Mindful of the ongoing national dialogue regarding public trust and policing, the Georgetown Police Department has created a new initiative called CommUNITY. The program is a framework for community engagement and is the brainchild of Police Chief Wayne Nero. I’d like to share with you an overview of the CommUNITY initiative, and in so doing, I think you’ll see how people from across Georgetown are becoming involved.
The initiative recognizes that the police department can take a leadership role in bringing elements of the community together. The police department is more likely to be successful in its primary mission of protecting public safety when there are strong connections among various stakeholder groups in the community.
The name of the initiative, CommUNITY, places emphasis on the unity in community. That idea also is expressed in the vision statement for the CommUNITY initiative—One Extraordinary Community. The mission of the initiative that supports this vision is to forge strong relationships across various stakeholder groups that provide opportunities for constructive dialogue—or problem-solving—which, through mutual trust and understanding, enables unity that is sustainable.
Seven stakeholder groups in the community are the focus of the program. These include neighborhoods, youth, the business community, seniors, faith-based organizations, non-governmental or social service organizations, and news media. Members of the Georgetown Police Department, as well as volunteers with the department, aim to be engaged with these stakeholder groups in a way that is guided by eight principles: accountability, compassion, justice, kindness, knowledge, patience, respect, and unity.
The police department currently works to strengthen engagement with stakeholder groups through a range of programs and efforts. Some of these programs were started many years ago while others are just beginning.
For neighborhoods, these programs and efforts include neighborhood patrols, directed patrols, community discussions, Citizen Police Academy, crime bulletins, and focused problem-solving.
Youth engagement includes patrols at schools, a Youth Police Academy held over the summer, a new Youth Leadership Program being discussed in partnership with Georgetown ISD, and school safety and security initiatives. Police interactions with youth also include established programs such as Blue Santa, Police Explorers, and the Chase the Chief 5k and Fun Run.
For seniors, programs include the Take Me Home database to help identify persons who may be lost, the Silver Shields program offering safety information for homebound or special-needs seniors, and on-going public education to bring awareness to crimes targeting seniors.
Police engagement with the business community includes business patrols, crime bulletins or analyses, problem-solving, and outreach efforts to enhance crime prevention.
Three other key stakeholder groups include faith-based organizations, non-governmental or social service organizations, and news media. Engagement efforts with these stakeholder groups include sharing resources, community discussions, problem-solving, and sharing positive stories.
The CommUNITY initiative recognizes that members and volunteers of the Georgetown Police Department can effectively engage with these stakeholder groups by building relationships. Those relationships between people are built on a foundation of mutual respect, common problem-solving and meaningful dialogue.
In addition to engagement with stakeholder groups through programs and events, the Chief of Police is in the process of establishing a CommUNITY Advisory Group comprised of leaders from those groups. The advisory group will serve to give counsel to the Chief of Police on a range of community issues. There will also be CommUNITY Stakeholder Subcommittees within each of the stakeholder groups. These subcommittees will include leaders within the specific stakeholder groups as well as police department staff who work collaboratively identifying and developing opportunities for partnership and community engagement.
The CommUNITY initiative is a framework for the Georgetown Police Department to strengthen existing community relationships, as well as strategically build new relationships with the people in our community. The initiative is based on the recognition that police work does not happen in a vacuum, but in relationships with the various stakeholders in the community. As relationships are strengthened, the police department plays a role in helping to bring together Georgetown into one extraordinary community.