Printer Friendly

Citizen advisory committees.

Like many law enforcement agencies around the Nation, the Metro Dade, Florida, Police Department embraces the community policing model as a way to forge closer relationships between the police and citizens. The department's strategy involves several elements, including a special community-oriented police squad, team police units, and a tactical drug team that conducts large-scale sweeps of drug-infested neighborhoods.

However, the basic component of the Metro Dade approach is a system of citizen advisory committees that operate in each police district. By working closely with these committees, police administrators can more closely tailor departmental services to the specific needs of residents.

Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of the Metro Dade Police Department covers 1,840 square miles, which is almost entirely suburban, with a population exceeding 1 million. To serve the residents of the county effectively, the department divides its patrol force into seven districts, each with approximately 225 sworn and nonsworn employees. The seven districts house relatively distinct geographic, economic. ethnic, and demographic segments of the county's population. Citizen Advisory Committees

Each district has a citizen advisory committee composed of representatives from various segments of the community. These groups include homeowners, business operators, public housing residents (if applicable), church and school representatives, and others. On a regular basis, the committees meet with the command staff and officers of their district to discuss community problems. The advisory committees focus on local concerns. One committee from a predominantly middle-class district works with the district police staff to develop antigraffiti strategies. Another committee, representing a primarily retail business district, works with the police to deal with problems involving roadside vendors. Another, from an economically disadvantaged district, works with the police in focusing on street-level drug trafficking.

While the concerns of both citizens and police may periodically change as existing problems are resolved and new ones emerge, the basic process remains the same. Committee members express their concerns, the district police staff advises on the legal parameters of different approaches, and both groups then discuss the feasibility of various options. Once a course of action is implemented, the advisory committees and district police officers monitor progress closely and make necessary adjustments. By keeping the number of objectives manageable, the districts can address all committee concerns simultaneously.

Committee Makeup

Each committee is composed of 15 volunteers, recommended by community groups and appointed by the county manager. In addition, because meetings are open to the public, some of the committees have several nonmember observers who attend on a regular basis.

There is no set limit as to the number of terms a committee member may serve. However, a moderate natural attrition rate and the subsequent entry of new members prevent committees from becoming stagnant.

Benefits

Involving citizens in the police planning process produces more than the inherent benefits of collaborative decisionmaking. Committee members quickly learn the limitations--as well as some of the frustrations--that police officers experience in confronting various enforcement problems. Citizens also experience first-hand the impact of citizen involvement and cooperation on law enforcement initiatives. At the same time, members of the police department develop and refine a problem-solving process that all employees in the agency can employ. The police department as a whole also benefits from the focus provided by the committees. As suburban crime rates rise nationwide, the resources of such agencies as the Metro Dade Police Department become increasingly strained. The advisory committees assist police managers to direct the department's efforts in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Conclusion

Communication between citizens and the police represents an integral feature of the community policing concept. Citizen advisory committees developed by the Metro Dade Police Department help to foster and coordinate the type of cooperation necessary to resolve entrenched community problems. These committees not only help to direct police resources to the specific problems being experienced in the community but they also give concerned citizens an opportunity to cultivate ongoing relationships with officers in their individual districts. It is through such open communication that police departments and communities together make the best use of limited resources to resolve crime problems.

Major Flynn is the Northside Station Commander of the Metro Dade, Florida, Police Department.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Flynn, Dan
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Dec 1, 1993
Words:689
Previous Article:Employee empowerment.
Next Article:Positive organizational culture; a practical approach.
Topics:


Related Articles
Improving Public Participation in Solving Environmental Health Problems.
EDITORIAL : THE JOKER IS WILD OUTRAGE METER: 7.0.
MEMORIAL SET FOR OTTO STOLL, HOUSING ACTIVIST; COMMUNITY MOURNS LEADER.
CITIZENS MAKE VOICES HEARD IN THOUSAND OAKS\Advisory groups never short of volunteers to tackle issues.
WESTLAKE PANEL TARGETS CITY-RESIDENT COMMUNICATIONS.
Greater public participation needed in decision making. (Reports For Romanow).
CONSERVANCY BILL STUNS SOME PROTESTERS SAY PROPOSAL LOOKED LIKE JUNK MAIL, NOT BALLOT FOR $562 TAX.
COUNCIL: START GRIDLOCK RELIEF SMALL 101 PROJECTS BEAT NONE, MAYOR TOLD.
Support for library levy shaky, survey finds.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters