What Is Community Oriented Policing?

Photo - Spokane's Clock Tower in River Front Park    This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my  disclosure .

Photo - Spokane's Clock Tower in River Front Park

This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

August 1st, 2018 is National Night Out, an annual opportunity to promote building partnerships between communities and their police departments along with fostering neighborhood camaraderie. 

It’s also an occasion to look at how we can make our neighborhoods a safer place.  As such, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight an organization in my community that is tasked with just such a mission.

In 1991, two girls were abducted from a Spokane neighborhood.  One was murdered and the other was never found.  Over many years, this neighborhood had grown tolerant of its high crime rate, but this event was unforgivable.

In response to this tragedy, many of the neighborhood’s residents wanted to find a way to make their children and homes safer.  Soon they were meeting with representatives of the police department, city hall, the local community center and various other agencies to discuss ways the residents could get involved in their own safety.  After months of meetings, the neighbors along with the police and supporting agencies created the first Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) shop.

What is Spokane C.O.P.S.?

Spokane C.O.P.S has grown into a 501c3 non-profit organization that is funded by the Spokane Police Department and partners with the City of Spokane and Department of Corrections.

The program is dedicated to promoting and supporting an environment of community safety.

There are now twelve substations staffed with volunteers to keep the doors open daily.  There is a Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) assigned to each substation. 

An NRO is a commissioned police officer who has accepted the responsibility of that neighborhood and its specific issues.  They respond to calls like a regular patrol officer, but they also have the added duties of watching over that specific region.

What Does the Program Do?

Here are a few of the programs that C.O.P.S. handles.  It’s not a comprehensive list by any means.  These are just my favorites.  If you review their website, you can see the various programs under their banner.  Also, they are adding new programs each year as this is a dynamic organization, changing with the community.

Operation Family I.D.

This is a super cool program.  Volunteers go to local schools or events to promote Operation Family I.D.  This allows a parent to have their child photographed against a backdrop and then fingerprinted.  The volunteer will record all their physical characteristics (height, weight, etc.) and then give the info back to the parent on a disk. 

This helps the parent to be prepared in the case of an emergency.  No one wants to ever think about something bad happening to their child, but an ounce of prevention could really go a long way in moment like this. 

When was the last time you recorded those details?  Have you ever had your child’s fingerprints taken? 

Bicycle Registration

Here’s another kid friendly program (although adults are encouraged to participate as well).  Bicycle theft is a big deal especially since some bikes cost more than $2,500.  Add to that fact there’s often no way to prove ownership of the bike once its recovered. 

Citizens can bring their bicycle into a C.O.P.S. shop and have it registered.  Once that’s done, they can get a new helmet that’s been donated by a few retailers around town.

It’s a great idea that not only promotes awareness of reducing theft but also of bicycle safety.

Crime Free Rental Property

This is my favorite current program.  Crime Free Rental Property (formerly Crime Free Multi-Housing) is geared toward the landlord and highlights techniques that owners and property managers can use to help their properties remain safe and crime free.

The trainers in the program have been certified in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).  Occasionally, officers or deputies will participate in the instruction to help give the class additional insight.

Below is an outline of the current course outline.  This may change slightly as there is more emphasis placed on various types of property behind multi-housing.

  1. Introduction to Crime Free Multi-Housing
  2. Fair Housing
  3. Police Response/Relations - Working with the Police
  4. Domestic Violence - What Can Managers Do
  5. Crisis Resolution, Evictions, Landlord/Tenant Laws
  6. Gangs - Learn about gangs and how to recognize them
  7. Introduction to Community Oriented Policing Services
  8. Drugs - Warning Signs
  9. Fire Department Safety Issues
  10. Preparing the Property - Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

outline taken from www.spokanecops.org

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in this course.  It’s fantastic material and is really a great boost of confidence to an apartment manager / owner. 

If you’re an income property owner, have you ever attended a course like this? 

Block Watch and Business Watch

These are two separate programs, but they are very similar.  Essentially, neighbors come together to look out for each other.  One of the most important things anyone can learn in a neighborhood is who their neighbor is.  That way they’ll know if something is wrong when they see it and they won’t hesitate to walk up and communicate with an affected neighbor. 

Unfortunately, most of us are either too intimidated or too busy to talk with the people living next door to us.  I lived in a house for a several years and didn’t talk with the families on either side of me.  That’s embarrassing to admit.  I don’t do that anymore.  I know my neighbors now.  We’re not best friends, by any means.  However, when there is a problem in the neighborhood we all come together.  That’s what the program is about. 

Recently, there were several cars that were prowled in my neighborhood.  Thankfully, our cars were parked in our garage so we were spared.  However, the morning after the break-ins our neighbors immediately contacted us to let us know what happened so that we could keep a sharper eye out for strangers in the area.

Do you know your neighbors?  When is the last time you talked with them?

Are There Similar Programs?

The neighboring city of Spokane Valley has a similar, successful program known as S.C.O.P.E. (Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort).  It has some of the same programs but offers a couple different.  It’s community driven so it’s destined to be diverse. 

Many other cities have programs of a similar nature so there may be one in your area.    

However, some municipalities want to get a program like this off the ground, but they often do it backwards.  They look to a local government agency to lead the charge, but this must be driven by the community, by the actual volunteers who will staff the shops once it gets up and running.  It will be the volunteers who show up every day and they’ll be the ones who will muster the energy necessary to sustain a program for a lifetime.

I’ve been fortunate to be a board member of this organization for the last couple years.  It’s amazing what this group does day-in and day-out for their neighborhoods and the community.   

If you’d like to find out further information on starting a program in your city, feel free to contact Patrick Striker, Executive Director for Spokane C.O.P.S. 

Don’t forget Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 is National Night Out. 
If you haven’t done it yet, go out and meet your neighbors.