The Importance of Community Engagement
Tim Kensok, Vice President of Product Management // Lexipol
Developing and maintaining effective relationships with the community has long been a pursuit of many law enforcement agencies. However, the publicity around specific incidents that cast a negative light on law enforcement can put agencies on the defensive when it comes to justifying the actions of their officers or deputies.
Being under constant scrutiny is a very difficult way to do business. The new state policing standard clearly communicates the need to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Lexipol also recognizes the importance of this relationship and is currently piloting a new community engagement service for its customers. This new service provides tools and resources to help law enforcement agencies establish and execute an effective community engagement program. The program continues Lexipol’s platform of policy and training, focusing on three critical criteria.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait until an incident occurs in your community to start a community engagement program. By then it’s too late. If you don’t already have a plan, get started now. In fact, if you are one of the 500+ law enforcement agencies in Ohio that has achieved or is pursuing certification by the Ohio Collaborative/Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS), you will be required to comply with their new standard for community engagement. This is an excellent foundation for developing and executing a plan for effective community engagement. Not only is the establishment of a written directive or policy for community engagement activities a requirement of the OCJS standard, it is a best practice for getting things done. When you write it down, you commit. If you don’t, you risk community engagement being just another good idea that doesn’t get executed.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are programs that have already been effectively implemented—many of them right here in Ohio. Town hall meetings, explorer programs, citizen academies and informal meet and greets are possibilities to consider within your goals and resource limitations. Don’t take on too much at the beginning. Rather, focus on the items you know you can complete. If you’re strapped for internal resources, draw on your volunteers or consider partnering with neighboring agencies.
- Measure and monitor. If you don’t measure your efforts, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not. Make sure that some form of evaluation is included in your programs, such as focus groups, post-activity evaluation forms and community surveys. And remember to collect internal feedback and suggestions from staff and officers.
Interested in learning more? Contact Jessica Levenberg at 949-667-5008.
Lexipol is a leading provider of state-specific policies and verifiable policy training for public safety organizations.