DeKalb County’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety Cedric Alexander recently returned from a trip to Ferguson where he said he spent time talking with the city’s Police Chief Tom Jackson. Alexander’s trip was on behalf of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, of which he is the national president.
“He [Jackson] and I had a chance to talk and he shared, certainly, some of his early concerns and missteps he felt he had made,” said Alexander. “After the shooting, it was clear to me there was a separation between the police department and the community and they did not have a very strong relationship.”
He said part of the law enforcement organization’s mission is that it considers itself a conscience of law enforcement. Alexander said when there are communities and police in conflict, the organization helps them work together and seek justice.
As it pertains to local law enforcement, he said community-oriented policing should be at the forefront of every police department across the country.
“It is at the forefront of what we do in DeKalb,” said Alexander. “We have great working relationships with the community, clergy, schools, civic and neighborhood organizations and crime watch groups.”
Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura echoed that sentiment. Yandura said it is very important to develop a positive relationship with the entire community. He said his police department is scheduling more formalized training within the next few weeks for the entire department, which will enhance that which is already covered.
“This cooperation is needed to promote the safety and well-being of the entire community,” said Yandura. “The police department can’t be everywhere and needs the eyes and ears of the residents to report suspicious or criminal activity. It’s the neighborhoods where these positive relationships and trust coexist that generally show less crime or when crime occurs, enables us to solve it quickly.”
Also during his Ferguson trip, Alexander said he spent some time with a number of the city’s community leaders, church clergy and elected officials and shared ideas on how the police department and community could work together going forward.
“We talked a lot about how the community overall had not felt respected or supported by their local police,” said Alexander. “You have to have a spirit of communication, community meetings and activities together in the community. So that when you have events that are of major concern, the police and community have a history of working well together and they can fall back on that relationship.”
He said that was a basic fundamental for him as the leader of law enforcement in DeKalb.
In Brookhaven, Yandura said the 1-year-old police department has worked hard at establishing the trust of the city’s many residents, which he said is paying off now that they are getting better reports of what is happening in neighborhoods.
A few of the community outreach initiatives include neighborhood meetings, National Night Out, apartment barbecues, a Citizens Police Academy and a Shop with a Cop program for underprivileged children, he said.
“Finally, we made a concerted effort during our start-up to hire officers to reflect the diversity of the community we serve,” Yandura said. “I feel that we have accomplished this, which promotes the trust and effective communication needed to enable us to work together.”
Alexander said at the end of the day, both the community and law enforcement want the same thing — to be safe. He said it was important to have a mutual level of respect between the community and law enforcement.
“Despite the unfortunate death of Michael Brown, we hope Ferguson becomes a community we all can learn something from despite where we are,” he said.