MCP Beat 20 Community Engagement

MCP Beat 20 Community Engagement


>>>hello and welcome to montgomery county police beat. I’m patrick lacefield, director of the office of public works, in montgomery county. I’m here with montgomery county police chief tom manger and sergeant kathy estrada to talk about the community engagement division. Thank you for joining us.>>great to be here.>>community engagement is not a new concept and police have been doing community engagement since there were police. How is it involved?>>you look at some of the high profile incidents that have occurred over the last several years that involve the police and the community and things that typically didn’t go very well and this whole notion of community engagement has taken on a greater sense of importance and it has also I guess in montgomery county, we have recognized the fact that there are certain groups that typically interact with the police and we have good relationships with. We needed to focus on those groups that didn’t have is much contact with the police. Perhaps they were afraid or never thought to invite the police into one of their meetings or thought there was any value perhaps in having a stronger relationship with the police. This is where I believe we have taken it to another level to make sure — the whole purpose is to increase trust between the community and the police department.>>sergeant kathy estrada, you work in the trenches every day. What are some of the barriers you see from the different communities? What do people bring to the table that you need to address?>>first thing, a lot of the community aren’t aware of what community engagement is. They are fearful. We have taken a different approach. We like to go out and interact with the community. My own personal philosophy is if I’m in the office for more than an hour, I am doing something wrong. I like to knock on doors and go to different agency’s associations to let them know what community engagement is. And how I can help them and how they can help me. I have been very successful. The gilchrest center, the immigration resource center, invited me to the staff meeting. It was supposed to be a 50 minute talk and I stayed for an hour and had dinner and open a dialogue in which I can be able to help them with any of their events, resources and in bilingual spanish discussion classes.>>patrick, what kathy just described is exactly the value of the community engagement division. Here she goes for a 15 minute meet and greet to say who she is and what we do and they say, wait a minute. We can plug you into five or six different.>>plus they have food for you.>>[Laughter].>>that helps. All of a sudden the police department is attending meetings and getting involved in things that previously we were never invited to nor did anybody think to have us attend. What kathy just described is exactly what I believe the value of our community engagement division brings to the table.>>immigration is a huge national issue and that there are local elements. When you’re going out and doing community engagement work, does the difference between somebody being a legal resident or citizen and/or being undocumented or illegal figure into the dynamic?>>it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all.>>for us. It doesn’t matter. What we are trying to do and, again, kathy is great because so often a lot of the folks that we are dealing with speak spanish. Physically telling them, we are here to help you. We are your police department. It doesn’t matter what your status is. If you are the victim of a crime, if you need help we are here to help.>>or if you have any questions. I’m in your resource.>>does some of this go back to cultural issues in terms of people coming from countries where the police were not always their friend under different regimes?>>yes. In some cases, it’s true. i spoke to several residents in which the police are distrusted. In spanish it is called for online to they are corrupt. They are very fearful of that. That is one of the reasons why cd community engagement division has chosen to address this in a different way. We are still on for smith officers that we have a polo shirt which makes us more approachable.>>gray instead of black.>>we also have navy blue.>>a strong partnership is important. As we see national concerns with police shootings and various places, have you seen — you are head of the national chief dissociation. Have you seen other jurisdictions moving in some of these same directions?>>I have. The problem is that some of them don’t move into this direction until they have a crisis.>>you don’t with the stoplight in until somebody gets killed in an auto accident.>>right. You have a shooting that has the community concerned or angry. All of a sudden you say, we have to improve the relationship with the community. We think there is value in that and it’s important to do that in the good times so that when the bad times strike, you’ve got those relationship built in — relationships built in. It is about communication. one of the things that sergeant estrada and her team are doing is establishing those relationships so that when something happens people know to call kathy. People know to call me or captain yamada who heads up the community based engagement division. If those relationships are in place and that communication hasn’t taken place in a positive way when nothing is wrong, when something does go wrong or people are upset about something or they do have questions, those relationships — it is built in and they have the communication.>>people are much likes likely to call if they don’t know who to ask for.>>>there have been news reports in some communities of people of immigrant communities being less likely to come forward with information about crimes or being victimized. The evidence is still a little murky on it. Have you seen anything like that in montgomery county?>>we have not in montgomery county. My friend — friends in los angeles and houston said they were starting to see difference in the numbers this year compared to last. They can’t tell you. They are concerned about the fact because people are fearful about coming forward in today’s climate. I had folks check our numbers. Our numbers are pretty even. What we were seeing last year’s close to this year. I don’t think we are saying that but part of the reason is that when the executive orders came out on immigration that caused so much fear in the community and nationwide, we went on the offensive in terms of being proactive and getting our message out. Nothing has changed in montgomery county. We are not the immigration police. We don’t ask people about immigration status. We talked about that in previous programs. We do cooperate with ice once we arrest someone but in terms of people been crime victims, nothing to worry about in terms of us asking about the immigration status.>>>I know officers work specifically in community engagement. Part of this is training you give to all officers. Maybe both of you could talk about that a little bit. Community relations has got to be an important piece in the academy when you bring in new officers.>>I think the most important quality that a police officer has is their ability to communicate effectively. Knowing how to talk to people and people in crisis, crime victims were have mental health issues. Knowing how to talk to people under any circumstances. The folks in our community engagement division are terrific in that.>>>what kind of training did you get at the academy?>>we have a 40 hour block dealing with people in which they give us real life scenarios. It varies. It could be something with a mental illness or a domestic violence situation in which it has escalated and you have to defuse the situation. Of course, the department offers various classes like C.I.T. To help you talk to people with different mental illnesses.>>the escalation is one of the things we really focus on. So often when the police are called to intervene in a situation, it has already gotten volatile. If the police can’t get there and immediately tried to defuse things, de- escalate the tensions, sometimes it creates a worse situation. We give our cops the strategies they can employ to calm things down and what to say what not to say. It is really paying off. I think you see it in our use of force numbers. How often police have to use force when they arrest someone. The percentage of cases is so low that it is clear that our cops are approaching these situations correctly.>>the extent to which people are able to de-escalate and talk a situation down so that you don’t have to use force is a mark of a good police officer.>>I think so.>>I think so.>>in the wake of some of the community police disagreements and shootings, there was a notion that some police in some cities out of defensiveness might be backing off a little bit and maybe leaving certain neighborhoods alone or being less aggressive in policing because they felt like they needed to protect themselves. It’s a very tricky issue. Do you have any thought on that?>>that was a short-term issue in some jurisdictions. I know that when you’ve got situations where people are protesting against the police dashed police officers are human. People think they don’t appreciate what we do. I think that passes quickly. One of the values of community engagement division is the cops understand and people do appreciate what they do. The vast majority. When you look in montgomery county all of the surveys indicate the police department has a high approval rate.>>90% approval rate. Excellent.>>not 100%. That is why we work at it.>>that is why kathy and her team are out there.>>we enjoyed great support. When cops feel like and I have seen this in other cities around the country when cops feel like they are not appreciated when people don’t want them in their neighborhood, there is a tendency to back off but that is typically a short-term trend.>>sergeant estrada, I know the community engagement division does social media and events in the community. Can you talk about that?>>yes. Recently the community engagement division has its own facebook page, twitter and instagram. You can contact us that way or email us if you have questions or if you wanted to appear in any event. This past saturday we were at an event the black legislative caucus had a town meeting. We have gone to various events within the community. Watkins mill had rocked the block and other events is the world elder abuse day which is on wednesday. We will have a screening and a panel discussion featuring an officer, officer reynolds, of the movie: walking while black. That will be held at the executive office. If you go to the montgomery county calendar website there is a listing of planned event.>>I think it’s interesting. I have had the community engagement division keep track of all of the community meetings we attend. That is meetings I attend, meetings all of the district commanders and their folks attend and since last July, it is well over 1000 meetings that we have attended. We are getting out there. The strength of the community engagement division has been a real force multiplier in terms of the police getting into the communities.>>there has been a huge payback.>>I think so. We are really seeing dramatic increases in trust in communities where typically there wasn’t much of a relationship or the relationship is not as good as we wanted it to be.>>that’s great.>>social media is one way to help. We can get the word out right away.>>>we have run out of time. Thank you for being here. It was quick. 15 minutes.>>it was painless.>>I’m patrick lacefield along

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