Police chiefs on community policing: Neighborhood partnerships key

A number of high-profile police-involved shootings across the country have reinvigorated the debate about what community policing means.

Activists, including those in Minnesota, have asked that police officers receive more cultural competency training. But at its core, the concept of community policing is a partnership between police departments, neighborhood groups or schools rather than a specific policy, said Columbia Heights Chief Scott Nadeau on MPR News with Tom Weber.

"It's a policing strategy that uses partnerships with the community in order to look at crime in a different way," Nadeau said, "to understand that crime is a community issue — it's not just an issue for the police."

Some of the enforcement actions that police are required to perform, Nadeau said, as well as some departments' policies, can get in the way of the goals of community policing.

"To go into a neighborhood that's experiencing problems and just stopping people in the neighborhood because of the fact that they live there, I think we've seen nationally that that ends up having the opposite effect that we'd want to see in community policing," Nadeau said. "That does not go towards the partnership we desire, that does not instill confidence."

Community policing programs in the area are often preventative, and focus on reaching out to young people. The goal, Nadeau said, is not only to give young people positive interactions with police, but to give police positive experiences interacting with civilians.

But even with extensive training, improvements between police and communities aren't apparent overnight.

"There is a big learning curve, there's a lot of training of staff that needs to take place," Nadeau said. "It shouldn't be just a couple officers on your police department that are undergoing all of the community-oriented police activities."

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