One-on-One With … Bermuda Police Service Superintendent James A. Howard
Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory located a little more than 600 miles east of South Carolina that is home to nearly 70,000 people. As one of Bermuda Police Service’s newest Superintendents, James A. Howard knows he has his work cut out for him. Superintendant Howard is responsible for the all-important task of developing and maintaining community policing initiatives in Bermuda and took the time to talk with Dispatch Associate Editor Linda Gist about the challenges he faces and the goals he expects to meet in this new role.
CP Dispatch: In the past few years, what has been the most successful community policing initiative/program applied in your community and why?
Howard: I would say the clean up initiative of a neighborhood in the Cottage Hill, Hamilton Parish area. This particular area was known for nefarious activity. Every day, one could drive through the area and see a pair of tennis shoes hanging from the power lines. While there could have been a host of reasons for this, I can assure you it was a signal for drug use and sales. As a result, graffiti and litter could be seen in the public bus stops and the streets. The drug activity started to spread from the streets into private driveways of law-abiding citizens.
In response, a meeting was organized and held at the St. Georges Police Station with participation from various organizations and church groups. What made this initiative successful was that a problem-solving approach was used. In order to address a specific problem, a broad inquiry into the nature of the problem had to be done. In this particular case, we scanned and analyzed the patterns of repeat calls for service in relation to specific victims, the particular location, and the possible offenders. By holding a community meeting and ensuring that all parties concerned were involved, everyone had an opportunity to express themselves.
As a result, a mass clean up project was initiated, including resurfacing bus lay-bys, cutting back trees, and clearing graffiti and litter.
CP Dispatch: What three things would you say are necessary to develop and maintain a successful community policing program?
Howard: I believe them to be engagement of the community, the understanding of basic problem-solving approaches/methods, and partnerships. In order for a community policing program to be successful, all three must exist. Each depends on the other. There is actually a fourth—public trust and confidence in the police. This is the “credit” that is built up in advance of the program, and it is achieved through the delivery of high quality policing services, visibly effective patrols, and demonstrated positive community action.
CP Dispatch: What goals do you currently have set to improve and/or expand community policing in Bermuda?
Howard: We have commenced an action plan to implement and/or complete some of the initiatives from our Strategic and Operational Framework 2008–2011:
- We have dedicated Community Action Teams (CATs) for geographical areas.
- About 70 percent of the Bermuda Police Service has received training in problem-oriented policing approaches/methods.
- A system of performance measurement is being developed to measure the success of problem-oriented policing.
- We are implementing more effective media strategies to communicate our actions and successes.
- The Problem Oriented Policing and Partnerships manual has been developed and is almost ready for distribution.
- Our Public Perception Survey 2009 has been completed and is being reviewed.
- A Crime Prevention Strategy is in place.
CP Dispatch: Within each community, there are many different types of smaller neighborhoods that vary widely in regards to innovative community policing programs. How do you cover each need effectively?
Howard: This is where community engagement is most important. Our Deputy Commissioner of Police Michael Jackman is passionate about this aspect. He believes it is important to identify methods of engagement to gain the trust and confidence of the community so that partnerships can be developed and the community can become involved in solving the problems they identify. I believe by doing this, we engender confidence in the police and the community begins to feel safer. Community engagement brings about change.
CP Dispatch: What ideas do you have to incorporate the business sector into community policing efforts? Since business leaders can be important figures in communities, do you think it would be beneficial to partner with local businesses to raise awareness about different community policing goals?
Howard: In Bermuda, we are fortunate in that the island is a small community within itself and so some businesses are already actively involved in community policing efforts; however, many are not. So to incorporate those in the business sector who are not involved in community policing efforts, the first step is to educate them about the actual cost of crime, to themselves and to the public. This is accomplished by inviting businesses within the community to town hall or community meetings.
I believe the benefits of partnering with local businesses in order to raise awareness about different community policing goals are good. First, by partnering with businesses, communities would have access to more resources than they might have otherwise had, and secondly, some of the methods/strategies that might come about to deal with community issues may be beyond the capability of that particular neighborhood/community.
CP Dispatch: What is the biggest challenge facing the advancement of community policing today?
Howard: Community policing is resource-intensive and usually does not provide immediate results. The more serious the problem, the more immediately the public expects a solution. Additionally, competing operational demands of higher priority (murder, gang violence, and other serious crimes) constantly threaten the redeployment of resources away from community initiatives. All of this must be mitigated by consistent dedication of resources, steady results, and continuous community engagement.
CP Dispatch: Does your agency successfully implement problem solving? How has it been sustained?
Howard: It is well ingrained in the Service and has been a core competency for a decade. Training programs continue to deliver problem-solving concepts at every level.
CP Dispatch: What are the most significant successes and impediments to working with the community to address crime and disorder problems?
Howard: Partnerships—these only exist where each party recognizes their role as part of a larger team. When one party accuses, blames, or criticizes another—this is not a “partnership.” In the absence of legislation (as in the UK, the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships Act orders agencies to work together) partnerships can only be formed on relationships. Relationships are based on communication and trust. The biggest impediment to partnership policing is the “blame game” or “it’s not my job.”