Police and Community Relations
“Excellence in Police Service”
Our mission is “excellence in police services.” We cannot accomplish our mission without active participation from all members of our community. You are our allies in this mission, and the more involved our citizens are the safer and more welcoming our community will be. Several months ago, I asked for a local discussion on police and community relations. High profile national events involving law enforcement have occurred, and continue to occur, increasing the discussion on this topic.
In the last four months, I have had dozens of conversations and listening sessions; with hundreds of people of various races, ethnicities, religions and political beliefs. These meaningful discussions confirmed much of what I knew about how caring and special our community is. It also gave me insight into the fact that there are still some in our community who do not trust us, and may even fear us. Some citizens also feel excluded and have experienced injustice and racism in Appleton. When this happens, we all need to step up and let people know that isn’t acceptable here.
Part of this process for our department was to go through a critical self-evaluation of our policies, procedures, and records related to this topic. Our staff underwent an exercise simulating a controversial racial incident. We put our department under a microscope, similar to the independent investigations we have seen done at other departments. Due to previous progressive leadership and the outstanding staff we have assembled, the Appleton Police Department can be proud of where we are at. However, we also know our pursuit of excellence has no finish line.
A Five Pillar Initiative
This four month process has given us the opportunity to reaffirm and recommit ourselves to our mission and strategic plan. We have developed an action plan, with five pillars, to help us build and improve our relationships with the members of our community of all races. This initiative will focus our resources in areas that will make a positive impact across the community. We will talk and work locally, from a positive frame of mind to build on what is working, while also understanding the impact national stories have on our citizens and officers.
I have oversight and there will be a constant review of our policies, procedures, mission, statistics, complaints, and use of force.
Inclusion and Engagement Coordinators
With the increased attention on police race relations, it is imperative for us to be out in the community building relationships and speaking for the police department. We need to meet personally with diverse groups to build a trusting relationship. Developing trust can help us to mitigate issues in the future. Issues become larger than they are when there is misinformation or misunderstanding of our policies, procedures, or laws. We strive to ensure the messages we send are clear: however, we can be more responsive, we can work to become more culturally competent, and we can build stronger relationships. District Captains Freeman and Potter will be taking on coordinator duties and will be involving front-line officers in this task.
Identify, Assess and Respond to Community Needs; this is one of our eight key strategies we use to accomplish our strategic mission. We need timely feedback from the community to better understand issues. Lieutenant Elliott will be working with a local college to coordinate a professional, independent and extensive community survey. We want to know how community members feel about our agency and help us establish our priorities. We will analyze the data to get a better understanding of your needs and concerns.
Assistant Chief Olm will continue to coordinate our education efforts, internally and externally. Our officers are currently attending training in Fair and Impartial Policing. This is an example of our continual learning philosophy and builds on over two decades of diversity and cultural competency training. The training discusses the science of human bias and how it could impact our actions. As a proud learning organization, we will continue to train our staff in these important issues. Additionally, listening sessions have shown a need for us to educate the public about what we do and why we do it. By presenting more information to the public on what we have done, what we do, and why we do it, we intend to improve our relationship with the community; while answering concerns they may have.
Youth Intervention and Mentoring
Lieutenant Frisch, the supervisor of our School Resource Officers, has been working with the Appleton Area School District on this initiative. We have had productive discussions about our desire to not criminalize minor youth/school behavior. We know that the longer we can keep kids from entering the criminal justice system the better chance they have of never entering it. We also want to grow mentoring programs, like our successful Summer of Service program, our diversion courts, and possible restorative justice programs.
I want to thank all those who met with me and shared their feelings and opinions. We appreciate the honest and open conversations and feedback. The reputation of a community is important for its sustainability and growth. We need to make sure we talk about our successes. We also need to openly discuss programs we have in place to make Appleton a safer, more inclusive and welcoming community for all.
Chief Todd Thomas