Andrew Mills - Chief of Police - Santa Cruz

Community Policing in the Real World

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Courtesy SLV Steve (George and JD)

There are three levels of community policing. Each builds on the other to enhance crime control, community experience, and police capability. Many police agencies never get past level 1.

Level 1: Public Relations – Education, events, and tasks designed to build a better image. There are many events such as Coffee with a Cop, Santa Cops, handing out stickers at Halloween, social media presence, reading with a cop, tours of the station, and Chief for the day. Community policing for public relations is not uncommon and healthy. COP is much like a private sector company that builds its brand and customer base. It’s not however the product.

Level 2: Neighborhood Policing – Projects, programs, and policies align policing priorities and philosophy with community desires and expectations. Bike patrols, foot beats that target crime, and building community interaction, community meetings to discuss policy priorities, the Chiefs Advisory Committee, Volunteer in policing programs. Policy development also plays an essential role under the banner of community policing. 

For example, making sure the police are transparent in real and tangible ways, such as talking plainly and honestly about the technology used by the department. Ensuring all communities weigh in on policy development for social justice, equity, and inclusion in how we police.

Level 3: Problem Solving – A colleague said it best, “Community Policing seeks to improve the police relationship with the community; Problem-solving seeks to improve the community” Michael Scott.

The most robust community relations are built through mutual sweat equity. Bonds are created when the police and community work side-by-side. Those ties are robust and the most difficult to break. Participants see and understand one another because to improve the community takes a deep level of commitment, and sacrifice by all parties. By resolving problems, the quality of life increases, and confidence in the police and their mission grows.

Many problems need resolution in Santa Cruz. To help solve these problems, some community members have volunteered to take on complex issues with our police officers, CSOs, and professional staff. They are the VIPs or Volunteers in Policing.  

At some 40 strong, the VIPs pick up duties for police officers, allowing cops to focus on tasks only they can perform.

Here is a short rundown of VIP duties.

  • VIPs perform foot patrols downtown, the wharf and beach.
  • VIPs work the front counter in police records.
  • VIPs visit our elderly citizens isolated at home in our You Are Not Alone (YANA) program. YANA has been invaluable during the Pandemic.
  • VIPs check on homes while people are on vacation.
  • VIPs ticket and tag abandoned vehicles for the vehicle abatement officer.
  • VIPs enter data for Records.
  • VIPs help the Crossing Guard program.
  • VIPs help with crime analysis.
  • VIPS perform problem-solving activities such as putting flyers on cars with educational materials. Hide it. Lock it. Keep It.
  • Conducting high visibility patrols in hot spots.

Volunteers give about 5,000 hours a year to the city, making thousands of contacts with community members. They tagged 1,200 vehicles for abatement and visit hundreds of senior’s homes.  During the CZU fire it was SCPD volunteers that notified many residents of how to evacuate walking door to door in the smoke. They allowed firefighters to fight the advancement of flames and officers to patrol burned areas.

You too can be part of the solution. Help SCPD research and understand problems, create unique solutions and build relationships through sweat, blood and toil. Our volunteer line is: 831 420 5916. 

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