Chief: WSPD is embracing community policing

Chief: WSPD is embracing community policing
July 14
08:55 2016



Earlier this week, a tired, weary Dallas Police Chief David Brown, admittedly still heartbroken over the murders of four of his department’s officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer during a shooting rampage July 7 by a crazed gunman, still wanted the world to know that despite what had happened, by all accounts, he led the “best police department in the nation.”

Chief Brown had solid numbers to back him up – the murder rate in Dallas dropped way down under his tenure, as did civilian complaints against Dallas police officers. The entire community was supportive of DPD, and the force was well known and regarded for its extensive community outreach, particularly in poor neighborhoods like the one Chief Brown grew up in.

“Community policing works,” declared Chief Brown to reporters Monday. “It makes us safe.”

“Community policing,” a concept dating back to the 1800s where law enforcement routinely interacts with the communities they serve, not just to stop or solve crimes, but also enhance the quality of living, is generally seen as key to help building strong police–neighborhood relationships, and ultimately improve public safety.

Here in North Carolina, many of the state’s major city police departments apparently share Chief Brown’s view about community policing, including Winston-Salem.

Headed by Chief Barry D. Rountree, the WSPD is a force of approximately 570 sworn officers. The WSPD’s community policing effort, headed by the Community Resources Unit, boasts of such programs as Police Explorers, the Citizens’ Police Academy,  and of course, Crime Prevention, and Neighborhood Watch

In its most recent newsletter, the Community Relations Division of the Winston-Salem Police Dept. featured a front-page message from Chief Rountree talking about the Winston-Salem Police Foundation, a charitable, independent 501 (c) nonprofit organization, and how it will “… secure financial resources the police need to strengthen community partner-ships through mentoring, community out-reach and police athletic leagues.”

“It is important to invest in community relations, but that goes both ways,” Chief Rountree told The Chronicle in an interview Tuesday. “As far as the police department is concerned, it works well because it shows the community that we are willing to work with the public, and have a good relationship.”

Everything that we do, it takes community cooperation. And by forging those relationships, and reaching out, it works better for us when there is a crisis or when we need information about a crime, or whatever it may be.

“It just makes the community a better place for everybody – police officers and citizens,” Chief Rountree said.

Rountree has been police chief for three years, but a police officer for 29 years. He says the force has a “pretty good” relationship with the African-American community, which unofficially stands around 12 percent. One of the areas he has been working to improve is recruiting more blacks to the force, and the department has employed a number of out-reach efforts to do that through churches, etc.

It’s when tragic events like the police shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul take place, that Rountree feels some citizens take it out on his officers, even though they obviously had no part in those incidents. That needs to be addressed, and a greater bond of trust must be developed among all sides.

“We all have to come together to sit down and understand what the issues are, without assuming what they are,” Chief Rountree said. “We can do a better job of educating the public, reaching out, and working with the public.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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