Steps to Bridge the Gaps between Cops and Communities

Constant media scrutiny has served to highlight the rift between law enforcement agencies and the citizens they protect and serve.  Since schools have the power to influence and guide social change, many organizations and stakeholders are beginning to examine the role of law enforcement officers in schools and their potential to improve relationships between police and communities.   St. Louis County School Resource Officer Ronald Cockrell in Beyond the Badge: Profile of a School Resource Officer emphasized, “It has to be inside our heart that you want to make a difference in your community.” Cockrell works towards bridging the gap between students and police officers amidst the strained relationship between law enforcement and the community of Ferguson, MO.  The video focuses on Cockrell’s efforts to build relationships with students and teachers, listen to students talk about fear of the police in a school town hall, mentor young people on how to negotiate conflicts, and work with the school faculty to respond and support a student whose father is murdered.

While the video examines Cockrell’s role in helping heal the shattered community of Ferguson, it highlights the widely recognized triad model of  school based policing which includes (a) enforcement, (b) education, and (c) mentoring (The Roles of School-Based Law Enforcement Officers and How These Roles Are Established:  A Qualitative Study). These duties are simultaneously addressed through typical police activities such as enforcing laws and patrolling assigned areas, capitalizing on teachable moments with students and teaching criminal justice related topics, and providing advice, guidance, and serving as a positive role model.

There is some disagreement among civil rights groups as to whether or not school police officers are improving relationships, like Officer Cockrell in Ferguson, or whether they contribute to the “school-to-prison” pipeline:  policies and social practices believed to push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  It is true that our most at-risk students often have the most negative encounters with teachers and law enforcement, so we must work to value school police officers for more than their enforcement role and work to cultivate their positive position in our school culture and community.

Having worked for nearly a decade preparing future teachers, my experience, as well as documented research, supports the notion that you have to have a passion for kids and not just the subject you want to teach.  The same philosophy applies to school based law enforcement and school resource officers.  Years of classroom instruction taught me that it does not matter what teaching and learning theories you subscribe to—you must form a connection with a student before learning can occur.  Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers echoed that sentiment when he stated the ultimate goal for school police officers is “…to bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth. So what we are talking about at the end of the day is building relationships.”

While mainstream media does everything possible to highlight negative police-community relationships, a groundswell of activism is taking place across the country to bring together civic stakeholders to build better relationships between police and the communities they serve.  Maritza Ramos, the widow of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, is launching The Detective Rafael Ramos Foundation in her husband’s honor with this mission in mind.  The Blue Alert Foundation is proud to be partnering with a yet to be announced “Police Safety Initiative” with the goal of bringing together community leaders, local governments, and influencers to find solutions for increased protection of police officers and those they serve with fair, just, and transparent practices.  As 2016 is ushered in, I encourage everyone to consider how they can contribute to positive relationships with law enforcement in their communities and schools.

https://wordpress.com/menus/bluelivesblog.wordpress.com is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

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COPsync Network Could Help Protect Against Terrorist Attacks

Until September 11, 2001, most Americans conceptualized terrorist attacks as something that happened occasionally in distant countries, but a series of orchestrated attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, and the plane headed for Washington, DC, but crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, brought an abstract concept into sharp reality.  We now believe that terrorism is an imminent threat to our families, our American institutions and ourselves.  The events of 9/11 were also the deadliest for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed respectively.  First responders have suffered devastating health impacts from 9/11 toxic debris including throat and neck cancers, lung disease, thyroid cancer, and blood cancers in the years since the attacks.

Domestically and internationally, a number of agencies were newly formed or strengthened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, yet the world watched in horror a few short weeks ago as ISIS attacked Paris. Even though the attacks took place on French soil, they were strategically planned to include an international soccer game, where the president of France was in attendance, and the venue for an American rock band.  I am sure many people would agree with me that while these attacks occurred on French soil, they were leveled at the citizens of the world.  Terrorists and other criminals capitalize on not only the short-term violence they create, but also the long-term fear generated by their actions.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), other departments within the Federal government and state agencies throughout the United States are increasingly focused on securing the nation’s border, protecting our citizens from criminals and preventing terrorist attacks.   COPsync, Inc. (OTCPink: COYN), headquartered in Dallas, TX, which operates the nation’s largest law enforcement in-car information sharing and communication network and the COPsync911 threat alert service for schools, government buildings, hospitals and other potentially at-risk facilities, could play a substantial role in thwarting terrorism.  Most people are surprised to learn that U.S. state and local law enforcement agencies typically have independent record-keeping and communication systems that are not linked in any way.  This inability to have cross-jurisdictional communication for the approximately 18,000 police agencies in the United States could result in preventable officer deaths and injuries, and global criminals and terrorists moving undetected within the United States or across international borders.  As the world has shifted into a global economy and schoolchildren can now work collaboratively and communicate across cultures and time zones, it is time for law enforcement and federal agencies to do the same.

These are my own opinions and not the views of my employer.