COLUMBIA — A Columbia-based nonprofit that seeks to build relationships between police and the public will develop a web-based application to begin measuring community policing efforts in South Carolina.
Community policing is a law enforcement strategy that encourages cops to develop ties with the people and organizations living and working in their patrol area. Some departments that take the time to measure their efforts, said Serve & Connect founder Kassy Alia Ray, but the law enforcement community as a whole lacks a systematic approach to tracking interactions that aren’t. traffic checks or arrests.
“We measure the use of force. We measure weapons recovered. We measure crimes. We measure all those kinds of things,” Alia Ray said. “But despite our best efforts to say community policing matters, we don’t follow through. And that’s a big gap in our understanding, both for individual communities looking to build trust, but also for this movement as a whole.”
It’s an essential tool in combating the wave of police distrust that has swept the country and led to widespread protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and the number of shootings high-profile policing of unarmed men and women of color around the country.
Restoring that trust ultimately makes communities safer, as residents are then more likely to turn to the police if something goes wrong.
In Colombia, the police have taken measures such as holding a roll call before a squad’s shift in a house in a neighborhood or area patrolled by that squad so that the people who live there get to know their agents. They also participate in a number of Serve & Connect sponsored events, such as a North Columbia youth empowerment group, community conversation nights, and a grocery delivery program by Greg’s Groceries, created to honor the deceased. Alia Ray’s husband, Greg Alia, who was killed while on duty as a Forest Acres police officer.
“We are very entrenched in community policing efforts, but we need to measure success,” added Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
Serve & Connect wants to change that and has assembled a 12-member task force, made up of law enforcement agencies and community organizations, to spend the next six months thinking about the methodology to be used in the app. web tracking offered.
The technology, when deployed in a pilot program at a handful of South Carolina law enforcement agencies, will help officers document non-law enforcement contacts. law – the general social interactions they have with residents that are not part of law enforcement.
“It’s important to realize that we don’t have real data in this space. We don’t do that in policing. That doesn’t happen,” said Seth Stoughton, a researcher at the University of South Carolina which studies and evaluates policing methods across the country. . “But it’s really important. And the idea that we’re going to try to overcome the uncertainty and deal with the difficulty of collecting this data is actually really exciting.”
Police departments currently rate officers based on their law enforcement activity – how well they perform traffic stops or how often they locate someone wanted for a crime.
“It can prompt an officer to police in a particular way,” Stoughton said. “If you have an agency that tells officers that we really care about the quality and number of non-law enforcement contacts, that may influence officers to engage with police in a different way. It sends a signal to officers that we appreciate this particular aspect of policing.”
Stoughton said having a database of those interactions will also help determine which programs are most effective, whether it’s having coffee with a cop or coaching youth league baseball. .
“If you can look at the actual numbers, you might be able to tell that we have better contacts and build a better relationship with this one than with that one,” he said. “So that means we should devote our time, resources and effort to this method because it’s a more effective way to communicate with the public and build positive relationships.”
In communities where law enforcement has a good relationship and trusts residents, Stoughton said people are more likely to cooperate when there’s a criminal investigation and are more likely to obey the law in general.
“So if we can improve the numbers in terms of improved police-community relations, that will make the important aspects of policing more effective,” Stoughton said. “It will make communities safer. It will reduce the use of force. It will reduce officer misconduct. It’s all pretty critical to creating the kind of professional police force that I think we all want.”
Holbrook will chair the working group. He is joined by Chief Terrence Green of Lexington, Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey, Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock, Orangeburg Police Chief Charles Austin and Police Department Chief Tony Taylor. of Williamston, just south of Greenville.
Stoughton will serve on the committee as a community representative, along with Angela McDuffie of the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, James Gates of the Lexington County NAACP, Jerry Blassingame of the Soteria Community Development Corporation of Greenville, Pastor Thomas Bell of Cathedral of Praise Ministries and Felicia Dauway with the Department of Juvenile Justice of SC.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals of Lexington County hosted Serve & Connects’ announcement and will donate $10,000 to the effort.
“In the Midlands, law enforcement have our backs and I want them to know we have theirs.” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. “One way to show law enforcement how much we appreciate their work is to equip them and community members with the tools to strengthen the relationship between officers and the people they protect.”
If the pilot test is successful, Alia Ray said she would like to roll it out statewide within a few years and potentially nationwide to create a research database that could eventually demonstrate the impacts of policing. community.