I attended the Coffee With A Cop last week at Good Cup on Wednesday afternoon. I’m pleased first to report that I didn’t see a single donut amongst them. My two questions to Public Information Officer Riley Harwood, my beat coordinator and other local officers was this:
What can we do to assist you in your work?”
They seemed rather shocked by the question, but it led to some interesting exchanges.
They each referenced the heinous decade-long kidnapping in Cleveland, reminding us that there are two incredibly important steps to take as a resident: first, get to know your neighbors. Secondly, when something doesn’t seem ‘right’ take the time to call the authorities and report it. Likely more times than not, it will turn out to be unfounded, but two things will result regardless: you’ll become more familiar with the police department, and they will be alerted to potential crimes or multiple calls for service in an area.
How many of us do know our neighbors? In some cases, you may not want to…but you should at least know their names and maybe share a contact number.
Fortunately, Santa Barbara has a long tradition of friendliness and integration. We haven’t replicated the obligatory prison-like gates, high walls and hedges of Montecito where status begins with insular exclusivity. We don’t measure our importance by how difficult we are to speak to, or how little we participate in our community.
Block parties used to be a great way to get to know your neighbors. But they now require a litany of permits, driven by America’s obsession to find employment for every attorney by regulating every aspect of life. When my partner and I moved into a neighborhood, I placed a note in the mailbox of the surrounding neighbors (illegal, I know, but I waited until the mail had been delivered) introducing ourselves, and issuing an invitation to stop by for a visit.
As much as I believe in ‘foot patrols’ for beat cops, the economic reality is that they probably aren’t coming back. That’s too bad, because when an officer gets out of a car, or off of a motorcycle or even bicycle, the world slows down and you begin to notice details and changes easily missed from a moving vehicle. Plus, you can build relationship without buying coffee.
We have a multi-week program in town called the Citizens Police academy which I highly recommend. It used to be English only, but with our changing demographics, they began including Spanish speaking classes as well. Plus, when they moved the location from the Police headquarters to the Franklin Center, the enrollment shot through the roof.
Now the police are embarking on a cutting edge adaptation, aimed at bringing our residents together regardless of cultural background. They’re going to utilize ‘real time’ translation software, so that both English and Spanish speakers can be in the same class, sharing their thoughts and concerns about their neighborhoods and police response, while they learn about all aspects of the different police divisions and departments.
Just last week, four drug dealers were apprehended on the basis of a citizen’s complaint…a drug house within 200 feet of an elementary school, no doubt.
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