By Cheryl Conway
Roxbury’s chief of police was honored to participate in a session at the White House last month as part of a task force on community policing.
Roxbury Township Police Chief Marc Palanchi was among close to 80 police chiefs from throughout the nation invited to attend the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing on Fri., Sept. 16, noon to 6 p.m. He heard from experts on a variety of topics such as the importance of officer safety, use of social media to improve public relations and methods to strengthen community relations.
After going through the Six Pillars of Policing identified in the 21st Century Policing model, Palanchi was reassured that the Roxbury Police Department is prepared and already meeting the standards identified in improving policing and relationship with the community.
“We’ve been doing all these here forever,” says Palanchi, who has been serving as the RPD chief since March. “This is nothing new to us. It’s not like that everywhere. We’ve been doing community policing the entire time I’ve been here. It reaffirms that they are doing things the right way.”
On Dec. 18, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Task Force Members sought expertise, identified best practices and released the final report to Obama on May 18, 2015.
Obama issued that executive order as a means “to fix policing and the relationship between police and community,” explains Palanchi.
The sessions, which were held on five different dates, were conducted by senior staff at the White House to gain input on that final report.
“They wanted us to talk about it, make presentations and get feedback,” says Palanchi, and also offer suggestions based on their own departments and practices at home.
Palanchi heard from “very smart people saying this is the standard you need to reach.” He was most pleased when he found out that his department is “already doing it. This is what you need to do and you are already doing it? It’s reinforcement. This is why we are policing; this is how we are policing. It was very well worth it,” he says about his trip to Washington.
The first of the six pillars identified includes Building Trust and Legitimacy.
“People are more likely to obey the law if they believe those who are enforcing it are trust worthy,” explains Palanchi. “Some people are rebelling against police because they don’t feel action is warranted.”
Pillar two is Policy and Oversight.
“Does your police department policies reflect on what your community needs and values? Are you reviewing your policies? Are they the best practice? Is it effectively working? Are you correcting it? Are you fixing it?” he asks.
Pillar three deals with Technology and Social Media.
“Implementing new technologies can give police departments an opportunity to fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency, accountability, and privacy” as explained on the website.
“We put everything on Facebook,” says Palanchi. “What we are doing, why we are doing it,” such as the food drive or Thank a Police Officer Day. “It’s a way for people to communicate with us on concerns or complaints,” to dialogue.
Community Policing and Crime Reduction is pillar four.
When dealing with police, the issue should not always be a “call for help” or a distress call. There should be a “positive interaction,” explains Palanchi. “It’s the kids you have to target. We walk through our schools every day. Non-enforcement encounters. Palanchi says he walks through the elementary schools to encourage that positive interaction, ‘so it’s positive so when they have to deal with police they are comfortable.”
Last year, when students visited the police department to bring food to donate, they met police officers and toured the station. “It let the kids know they are helping people and having a positive interaction with police,” says Palanchi.
Training and Education is pillar five.
“Hire really good people and train them well,” says Palanchi. “Educate them continually and make them as well rounded as you can. Police are being asked to do more stuff than ever. Now you are expected to know terrorism, immigration laws, technology,” as well as the growing mental crises with veterans dealing “with a lot of serious issues,” as well as mental health with elderly and people with special needs.
Officers “need to know a lot of different stuff to be able to do it in a course of a shift,” Palanchi explains, immigration issues, domestic issues, mental health issues. “We are being asked to go into the schools, we’re being asked to teach. These people you hire have to be smart, with good common sense, quick thinking. You have to keep educating. This stuff is constantly changing. We’re spending more money on training than ever.”
Pillar six is Officer Wellness and Safety.
“Physically fit officers make better decisions, are more capable, are more alert,” says Palanchi.
“If you can do all of these pillars, you can have positive influence,” says Palanchi.
The challenge is that there are other communities that are not able to provide all of those pillars because of the lack of funding, adds Palanchi.
“Everything is funding,” says Palanchi, “and the government doesn’t have it. Some police departments, “they don’t have enough money; they don’t have the personnel. Every issue we face is down to the money. If money wasn’t an issue, you’d put cops everywhere. These inner cities with these big departments have a lot going on.
“We agree with it,” the six pillars. “We are already doing it. We are funding it but we are a small department.”
Below is the link for The President’s Task Force on 21stCommunity Policing