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Director’s Column:  February 2014

An opportunity that particularly excites me as I begin my tenure here at the COPS Office is that 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the office. This is an opportunity because 20 years marks a good point at which we can pause to reflect on how far we have come in the advancement of community policing since the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed. From here we can also look to the future and work together to develop a community policing agenda for the next 20 years.

The chance to work through that process of reflection and strategic thinking with all of you is what has inspired me in planning out my priorities for the COPS Office in 2014. My vision is one that aligns along three main themes, all focused around creating community policing departments from the ground up.

The first priority is to find new ways for the COPS Office to assist agencies in transforming community policing from specific programs to an operational philosophy and core strategy in public safety: one that is understood not just by officers within the agencies but also by the stakeholders of law enforcement services. Law enforcement agencies must work with their communities to define and set the expectations of policing services within the community policing framework in order for it to truly become the guiding philosophy for addressing all types of crime. And when I say all types of crime, I do mean all; community policing is not just applicable to traditional violence and disorder problems, but also to rapidly evolving public safety and national security challenges such as cybercrime and counterterrorism.

Secondly, we must also work harder to assist agencies in building trust in their communities and with their communities. This is especially true for communities of color. An organization that aims to operate as a community policing agency must avoid the use of tactics and strategies that, even if unintentionally, causes collateral community damage such as mass and disparate incarceration rates, and the disenfranchisement of young men of color. The COPS Office will work with the field to develop best practices in engaging communities of color, utilize racial reconciliation processes to remove the general mistrust that exists in many communities of color, and build the broader trust that is central to effective partnerships with all communities.

The third priority revolves around the need of the profession to develop tomorrow's leaders today. This includes working with the field to engage in top to bottom reviews of agency structures to ensure that law enforcement agencies of the future are built to do the job they want to do. It also means the COPS Office will be collaborating with the field even more to create community policing focused management training, so that leaders in the future are properly prepared to run agencies that are built around the community policing philosophy. To be effective, the leadership competencies they are expected to master must complement the agency mission and goals; a disconnect there will only lead to dissonance in the community.

These are not small priorities, nor are they meant to be fully implemented in a short period of time. But I am confident that we can work together to move all three forward over the coming months. As the President said in the State of the Union, “Let's make this a year of action.” We have an outstanding staff here at the COPS Office dedicated to the President's call to action and who have developed impressive levels of the expertise needed to support innovative ideas and progressive leaders. They are committed to helping the field advance the field. This is key as I believe that the answers to how to advance community policing and propel the law enforcement profession forward over the next 20 years lie within the field itself; and the COPS Office is here to create the mechanisms that allow new ideas to be tried, evaluated, and shared.

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