In our most recent blog post, we discussed the new Baltimore police reforms and what communities can expect following a scathing U.S. Justice Department report released on August 10. The report revealed shocking statistics, confirming the suspicions of many residents that the BCPD routinely violates the civil rights of black residents. This week, we’d like to focus on action and how average community members can contribute to improving the current police climate in Baltimore. MBK’s executive director Danise Jones-Dorsey and the president of the Irvington community, Dorothy Cunningham, will also weigh in on the issue.
Mending Relationships Between the Police and Citizens: What’s Working Around the Nation?
This year alone, six officers have been fired in from the Baltimore police department as part of reform efforts. The reform efforts also call for strategies to rebuild relationships with city residents. While that sounds nice in theory, an extensive online search for any upcoming events in the Baltimore area that focus on mending these relationships fell short. For now, we can examine is how other communities around the nation are working towards these goals.
- DIVERSIFYING THE FORCE – According to PBS, following the tragic death of five officers in Dallas, their Police Chief David Brown, “asked young black men to stop protesting, to start applying, and to help fix the problems they see in their community.” Following this call, the Dallas Police Department expected about 280 attendees at their recent monthly testing event for people interested in becoming officers – the usual turnout is 70 to 80. According to the same report, “Leaders in Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Knoxville, Tennessee, recently refocused their efforts to attract and hire more minorities.
- EDUCATING OFFICERS AND DEFEATING BIASES – Last year, ABC7 of Chicago reported that the University of Chicago Institute of Politics sponsored a meeting called “Lessons from Ferguson” to discuss how to improve relations between the community and police. Chicago police, recruits, and veterans have also been attending new training programs that cater to these efforts, noting that, “they are trying to help officers see how their contact with the community impacts CPD and the image of police officers everywhere.” An excerpt from the report:
“People have biases whether they realize it or not, it doesn’t mean that they’re overtly racist, but they have these biases that exist,” said Associate Professor Andrew Papachristos, Yale University sociologist. “One of the things we also know is that we can actually train people around biases.”
The Baltimore Community Policing Experiment: What is Ombudsman Policing?
What we haven’t already mentioned that is believed to play an incredible role in mending the relationships between police and citizens is the act of community policing – on foot. The interest and need for these types of strategies is not something new to Baltimore. In fact, back in the ‘80s there was a year-long study entitled “The Baltimore Community Policing Experiment” that implemented two community policing strategies in one southeast neighborhood and one northwestern neighborhood.
The strategies included foot patrol and “ombudsman policing,” which the summary report published September 29, 1989 describes as, “in which a foot patrol officer asked residents for information about the most serious problems in the area and, working with residents and others, devised methods to address those problems.” The findings of the summary report found that:
“The most significant result was that ombudsman policing, as practiced with full-time staffing in the southeast area of the city, produced highly significant improvements in evaluations of police effectiveness and behavior, reduced perceptions of disorder, increased feelings of safety, and reduced awareness of victimization in the area. In the northwest area, ombudsman policing, staffed only part-time, produced a significant improvement in evaluations of police effectiveness but achieved none of the other desirable effects found in the southeast. Foot patrol had no significant effect on evaluations of the police, had mixed effects on perceived crime and disorder, and led to some reductions in awareness of crime.”
How You Can Help Improve the Climate Between Communities and the Baltimore Police Today
MBK’s director Danise Jones-Dorsey believes that the Freddie Gray uprisings brought to light many of the systematic gaps among Baltimore communities – places where societal failures in regards to secure housing, food, education, and more, have been manifested for decades. As a private citizen, she says she is, “outraged with the current climate between police and community,” noting that, “public safety is everybody’s responsibility, and therefore community and police must find the space for rebuilding mutual trust.” Mrs. Jones-Dorsey believes that people can take action in the following ways to make an immediate impact on improving the police climate in Baltimore:
- Start attending your community association meeting (where police officers are usually present) and voicing your concerns
- Contact your community relations officer to find out what is going on in your neighborhood concerning crime and how you can better protect yourself
- Participate in the Citizens on Patrol Program, an effective crime prevention tool in Baltimore communities that includes police ridealongs
- Avoid standing or loitering in public commercial spaces (such as corners, stoops, storefronts, etc)
- Seek public places to gather and hang out in environments where police understand you differently, as opposed to risking being wrongly targeted based on those around you
Making Irvington a Better Place: Community Policing in Baltimore
A passionate Danise Jones-Dorsey made it very clear that, “MBK is willing to work with community groups, church groups, whoever it is, to help develop a strategy that keeps the community and police safe.” Dorothy Cunningham, who has been the president of the Irvington community for 12 years now, shares the same passion for positive action. After a year of meeting with the Commissioner, Captain, and Major at the Southwest Police department about community policing efforts, president Cunningham is happy to report that, “We now have a full-time foot officer that walks our business district. He’s out talking and getting to know the community needs, not only the police issues.”
In next week’s blog post, we will delve more into president Cunningham’s responsibilities in her leadership role and how she regularly makes a positive impact on the Irvington community and contributes to MBK’s efforts.
Ready to Strengthen Your Community? Talk to My Brother’s Keeper About Helping
To learn more about our youth programs, how to help, or to find out more about our services including hot meal programs, employment assistance, health services and identifying possible emergency shelter, call MBK today at 410-644-3194. You can also follow our official MBK page on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, to stay up to date on our center’s progress and upcoming events in the community.
Photo credit: By GoBlue85 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40704845