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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the June 2017 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest: The Coatesville (PA) Police Department. The winning photo features an officer and a group of children running through the local splash pad during its reopening ceremony after having been closed for maintenance to repair winter storm damage.
Coatesville, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, is considered “a city of the third class.” Once a booming steel town, the city now struggles to maintain economic stability. Though located in the richest county in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Coatesville is home to a small, working-class population. As of the 2010 United States Census, Coatesville had approximately 13,100 residents living within the city’s boundaries.
In 2013, Jack Laufer, a retired Pennsylvania State Police major with a strong passion for community policing, took over as police chief in Coatesville. He approaches community policing holistically, ensuring that all of Coatesville’s 27 officers understand the importance of positive community engagement.
“We’re kind of unique in a way—we have an advantage in that we’re just under two square miles,” Chief Laufer shared. “We want to provide good quality policing. We use more of a holistic approach, as opposed to having one officer assigned as the CSO [community service officer]. We encourage ‘park and walks’ where officers get out of their cars and get into the community—whether it’s playing basketball or checking on the local businesses. We encourage that and we’ve been pretty successful.”
Laufer’s approach to community oriented policing also involves the active use of social media. The Coatesville Police Department (CPD) uses its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to engage with its community members and to help solve crimes faster with the community’s help.
“We’ve solved quite a few crimes, and high-profile crimes, through social media,” said Laufer. “This is really a form of community policing and we’re really proud of that.” Using technology to leverage its community policing efforts is a priority of Laufer’s. “We’ve been recognized by other departments for our social media,” he shared.
Despite such great efforts in community policing, Laufer shared that Coatesville is not without its challenges. Illicit drugs have been a factor in many of the city’s violent crimes and property crimes. Last year, the small city of just over 13,100 residents had seven homicides. The city’s budget has been reduced for a number of years, so the department is understaffed, with just 27 full-time and 12 part-time sworn officers. Laufer says the department has had to get creative in how to fully serve its residents, using part-time officers to fill some of its scheduling gaps.
Still, Laufer is motivated every day to get up and go to work. Originally from neighboring Delaware County, Laufer is part of the Coatesville community. Having retired after 26 years with the Pennsylvania State Police, Laufer finds Coatesville to be a community of opportunity. He believes that the work officers put into building relationships before a critical incident occurs is the most important work. Under his leadership, Coatesville officers are encouraged to engage in non-enforcement activities with the community, and they do so without complaint.
The winning photo features an officer running through the local splash pad with a group of children during its grand reopening after maintenance. The officer, who has requested to remain anonymous, had no issues with getting wet that day if it meant putting a smile on the faces of Coatesville’s youth. In front of city leaders, press, and the public, the officer jumped right in. Laufer stresses that this officer’s request for anonymity really speaks to the community policing philosophy embedded within the department’s culture. “It’s not about one officer being involved in community policing, it’s about the whole department.”
The COPS Office congratulates the Coatesville 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 Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer. Photo courtesy of Lauren Parker-Gill.
1 “List of Pennsylvania municipalities and counties with home rule charters, optional charters, or optional plans,” Wikipedia, accessed May 12, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Pennsylvania_municipalities_and_counties_with_home_rule_charters,_optional_charters,_or_optional_plans.
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