One of the most frustrating parts of being in a fiscal straight-jacket for the last 5 years has been having to watch what happens when you keep stretching to meet ever growing needs. We’re proud that we haven’t had to cut any services but stretching has definitely made us thinner which means we’ve lost some of the personal touch that should be the trademark of City services. Personal touch takes time and like money that is in short supply these days. Our service calls are higher than ever yet our staffing levels are smaller than they’ve been in years. But the Kent Police Chief thinks it’s time to roll back the clock and get back out in the neighborhoods in order to get some face time with City residents. The goal is to create productive one-to-one relationships with residents and business owners that promotes two-way communication and cooperation between the department and the community.
Chief Peach announced that Neighborhood Policing will resume in Kent on Monday, April 30, 2009. He told the troops that he wants to make an effort to return to the original spirit and intent of the community policing philosophy. The goal is to encourage increased interaction between residents and police officers so that issues and concerns may be addressed before they become real problems or crimes. Neighborhood policing means stronger relationships and increased trust between residents and the police officers who serve and protect them.
The Chief sees this as an opportunity for the officers to be available to listen to residents’ problems and concerns, and to give them the reassurance of knowing that there is a friendly police officer walking around their neighborhood. Residents are urged to contact the neighborhood police officers to discuss any concerns or simply to get to know the officer.
There is a general expectation that the officers will focus on foot patrols. They’ll have cruisers to get from place to place, but the majority of their time should be spent on foot, meeting and talking to people. He notes that officers who are trained will be encouraged to perform the neighborhood patrol on bicycle.
The idea is to establish communication with residents outside of emergency situations. Citizens are encouraged to share information about anything out of the ordinary in their neighborhood, even if it’s not necessarily a crime in progress or an emergency. The officer assigned to a neighborhood “beat” can be a helpful point of contact for the citizens for any questions or concerns.
The Chief is able to resume the neighborhood based program thanks to grant funds available through the Community Development Block Grant Program. He’s not actually expanding the number of officers on staff; rather, he’s arranging the neighborhood beats through the use of overtime which he can seek reimbursement for through the grant funds.
I don’t know if money really makes the world go round but it will put more officers in our neighborhoods, at least as long as the grant funds hold out.