Creating a Safe Detroit Through Police, Resident Partnership
Over the past couple of years we have been witness to a growing number of senseless and horrible acts of violence across the nation for which we have no real explanations or immediate answers. These acts of violence have fueled both anger and fear, and have the potential for major community disruption.
While no community is totally safe from violence, I would like to believe that here in Detroit, intentionality on the part of the Detroit Police Department to be proactive in cultivating strong and tangible relationships between citizens and law enforcement has been a major contributing factor as to why our city has not followed suit to the unrest we have unfortunately seen in Ferguson, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Dallas and others. If we have learned anything since the Detroit rebellion of 1967, it is that effective negotiations and problem solving begins with the willingness and intent to establish trusting relationships, which are foundational to resolving conflict and differences.
The Detroit Police Department’s Neighborhood Police Officer program is an exceptional example of how our city is working to create safer communities by building trusting relationships with residents and youth.
Neighborhood policing: connecting officers and residents
After 16 years in the force, Detroit Police Officer Dale Dorsey is familiar with people’s distrust in law enforcement. As a Neighborhood Police Officer (NPO), Dorsey is breaking paradigms by becoming part of the community he patrols.
Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig implemented the Neighborhood Police Officer program in 2014 with the purpose to cultivate a relationship between citizens, local businesses and the police department. Officer Dorsey is one of 38 NPOs that are changing how people see police officers in Detroit. Three to four officers have been designated to each of the city’s 12 precincts.
“The biggest change is that one officer is responsible for a certain geographical area, whereas before we would have officers who would be responsible for an entire precinct. By being shrunk down to a smaller area, officers get to know the community leaders, the users of that space and the youth in that particular area,” said Detective Brian Fountain.
The NPO program connects officers to communities. By developing two-way trustworthy relationships with residents, officers can identify and address quality of life issues to help build safer communities. Residents partake in creating sustainable crime-preventing solutions in their neighborhoods. This partnership not only prevents crime, but also alleviates citizens’ frustration by making their voices heard.
In a time when technology is revealing a divide between citizens and law enforcement, the Detroit Police Department is using technology to bring people and police officers together to create safer neighborhoods. Each NPO carries a cellphone with a direct number and an iPad outfitted with the same systems as police cars. This allows complaints and concerns to go straight to the ears of officers that are familiar with the community, and keeps officers out of the office and on the streets.
“Those cell phones are great because now they can directly connect to me; they don’t have to call to try to get in touch with me through the office phone, they can call me right on my cellphone,” said Officer Dorsey.
To support the Neighborhood Police Officer program, the Skillman Foundation partnered with the Detroit Public Safety Foundation to fund the purchase of internet-equipped tablets and smartphones in 2014. The Foundation has since continued to support the NPO program by funding service to the devices, summer youth rallies such as the Detroit Safe Summer Youth Jam, and an NPO conference.
This relationship-building initiative is empowering citizens to gain control over the well-being of their neighborhoods. NPOs are restoring trust and bringing hope for a better future for Detroit.
How to connect to your neighborhood police officer
DPD Connect offers easy access to Detroit Police Department resources and up-to-date information, including crime updates and positive city news. The app gives residents the ability to look up phone numbers to contact their NPO, parking enforcement, animal control, court, bureau and other community departments. A map displays all precincts and precinct offices.