Follow by Email

Monday, June 30, 2014

Community Policing

I studied community policing extensively in college and have embraced it throughout my 21 years in policing. My all-time favorite assignment was that of a community police officer in the Central Hillside and downtown areas. I still have many friends in my old beat and know who owns many of the properties and who lives where. I went on to supervise the Hillside as a community policing sergeant and commander. When Mayor Bergson appointed me chief in 2006, he said my strong belief and success in community policing and strong relationships with many segments of our community played a major role in my selection.

Community policing is a guiding principle of the Duluth Police Department. The Office of Community Oriented Police Services defines community policing as “a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime.” While we don’t throw the often-overused phrase “community policing” into all of our efforts these days, the practice has been infused throughout our entire department.

We continue to build on our history of being a community-oriented policing department. Earlier this month, Officer Tom Sewell successfully got the Duluth Police Athletic League (DPAL) up and running. The concept behind DPAL is to build meaningful relationships between cops and kids as well as prevent crime. If the kick-off event was any indication on the future success of DPAL, the future is very bright for this initiative. DPAL hits at the heart of the community policing philosophy. I could not be happier to see this program driven at the ground level.

We have been an active partner in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). By collaborating with JDAI, the courts and Arrowhead Regional Corrections (and other entities I’m sure I’m forgetting) we have lowered the number of kids getting locked up at the juvenile detention center. JDAI research reports, “Detention is a crucial early phase in the juvenile court process. Placement into a locked detention center pending court significantly increases the odds that youth will be found delinquent and committed to corrections facilities and can seriously damage their prospects for future success.”

When I worked in the juvenile bureau in the ‘90s, we had twice as many locked up as we do now. Juvenile crime continues to decrease. I look back and realize we may have made things worse, in some cases, by locking kids up. This is an example of how important partnering and applying new strategies with other criminal justice entities can make our department and community better for all involved.

Problem-solving is a key component of community policing and is a performance measure we look at daily, literally. We set threshold reports and are notified when properties exceed a certain number of police calls during various time periods. We work closely with property owners and managers to eliminate crime and disorder to ensure safe neighborhoods. While, like anything else, 99 percent of our property owners and managers do a great job of taking care of their properties and problems, a small, select few continue to push limits and create problems for our neighborhoods.

Our officers focus their time on the problem properties. I can think of many, many residential units in years past that were literally out-of-control crime havens. Today, we only have a handful of larger residential properties that are problematic. Officers working on the problem know who and what the problems are and are working diligently on solutions.

Community policing is alive and well in Duluth. I could write volumes about how community policing is ingrained in our everyday policing efforts. It simply is how we operate.


  1. Tried to post, went out into space! Thanks Chief and Tom, please find out who keeps changing my google password!

  2. Chief G., and company. Please note that the community policing award so much belongs to Lt. Kazel and men and women like him who are kind and helpful and partner with citizens and try to help them. He is an asset to your department and a credit to it! Sir, with due respect being singled out as hostile by a Lt. And threatened by both him and an officer to be cited for calling to talk to officers is not community policing and is highly inappropriate and rude and I believe you can do better. The young officer would even say I had done, " nothing to help" in front of his superior, seeking, I believe, to protect my info just for himself, not partnering with me as a citizen and surely not accurate as far as me helping officers out with community issues. Partnering with me, sir, will require eventually taking the time to talk to me as I would request of both Lts., being denied he federal right to speak to you by one who would not write it down...and , as I could not explain to one Lt. Why we are at odds, as only you know why I would be blocked from communicating with you...I would also say I only believed that communicating with you at some future time could solve the problem. If you are so well trained than take the risk to really partner with me in community for with and for your department we have made the community safer in many ways! Thanks!
    Linda M.Mundell