Spokane County Sheriffs Crime Prevention Tips – Community Oriented Policing

Spokane County Sheriff’s Crime & Safety Tips

An Interview with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich:
Community Oriented Policing

By Guest Writer Venus Delcambre-Morris

Community Oriented Policing is about being proactive to crimes rather than reacting after the crime has already happened. It’s about everyone coming together, which means, the government, law enforcement and neighborhoods to solve ongoing problems within the community. Dealing with issues before they happen and then working to solve the ones that already have is the best way for law enforcement and the Community to work together.

Community Oriented Policing’s true bases is crime prevention. Crime prevention works well when people get involved and when the multitude of people come together. For any of that to work, there has to be a partnership, it can’t be driven from one side or the other.

For years, the community has looked to law enforcement to solve problems that are not law enforcement based issues. When community oriented policing came into effect in the 1970’s, that relationship started changing - law enforcement began focusing on how to get the community involved in solving some of the issues that were going on in the neighborhoods. Law enforcement can’t fix all the problems and frankly, even if we could, there is just not enough of us to do so.

As a sheriff, what I have seen is state and national government try to drive problems down to the local level which is not geared to deal with those types of issues, i.e., mental health. Law enforcement is not the end all. If people actually knew how few of us there are, they would rapidly come to the under-standing that without the citizens involvement, we cannot be affective. We absolutely need the public’s assistance in all aspects including, making sure that everyone picks up the phone to call in crimes and suspicious activities, listening and acting on the messages that are being put out about closing garages, locking car doors and not leaving items out for criminals to take. We also need continued help and support on putting pressure on elected local leaders to properly fund agencies that deal with drug and alcohol addictions as well as developing a better private public relationship with health care providers to help folks to deal with those issues.

At the law enforcement level, we have worked hard to build a partnership where the community and law enforcement will engage. We have taken every effort to reach out and build bridges through HOA’s and entire neighborhood groups that are linked into our intelligence sites. When that neighborhood, or that HOA is experiencing a burglary or theft or some other crime wave, we know about it almost instantaneously. We can put proper resources where they need to go. Without community involvement, without that engagement, without community oriented policing, we wouldn’t know where to go, or what was going on in your community because no one would be reporting it. For those folks who are too afraid to get involved, to make those calls when they see trouble going on, they will remain afraid because it is going to get worse. If you don’t tell us where the problems are in the neighborhoods, we can’t come and fix it. If you don’t report… nothing is going to be done. You have a choice of being proactive or reactive, or doing nothing at all. Or, you can help us, and we gain the upper hand. Law enforcement can gain the upper hand when the community and the neighborhood stand up and say, were not going to take it anymore, we’re going to fight back. When people get involved and take those actions and when law enforcement comes right up beside them, we become their action point. Show law enforcement where the problem is and they can go deal with the problem.

Community Oriented Policing is important. We want to find ways to solve problems before they happen and we want to get answers to why that crime happened.

We want the community to help us, we want to have a better relationship with the community. At the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, we are constantly striving to be better. Nationally, in association with our citizens, we have been recognized for our training. We have bias training, anti-bias training and recognition training. And, instead of escalating with someone who is hostile, we have been trained to not only bring that person away from the edge but to maintain a level so that we do not end up escalating with them. We are the only agency in the United States to get certified at the international level, not just national. We train to understand the dynamic of personal, external bias and conflict resolution. We take great pride in that and in the fact that the training has helped us in our relationship with the public. I believe the only way for law enforcement to be successful is to have community buy-in, and not just buy-in, we need the communities support. We need the community working side by side with us – the total community, to help us solve the issues that we are facing. Without that, all we are is a bunch of people driving around in cars trying to respond to the next problem. The effectiveness of what we do is the community understanding who we are, what we do, what we can do for them and how we can help them, and how they can help us. Without that dynamic, we will never be successful. Holding and participating in events such as Community Academy, the Crime Prevention Unit’s crime prevention conferences, ride-alongs, National Night Out and other events gives us the chance to have that type of discussion, interaction and that type of building a partnership to happen. Again, it gives a chance to be seen as a real feeling human being, not just someone with a badge.