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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the Orlando (FL) Police Department as the September 2018 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo features Officer Ravene Brinkley painting a girl’s nails during the police department’s community barbeque several days after Hurricane Irma struck the area.
The city of Orlando is nicknamed “City Beautiful,” but it may be better known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World” for its globally recognized tourism industry. Located in the heart of central Florida, Orlando is home to about 275,000 residents, and the city’s famous tourist attractions and events draw in approximately 72 million visitors per year.
With such a high service population, the Orlando Police Department (OPD) must ensure proper staffing levels to maintain the public safety of both the residents and tourists. Chief John Mina oversees the department of 800 sworn officers and 229 civilian staffers. Although the city is a major tourist stop, Chief Mina explains that, “Orlando is a normal city, like any other city, with a very diverse community.”
As the most visited destination in the U.S., one would think OPD would not have the time or capabilities to engage with the residents.1 However, OPD goes above and beyond to ensure that the community feels the department’s presence. “We can’t do it all by ourselves, and we are counting on the community to help us out – to look for crime and prevent crime, and they won’t do that unless they trust us.”
The OPD’s commitment to the residents is evident through its many community engagement activities and mentoring programs. For example, the winning photo was taken during one of the police department’s quarterly barbeque events. This particular barbeque was planned in the wake of Hurricane Irma and provided relief to residents who were struggling without power or meals. The candid moment shows an officer painting a young girl’s nails – a moment of levity in otherwise trying times. “I thought it was the perfect example of our law enforcement’s engagement with the community,” stated Chief Mina.
When discussing the OPD’s community activities, such as the barbeque, it was apparent how much passion and commitment goes into these programs. Coffee with a Cop, Teen Police and Fire Academy, Operation Positive Direction, Ballin’ After Dark and Dueling Dragons Orlando are some of the other multitude of programs that provide opportunities for engagement.
“Dueling Dragons of Orlando” might sound more like a theme park ride instead of a mentoring program, but, this program provides a special experience for both the at-risk youth and the officers involved. Officers and teens join together to form a “cops and kids” boat in order to participate in local, regional and national dragon boating competitions.
“It really breaks down barriers,” states Chief Mina, “The kids stand around and think ‘the officers don’t care,’ until they realize that officers are actually getting in the boat with them, out of uniform, in shorts and a t-shirt.”
The police department’s involvement in these types of activities provide the officers and the residents with the opportunities to create a relationship outside of patrolling the beat. “A lot of officers volunteer to come out and engage with the citizens in a non-enforcement way. It’s a different way to interact with the community.”
The extra effort that officers put in to positively impacting the neighborhoods they patrol is highlighted and promoted on social media, and “seeing the reaction from the community, it really motivates the officers and keeps morale up.”
“There really is a theme, or mission, to connect with our community,” Chief Mina emphasized. “Our officers just ‘get it.’ We aren’t just driving around with our windows up, we actually get out of our police cars.”
The COPS Office congratulates the Orlando Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2018 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.
Written with contributions from Orlando Police Chief John Mina. Photo courtesy of the Orlando Police Department.
1. “A Weekend In Orlando,” Forbes, July 1, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ambergibson/2018/07/01/a-weekend-in-orlando/#2f7562672905
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