Rebuilding Local Trust Through Community Policing

Fayetteville (NC) Police Department

Overview of Case Study

Across America, many neighborhoods are confronting the challenge of improving community-police relations. Police-involved shootings and aggressive tactics have increased attention on longstanding issues between law enforcement and communities of color.

Pillars of Community Policing

The Problem

For the Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) in North Carolina, a series of traffic stops and police-involved shootings during the late 2000s contributed to a culture of mistrust between the African American community and the police department. Additionally, violent crime within the city increased 48% between 2000 and 2010.

Community Policing Defined. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

The Analysis

In order to remedy Fayetteville’s escalating police-community tensions and appease concerns about violent crime, the FPD and city manager’s office commissioned reports from independent organizations to identify methods for improving policing in the city.

In 2010, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) analyzed policies and procedures to determine if racial profiling practices occurred within the department. Key indications from their report changed FPD’s traffic stop data collection process and led to the introduction of car cameras in patrol vehicles. 

In the same year, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) evaluated FPD’s policies on crime prevention, crime enforcement, and operational structure. PERF identified policing best practices within the FPD and made recommendations on enhancing the use of community policing and intelligence-led techniques to address crime and quality of life issues effectively.

While these evaluations took place, crime rates continued to soar. By the end of 2012, the violent crime rate in Fayetteville had risen to its highest level in a decade.

The Solution

Harold Medlock was appointed as Chief of Police in 2013. Under his leadership, FPD began the long process of restoring the pillars of community policing and addressing crime and community-police relations within the city

To achieve these safety objectives, Chief Medlock enlisted assistance from a wide range of partners with specific expertise, including the Diagnostic Center. Chief Medlock requested the Diagnostic Center’s help in two areas: (1) Strategies to address violent crime among youth and (2) Strengthening community-police relations.

The timing of his request coincided with two critical junctures in Fayetteville: historical highs in tension between the community and law enforcement, and enough momentum to create collaboration between the public and the police.

The Diagnostic Center coordinated with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) to respond to the FPD’s request. The Diagnostic Center was responsible for evaluating qualitative and quantitative data to develop strategies for addressing violent crime and improving community- police relations. 

Meanwhile, the COPS Office focused on evaluating internal policies and practices related to police misconduct. This coordinated effort offered the FPD a customized response to their request and ensured a tailored outcome that thoroughly addressed their needs.

The Result

Using its three-phase approach, the Diagnostic Center identified five factors that were contributing to the issue and recommended multiple data-driven strategies to FPD to counteract the effects. The recommendations included an all-media communication strategy, neighborhood collaborative policing projects, and a community policing and conflict management training course. 

Actively carrying out these recommendations included creating an engaging social media plan, initiating positive experiences with the FPD by offering internship opportunities for students, and developing collaborative projects to address neighborhood issues.

The driving force behind each solution was a desire to rebuild community trust in law enforcement through collaboration, transparency, and communication. The results reflected an improvement in cooperation between the FPD and the public and increased positive interactions on social media and at community events. The department gained greater insight into how communication breeds engagement, and throughout the process the community’s relationship with its law enforcement officers began to heal.

Ultimately, this collaboration provided the FPD with detailed analysis and solutions that forged positive change both in the department and the community. Download the full case study below, and schedule an appointment here for specialized solutions tailored to your organization.