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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the November 2017 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest—The Little Rock (AR) Police Department. The winning photo features Officer Rebekah Tolleson comforting a child whose guardian was detained during a shoplifting call.
The job duties of a police officer often extend far beyond simply enforcing laws. Many days, officers find themselves in positions where they must serve as teachers, counselors, medics, and even protectors. Officer Rebekah Tolleson of the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) encountered a situation in February 2016 when she and her partner, Officer Ronnie Morgan, were called to a shopping center to address an alleged shoplifting case. When they arrived, there was a child involved who became emotional as his guardian was detained. Tolleson made every effort to provide him with comfort until a family member was able to pick him up. While she held him, Morgan captured their special, albeit emotional moment.
The photo is one representation of LRPD’s commitment to its community. LRPD’s mission and value statements affirm that building internal and external trust and connecting to the community are main priorities of the department. Victoria Brown, who works in the LRPD’s Neighborhood Watch and Public Affairs office, shared that LRPD officers try to attend as many community events as possible. “We try to be there to have dialogue and provide information that people wouldn’t normally hear… We take every opportunity to be involved, through partnerships with local businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations.”
Under the leadership of Chief Kenton Buckner, the LRPD has approximately 593 sworn officers and serves a population just shy of 200,000. “His platform is really about communities and policing,” Brown said of Buckner. “Over the past couple of months, Chief Buckner brought some changes and we’ve seen a significant decrease in violent crime in that short period of time. He created a task force—the Violent Crime Apprehension Team—to specifically target violent offenders and areas where violent crime is happening. We put the proper resources in those areas, like patrol and community policing… and he’s implemented mandatory overtime to put additional officers on the street.”
While these efforts have been successful in the short term1, Brown recognizes that her work and the work of officers like Tolleson and Morgan is essential to maintaining healthy community relationships that will help decrease violent crime for the long haul. Through various tools, including social media and neighborhood watch, Brown aims to build public trust in law enforcement by not only asking the community to provide information, but also giving the community resources and a direct line to LRPD officers. “We have to ask for information to help reduce crime, but we’re also giving resources, tools, and important information so the [residents] don’t feel like we’re the only ones receiving in this role,” Brown said.
LRPD officers do the tough work because they have to, but they go above and beyond in many cases because they want to. Buckner recognizes and acknowledges officers’ extra effort through incentives and awards. Every year, Buckner gives an award to the patrol division that “gives their best to reduce crime.”
“He really is an advocate for officers,” Brown said. “We don’t want to overlook the good things that they’re already doing. We want to shed a positive light on our officers. He puts a lot of resources into that.”
The COPS Office congratulates the Little Rock 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 Victoria Brown, Little Rock Police Department, Neighborhood Watch/ Public Affairs. Photo taken by Officer Ronnie Morgan.
1 “Little Rock Police Dept. Says Effort to Decrease Volent Crime Has Been Successful,” THV 11, November 12, 2017, http://www.thv11.com/news/local/little-rock-police-dept-says-effort-to-decrease-violent-crime-has-been-successful/474279991.
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