21st Century Policing –
The Mott Foundation Returns to Flint, MI

Community Protection Escalating crime rates and diminishing municipal budgets are motivating police departments across the country to develop new ways of deploying services. The city of Flint, Michigan is no exception. To improve public safety, the city is using a $1,150,000 grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation to reinstitute a community policing strategy—originally developed in the late 1970s in Flint—that relies on neighborhood foot patrols and data-driven crime-fighting.

Flint’s 21st Century Community Policing (CCP) effort—as the new initiative is known—will revive the legacy of community policing and neighborhood foot patrols in the city, incorporating new technologies and police/community partnerships to deliver effective public safety services.

“The city of Flint and the Mott Foundation have a long and rich history with community policing and neighborhood foot patrols,” said Mott Foundation President William S. White, noting that since 1937, the Mott has granted $8.8 million ($31.8 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) to support policing and public safety in its home community.

“Based on this past experience, we are confident that these grants to assist the city with the pilot phase of the 21st Century Community Policing effort ultimately will help reduce crime and lead to more stable and secure neighborhoods.”

In addition to Flint’s grant, Mott also awarded $350,000 to Michigan State University’s (MSU) School of Criminal Justice to provide training, technical assistance and “real-time, corrections-based evaluation” to support the effort.

Flint ranks fifth as the most dangerous city in the United States, according to the CQ Press, the book-publishing unit of the Washington-based Congressional Quarterly, Inc. High crime rates, coupled with the municipality’s budget crisis, have caused a simultaneous reduction in the police force and public safety resources, which prompted the city to successfully apply for federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) funding in 2009.

The new CCP effort will deploy 18 foot patrol officers across all nine city wards. The city also plans to utilize CityStat, a data tracking and management computer software program, to help officers identify areas of criminal activity and prioritize neighborhoods for patrol. Now being used in dozens of cities, CityStat enables law enforcement officials to track and map data on all types of crime, spot trends, and allocate limited resources more strategically, according to the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research and education institute in Washington, D.C.

In Flint, the goal of the CCP project is to reduce all categories of crime across the city, according to Mayor Dyane Walling. The foot patrol officers will coordinate with motorized officers and community volunteers, all of whom will receive training in community policing techniques through MSU’s Michigan Regional Community Policing Institute.

In addition to training and assisting officers, supervisors, civilian dispatchers, volunteers and other stakeholders, MSU also will help the police department build its capacity to report, analyze, and use data collected through CityStat.

“One of our goals is to send part of our team in to pull crime data and see what information the department has, how they store and access it, and how they use it,” said Jerry Boles, retired chief of police in Lansing, Michigan and associate director of the Michigan Regional Community Policing Institute at MSU.

Foundation grants for community policing during the 1970s and 1980s were instrumental in disseminating the tactic of neighborhood foot patrols nationally. Moreover, according to evaluations by MSU, foot patrols—when originally instituted in Flint in 1979—reduced calls-for-service by more than 43% and reduced crime by 8.7%.

Between 1977 and 1983, more than $3 million ($8.9 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) in Mott funding directly supported the operation of Flint’s Neighborhood Foot Patrol, which provided full law enforcement services while emphasizing the social service and problem-solving aspects of the patrol officer’s job.

In collaboration with MSU’s National Neighborhood Foot Patrol Center, established in 1982 with more than $1 million in Mott support, the Flint program served as a national model for reform through the end of the decade. Ultimately, Mott granted slightly more than $2 million ($4.2 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) for national community policing efforts.

According to Boles, a large percentage of police departments in the country claim to be using some type of a community policing strategy. Few, however, have been successful in embracing a department-wide community policing philosophy.

A 30-year veteran of the Lansing Police Department, Boles is a long-time advocate of community policing strategies.

“You have to leverage the resources you have in a community,” he said. “Cities across Michigan are reducing police and other public services because the revenues just aren’t there. Flint’s economic situation demands that the city look at ways to better utilize what they have.”

“The Mott Foundation and the city of Flint have requested our assistance in re- emphasizing community policing in Flint. Our mutual goal is to make police operations more effective and more efficient through training, technical assistance, and organizational change.”

“Aggressive, accountable policing is the first step toward achieving a long-term response and solution to social disorder and crime”, said Boles.

“Post- 9/11, I’ve had a number of officers question the effectiveness of community policing—but I believe rapport with residents and the trust of the community is more pertinent to public safety today than ever before.”