20th Anniversary Photo Contest December Winner

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the December 2015 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest – The Lewiston (Maine) Police Department.  Their winning photo features one of Lewiston’s community resource officers, Joseph Philippon, laughing with residents as they play “Cultural Bingo” during a Welcoming Maine Citizenship Celebration.

Lewiston, Maine, is the second-largest city in the state, with more than 36,000 residents. As a former industrial hub, the city has seen the loss of mill manufacturing jobs and is reinventing itself through urban renewal and restoration. The city has received national recognition for its recent renaissance. In 2007 it earned the All-America City Award designation by the National Civic League.1 Despite the progress, Lewiston has a bad reputation among some New Englanders.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing in Lewiston is perception versus reality,” said Lewiston community resource officer Joseph Philippon. “I’m a lifelong resident of Lewiston. I’m 31 years old, I went to school here, I’m married and raising my own family here. When I hear people who do not live in Lewiston talk about it, they define it as a scary place. People’s perception is not true . . . the community is not as bad as what people think it is.”

Officer Philippon would know. As one of three community resource officers, he has been able to establish and nurture lasting relationships with many Lewiston residents. The Community Resource team was established five years ago under the leadership of Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere and is located in a downtown substation that looks nothing like a typical police station. “The idea was for people who might have been apprehensive to go into a locked police station, to come to us and just communicate,” said Officer Philippon. “It has improved our accessibility and communication. It was absolutely critical and we’re reaping the benefits of this proactive engagement.” 

Lewiston’s immigrant population has increased significantly in the last 10 years, with a large number of Somalis moving to the area, many of them hesitant to trust the police. In an effort to build and maintain relationships of trust, the substation is located near the immigrant population and has an open door policy. “What separates us from other police departments across the nation is that, instead of waiting for people to come to us, we go to them,” shared Officer Philippon.

With a departmental mission “to create an atmosphere of partnership with the community toward the common goal of protecting life and property, and enhancing the overall quality of life,”2 the Community Resource team is on the front lines. Team members are not responsible for patrolling the neighborhood. Instead they spend their time focusing on proactive community engagement. They attend community meetings and events, host Coffee with a Cop, visit faith-based organizations and meet with their members, and even make presentations on community policing and outreach. Without having to worry about responding to radio calls, the team can really focus on what is happening in the community, in the moment. The team is committed to collaborative work, so while they assist in finding solutions to community challenges, they don’t do it alone. “We identify the problems and we’re able to take the time to figure out who the stakeholders are, who can help us fix the problems, how can we make things better. We work with group service providers to really get to the crux of [the issues].”

In the featured photo, Officer Philippon shared a laugh with Lewiston residents during the Welcoming Maine Citizenship celebration, an event intended to bring new and long-time residents together to share open dialogue in a relaxed environment. In the photo, Officer Philippon is shown playing “Cultural Bingo,” which encouraged participants to talk to someone they have never met before. “Our commonality started with bingo,” he said. “But the important thing from that event wasn’t the event itself, but the fact that the police department is part of the community. We were invited to attend. We’re wanted in the community and we don’t always have to be enforcing the law. We can be there just to communicate.”

The COPS Office congratulates the Lewiston Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.

Written with contributions from Lewiston Community Resource Officer Joseph Philippon. Photo courtesy of Amber Waterman of the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


References

1 “Lewiston, Maine,” Wikipedia, accessed November 6, 2015,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewiston,_Maine.

2 “Mission Statement,” Lewiston Police Department, accessed November 6, 2015,
http://www.lewistonmaine.gov/index.aspx?nid=359.

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