U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs; National Institute of Justice The Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice ProgramsNational Institute of JusticeThe Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice

Beyond Community Policing: The Importance of Community Building

Michael Davis, Chief of Police, Brooklyn Park Police Department, MN
NIJ Conference 2011
June 20-22

Michael Davis Local law enforcement has reached a limit of what we can do with traditional community policing. You know it's primarily transactional, it's what we can do for you. And what researchers have told us is that the link between, you know, crime rates and what we can do and crime and fear and safety, you know, fear and whatnot, is not linked very well together. And so what we do know is that the future of policing really isn't building that social fabric, building the relationships that we know matter in that create a thriving community. What we're focusing on is this notion that understanding race, understanding ethnicity is experiential. You have to experience it. And so what we can do as government—as police—is create the environment where people can experience one another differently. And by doing that you reduce fear, you reduce isolation, and you create a sense of the whole. And that is no matter what race or ethnicity you are. And that's an important way to approach it. If we see ourselves as conveners and facilitators instead of only practitioners and exercising a form of social controls, I think we have a bigger benefit, and it changes the way in which we're perceived especially by communities of color.

Back in 2009 we started this movement—and I call it a movement because community building is incremental, right, it's not revolutionary. You don't have one event and go "We've officially built our communities." That's something you see, you can feel it, you sense it through relationships. And so back in September of 2009 we called a meeting. We called it a community café. 400 people showed up from around the community and had conversations with each other about what the future holds. That led into our planning process about the future. And so we put together a core planning team of 31 people—very diverse. Not only in race, ethnicity and gender but also of divergent opinion. And that has led us to proclaim our future; Brooklyn Park, a thriving community inspiring pride where opportunities exist for all. That's a very important mission statement, because within that there's a couple core values that really ring true. It's that we believe that everyone has equal intrinsic value. We believe that community thrives when everyone takes responsibility to contribute. And it really goes back to what Dr. Sampson said about this collective efficacy. You know, truly, when you look at the essence of successful communities, it's where people know and trust one another, and police are in the equation. Because there simply is the need. And obviously when people call for services that only we can provide, we should be there. Professional. Engaging. But really that's ancillary to what a healthy community is. And by the way, I believe that this new approach will increase legitimacy within these communities. And when you have higher levels of legitimacy, we become more effective as agencies.

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Michael Davis, Chief of Police, Brooklyn Park Police Department, Minn.
NIJ Conference
June 2011

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Date created: October 24, 2011