Since becoming chief in 2006 I have sought and eagerly accepted opportunities to meet with various community organizations to talk and listen about policing. Since policing is one of the most important functions of government, I believe it is more important than ever that community members hear from me on a number of key topics that I will address this month.
First, I want to reiterate my commitment to community oriented policing (COP). Having studied, practiced and taught COP since the early 1990’s I know it works. The premise of COP is about building relationships with neighbors, businesses and partners with the goal of reducing crime, the fear of crime and improving quality of life. The expectations of police in today’s world extends far beyond simply enforcing laws. We are focusing our efforts on relationships and getting away from looking at our duties as tasks. A key element of community policing is collaboration; that is we will not be successful by ourselves. Policing a free and democratic society requires citizens to partner with police. We need your trust, involvement and cooperation. We are only successful when we partner with community members and other entities.
Having excellent police community relations is a priority for our agency. While we enjoy strong community support, we still have a lot of work to do. We are continuing to work with communities of color to strengthen trust and work toward reducing disparities. While I don’t have all of the answers, I can assure you we are committed to collaborating and doing what we can to ensure everyone is treated fairly, with dignity and respect. We are at a critical time in policing and the only way we are going to successfully move forward is though continuous improvement (there’s always room for improvement).
The second area I wanted express my commitment to is the continued and expanding training on the importance of deescalating situations with the expectation officers will use force as a last resort- and if force must be used, using as little force as necessary. We have collaborated with many other community partners to establish a crisis intervention training team to help train officers to understand the dynamics of mental illness and gain stronger communication skills to gain compliance versus jumping to the immediate use of force.
It is interesting to note, some police agencies report significant decreases in use of force and complaints after the implementation of body cameras. In Duluth, we have not seen a decrease in use of force incidents or citizen complaints since we fully implemented cameras; which confirms my belief that our officers have been treating people with respect and using force as a last resort - before body cameras.
We also continue to focus on partnering with residents to reduce crime. Citizen patrol groups have evolved and are growing. They expanded earlier this year in Lincoln Park and Lakeside/Lester Park to include marked car patrolling. This has generated a lot of excitement, increased the police community partnership and is making a difference.
Serious crime continues to steadily decline, but we continue to see increased demands for police services. A drug culture has developed in this country and illegal drug use is higher than it has been in decades. I’d be interested in a study to help determine what percentage of the mental illness issues we are dealing with that are the result of a drug induced psychosis. Some blame police for the drug issues we are having today, but I would suggest to them that police are one cog in a wheel and expecting police to single handily solve our drug problems is short sighted. As the old adage goes, “for every complex problem, there is a simple solution and that solution is wrong.”
We receive regular information about drug dealers and where they operate from. We are grateful for those who provide us with tips and understand often the people reporting drug dealers are neighbors who are fed up with bad behavior and drug trafficking. Keep in mind, cases take time to build and unlike television shows arrests of drug dealers do not happen within 30 minutes of a report.
We want to be the best we can be. If you have concerns, questions or comments I’d like to hear from you. Chief Gordon Ramsay can be reached at email@example.com or 730-5020