled PBCSO APPS on the Community Policing Site Summary Page to automate the CSD's documentation system. The purpose of adding this link was to provide the command staff, district level commanders, and community policing sergeants with the ability to view their community policing deputies' activities in “real-time.” This database also digitized a main report of the Community Policing Division deputies' activities named “Community Policing Site Summary Report.” The Community Policing Site Summary Reports are required to be completed and submitted by community policing deputies, and include information such as: community contacts and leaders, and criminal intelligence and partners, in “real-time” accessibility, available 24 hours, seven days a week. This includes the ability to upload digital photos to aid in viewing activities performed by community policing deputies on a weekly basis.
In addition to the development of the Community Policing Site Summary Page via the PBCSO APPS link, there are several menu items available and regularly used by community policing deputies, such as:
There were unintended benefits and lessons learned since PBCSO began tracking their community policing work through its internal webpage and applications. One of the benefits was the reduction of statistical analysis reviews for grant requirements through the development of text box fields created for each awarded grant program. These text box fields allow for quick data analysis and program evaluation. Another benefit was the use of the Community Policing Site Summary Page and the community policing website as the central location of available research for newly assigned community policing deputies looking to replicate successful projects and initiatives. One of the most significant benefits of the use of the webpage and its application was the ability to track crime reduction and prevention as a result of successful community policing activities and criminal intelligence sharing sent to applicable departments by community policing deputies. Evidence of quality of life improvements and the quantifiable relationships established proved that community policing was effective.
Plantation Mobile Home Park
An example of proven success is the PBCSO's Plantation Mobile Home Park Community Policing Initiative. Planation Mobile Home Park in Palm Beach County had significant crime beginning in 2004. Overall, in 2004, Plantation Mobile Home Park had 746 criminal incidents ranging from shootings, assaults, and burglaries to stolen vehicles. The Community Policing Division determined through various community policing and problem solving activities that physical conditions and apathy were major risk factors in crime being committed in the mobile home park.
The Community Policing Division began working with the mobile home park community through providing a consistent and reliable presence and relationship building, developing trust. They also worked with various community partners, sister agencies, and stakeholders to address code violations, develop environmental deterrent strategies such as removal of trash and abandoned vehicles, and provided assistance to residents to help improve their physical well-being and living conditions. As a result of these strategies and the development of their tracking system (see table 1), the Community Policing Division was able to link their strategies and communication of their work to evidence of improved conditions and crime reductions. For example, since 2004 there were significant reductions in thefts, burglaries, assaults, shootings, and discovery of and recovery of stolen vehicles, and starting in 2008 there's been a 63 percent decrease for calls for service.
Table 1. Plantation Mobile Home Park Crime Tracking, 2004–2012
PBCSO's multi-prong approach and the development and required usage of a comprehensive “real-time” Site Summary webpage has organizationally transformed PBSCO and created a template for proving that community policing works. For further information on PBCSO community policing activities and demonstrations of webpage usage, please contact: Lt. Bruce Hannan at HannanB@pbso.org or 561-688-3806.
The COPS Office
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