The Georgetown Police Department held the first of many CommUNITY stakeholder discussion summits this month. The first was with the leaders of Georgetown faith-based congregations. As part of the department’s “CommUNITY” initiative to build strong relationships between the police and the community, Chief Wayne Nero began officially implementing his branded program, which will connect and extend leadership among seven stakeholder groups in the City.
“Georgetown law enforcement has always been serious about building and maintaining strong community relationships; now we’ve just given it a name,” Nero says. “There is a lot of good work that goes on here every day, and we want the CommUNITY initiative to highlight those events in order to strengthen public trust.”
The purpose of the program is to manage the department’s community engagement efforts in light of ongoing national conversations about policing.
“The reality is that we have a great deal of public support in Georgetown. Of those citizens polled recently in a community survey, 95 percent rated the police department services at good or excellent. While that is a great number, we can still improve,” Nero stated.
CommUNITY is a strategic framework that intends to strengthen existing relationships, meet and exceed stakeholder needs and expectations, and improve the public trust and legitimacy. In simpler terms, it will position the department and its officers as a hub in a community-based network of engaged and diverse community leaders willing to add value to our city.
“For instance,” Nero said, “We may want to invite a youth sports team or two to the Public Safety Center to practice with officers. We then invite local business to sponsor t-shirts or signs, provide food, or other stakeholder groups to participate with us; meanwhile officers provide tours of the Public Safety Center and talk to the kids about character and leadership. Or we can facilitate the connections for a faith-based or neighborhood event. I envision a network of collaborative leadership from across diverse groups that are willing to reach across conventional boundaries and work together to make Georgetown exactly what is has the potential to become…extraordinary.”
CommUNITY will have a network of people within each group: Neighborhoods, Youth, Business, Elderly, Media, Churches, and Social Services. Once leaders in those groups are identified or volunteered, the Chief plans to meet quarterly to discuss and get suggestions for everything from social media to education. “We had just one meeting with the faith-based congregation leaders and I have two pages of great feedback as to how we can better engage our community. I want to increase transparency, enhance how we educate and communicate with our citizens, and ensure we are strengthening stakeholder relationships,” Nero says.
The Georgetown Police Department, like many others, is working to create better dialogue while the nation rolls up its sleeves to solve problems together. “All through history, societies have had those members who have stood watch on behalf of their fellow citizens. In order to be successful in that endeavor we must maintain public trust and legitimacy. CommUNITY is about more clearly defining a relational network in order to ensure public trust is strengthened and maintained.
“So we are looking to do this in a programmatic manner that has the potential to be a model for other communities. There will also be a CommUNITY Advisory Group to the Chief, which will allow me to share information with select community leaders and actively seek and listen to their council, which has strong potential to add value to everything we do. These will be leaders who have strong community influence.
“When people know and understand why and how we do things, it changes their perceptions and allows for better communication and understanding,” Nero says. Chief Nero will be building on the successful Church Summit with additional group meetings across the various stakeholder groups. Look for previews and summaries of future networking meetings in The Advocate.
See updates and Q&A in this issue “Ask the Chief” page B5