The “Father of Modern Policing” Sir Robert Peel’s principles to guide policing focuses on the value of cooperation between the community and the police. For Albuquerque, New Mexico, tensions among police and the community were rising after a series of officer involved shootings, several involving persons in mental health crisis. Change was necessary.
To reform police practices, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. While monitor teams poured over policies and practices related to use of force, police training, specialized unit operations, crisis intervention, and general supervision and management of officers, another essential element of reform was underway – engaging the community.
Officer-involved shootings and other uses of force damaged trust and communications among the police and the community. To repair this, and allow the community to be a formal voice in the reform process, the city sought to establish six Community Police Councils (CPCs) for each APD area command.
IDEA Analytics worked with Steve Rickman, an associate monitor for both Albuquerque and Chicago (IL), to train community members on establishing councils. These trainings include the development of by-laws, communication strategies to engage the public, and organizing the public to have an active voice in reform.
In 2015, initial community meetings were represented by highly engaged citizens seeking more communication and information from their police department. Yet these citizens were just a handful of the community that had been impacted. More voices need to be heard and engaged in reform efforts.
To build the capacity of the councils, we held sessions on the weekend to educate community members on local government processes such as establishing their membership, their by-laws to define quorums and other processes. We focused on how the initially engaged community members could leverage several resources to reach out to other residents to diversify their board members. The representation of residents of all ages, genders, and ethnicities were necessary to ensure the all voices are heard. Furthermore, brainstorming sessions with the community members allowed them to identify additional persons and/or groups that should be engaged during the creation of the councils to bring additional skills and needs, like social media marketing and outreach to youth groups.
Organizes and oversees voting on issues
Facilitates and deliberates in council resolutions
Collates and presents information to APD about community concerns
Represents the Council for all CPC functions
Communicates with members and stakeholders
Interfaces with APD and elected officials
Sets schedule and locations
Leads facilitation for meetings
Actively recruits members
Advertises CPC primary objectives and activities
Solicits feedback and ideas from community
Overtime, the CPCs began to put together the organizing skills and processes delivered during these trainings and strengthened their outreach, eventually expanding, and diversifying their membership. In spite of the COVID-19, the six CPCs average participants of 60-70 per month each. Monthly meetings include the Chief of Police and other officers to listen and communicate with residents about key community concerns.
The CPCs reach and growing influence contributed to the passage of a city ordinance permanently establishing them. This ordinance provides residents with an ongoing opportunity to work directly with their neighborhood police leaders in guiding community safety strategies and programming, providing a national model for community engagement.