To provide feedback on the Community Policing Dispatch, e-mail the editorial board at CPDispatch@usdoj.gov.
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the January 2017 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest – The Arlington (MA) Police Department. The winning photo features Officer Jessica Scearbo assisting an elderly resident with her iPhone.
When Officer Jessica Scearbo received a call from out-of-town family members worried about an elderly Arlington resident who they had not been able to contact, she and Arlington Police Department’s (APD) full-time social worker deployed to the woman’s home. When they arrived, the woman was fine and having breakfast in her living room. She explained to them that the phone could not receive or complete calls. Scearbo quickly noticed that nothing was wrong with the iPhone and the issue was that the woman did not know how to use it.
Instead of simply contacting the relatives to let them know that their elderly family member was fine, Scearbo took the additional step to make sure the woman knew how to use her phone. She even took the time to copy the woman’s contacts into her phone so that she could easily call her family members.
“When you get presented with a problem in the field, own it and solve it,” said Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan, who described Scearbo’s actions as a perfect example of the way Arlington officers approach their work.
Just six miles northwest of Boston, Arlington is a densely populated town with close to 50,000 residents. Similar to many small American towns, Arlington is facing the opioid crisis as its top public safety issue, followed by domestic violence incidents. Ryan has been very active in the fight to reduce opioid-related fatalities, working in accordance with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the COPS Office to promote life-saving rehabilitation programs that can be replicated around the country. The department also recently joined the White House-led Data Driven Justice Initiative, which aims to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal system and to change approaches to pre-trial incarceration so that low risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond .
He credits a peer support program, in partnership with the City of Cambridge, for helping to keep officers well trained, and mentally and physically able to manage the challenges that the opioid crisis presents. “In no other occupation are you delivering a lifesaving drug [Narcan] in one second and in the next second, encountering someone who is highly violent towards you – and it’s the same person,” he said describing a common encounter with someone experiencing an opioid overdose. “Peer support is so important here.”
Also important is ensuring that officers remain positive and motivated. “That’s where good leadership comes in,” shared Ryan. “There’s been a lot happening around the country, but the support we get from the community is overwhelming because they trust us. And that’s because of all of those relationships we’ve built over the years. We make sure our officers don’t get caught up in the sound bytes from the 6pm news because that’s not what we’re experiencing here in Arlington.”
In Arlington, the police work closely with the community to help with issues including cyber bullying; terrorism awareness; safe return for those living with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Autism, and other cognitive disorders; domestic violence; identity theft; and heroin and opioid awareness. APD is part of Communities for Restorative Justice and has a celebrated Citizen’s Police Academy.
Ryan, who has worked in law enforcement for 32 years in his hometown of Arlington, credits his high school law class teacher for his interest in criminal justice. He has served as police chief since 1999 and led the department through a comprehensive, long-range strategic planning process that helped to transform the organization to embrace the culture and philosophy of community policing.
The COPS Office congratulates the Arlington Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2017 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.
Written with contributions from Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan. Photo courtesy of the Arlington Police Department and taken by Rebecca Wolfe.
ReferencesWhite House, “Call to Action: Data-Driven Justice Initiative, Disrupting Cycle of Incarceration,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/datadrivenjustice, accessed December 30, 2016.
To sign up for monthly updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address in the Subscribe box.