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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the Hillsborough (North Carolina) Police Department as the October 2020 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo shows Officers William Felts, William Parker, and Tremel Brown posing with an aspiring cop at the department’s Halloween Trunk or Treat in Hillsborough’s Fairview Park on October 26, 2019.
Halloween can be a scary time—not only for the ghouls and goblins roaming dark streets in search of candy—but also for the high incidence of pedestrian deaths. According to the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. Adults are also at greater risk.1
But the Hillsborough (North Carolina) Police Department (HPD) uses a sweet way to keep everybody in their area safe while also building community ties: Halloween Trunk or Treat.
All local children are invited to the parking lot of Hillsborough’s Fairview Park, where HPD officers and community members, many in costume, have opened the decorated trunks of their cars, set up games for the kids to play, and given out candy and other treats.
Though hosted by HPD, the event is supported by local businesses, stores, community organizations, schools, and volunteers throughout Orange County. In 2019, more than half of the police department’s members participated and at least 250 children attended, along with hundreds more adults and numerous furry friends, including a miniature horse.
As can be seen in the photo of HPD Officers Felts, Parker, and Brown admiring the costume of an aspiring cop, the celebration is as much fun for HPD personnel—many of whom come off duty with their own families—as it is for the children.
“We have a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to meet local people. Families come from all over, and many groups volunteer, donate food or prizes, and get involved in it,” says Sergeant William Parker. As for the little guy in the photo dressed as a deputy, Parker says “We couldn’t resist posing with him. I hope as he grows older, he continues to be interested in law enforcement—we need good officers.”
HPD supports many outreach activities and is very involved with its community, which Chief Duane Hampton says builds understanding and good relations.
“We’re a small town but demographically diverse. It’s critical that we all respect each other. The best way to encourage this, on both sides, is to really get to know each other, to develop personal relationships. And that’s why events like this are so important.”
“We are frequently approached on the street, told we are appreciated. And at meetings, people ask what they can do for us. We are out there talking to them, making contacts, growing more sets of eyes. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We keep the community safe together,” he says.
Among the department’s sponsored activities are a junior police academy and a citizens police academy, which is popular with local people who want to learn how the department is run, what the biggest crime issues are, and what police work is like.
The department is also involved with the local senior center. One officer even volunteered to set up a program called Crafts with a Cop in which he helps residents make items such as autumn centerpieces for Thanksgiving.
Hampton feels just as strongly about interacting with other law enforcement agencies as he does about community relations.
Because Hillsborough is the Orange County seat, the sheriff’s office is in town too, and their people frequently work together. HPD also collaborates with the nearby Chapel Hill Police Department and Carrboro Police Department as well.
“We have a lot of interagency collaboration, backing each other up in the field. We trade coverage too. Fairview Park, for instance, is a county park, but it’s in town and used by town citizens, so we patrol it. In exchange, the sheriff’s office patrols the town reservoir for us.
HPD shares Orange County dispatch with all the other area law enforcement agencies as well as with fire and EMS departments throughout county. And though the dispatchers are assigned to individual agencies, they send calls to the others if assistance is requested.
“If we need backup, the sheriff’s office or other agencies provide it, and we go when and where they need it,” says Hampton. As the county seat, Hillsborough has held a lot of rallies and protest events, including two Black Lives Matter marches. “We pulled in from the other agencies, the sheriff’s office, even other counties. All marches were peaceful, and we’ve gotten a ton of feedback about how happy people were with the way these events were managed,” he says. Because Hillsboro, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro are all small agencies, they partner and pool resources a lot. For example, Chapel Hill hosted an instructor training class for fair and impartial policing and invited HPD officers to attend. Another collaborative effort was HPD’s participation with other law enforcement, local officials, and immigration attorneys in a meeting that addressed the concerns of the county’s Latino residents.
When asked about the value of training in maintaining good community relations, Hampton says, “It’s critical, but often not enough, because of a lack of time, money, or both. An agency might send somebody to one eight-hour class in implicit bias, for instance, and think that’s going to stick. But to really overcome bias, we have to find a way to get officers into positive situations with people of different kinds. Just interacting and having good experiences with people who are different from them can be helpful. That’s one reason we do so many outreach activities.”
Hampton says this is especially true for patrol officers who have long shifts dealing with people at their worst. “This needs to be counteracted with positive interactions to give them a balanced outlook. Also, everybody must be involved in building good community relations. It has to be a total agency effort to work.”
To support this philosophy, HPD adopted a program called Guardian Tracking, a web-based feedback system in which officers and their supervisors can enter comments, praise, or criticism regarding each other. “We keep a record of all the things an officer did that year, including how much time they spent with local people, to track and celebrate our positive engagements and accomplishments,” says Hampton.
“I feel that every agency needs to do more to showcase what they are doing for their community,” Hampton adds, “as well as what they will not accept in their community or in their agency. We need to show that we, in law enforcement, are making strong efforts to keep everybody honest and dedicated to serving their community.”
Written by Sr. Technical Writer, Faye Elkins, with contributions from Chief Duane Hampton and Sergeant William Parker of the Hillsborough Police Department.
1.Halloween Safety On and Off the Road,” National Safety Council, accessed September 21, 2020,https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/autumn/halloween.
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