Over the last year, Ten at the Top has been convening law enforcement officials and local community leaders to identify opportunities for growing connections between our communities and those who are charged with protecting them.
The Creating a Safer Upstate committee is striving to create a safer and more united Upstate Region where all law enforcement stakeholders work collaboratively with community leaders to foster a culture that respects and values the lives of officers and all residents.
Community outreach was identified as a critical component in reaching that goal.
To better understand what is being done around community outreach in the Upstate, TATT recently conducted a survey in which more than 30 police departments provided input around their approach to connecting with their residents.
Illustrating that community outreach is an important component of their work, nearly 90% of the departments reported they have regular community engagement programs. Those that did not were typically smaller departments that still look for ways to connect to their community, but budget restraints made it difficult to have formal programming.
Among the programs specifically identified were school events and summer camps for local youth, citizen academies, participating in the annual National Night Out program and community cookouts.
Though nearly 90% of departments conduct regular outreach programs, only 15% have a specific item in their budget to fund these programs. Most depend on specific fundraisers or funds available within other department budgets to support outreach programs.
For most departments, the implementation of outreach efforts is a collaborative effort — 63% of departments spread outreach duties among multiple officers and 37% had one person leading outreach efforts.
Given that dynamic, it is not surprising that, when asked about challenges and barriers to successful engagement programs, lack of funding was the number one response; lack of manpower was number two.
It is definitely a positive that most of our police departments recognize the importance of connecting with community members on a regular basis. However, without adequate funds and dedicated manpower to ensure success, building those community connections will always be challenging.
As we look to the future, increasing funding and support that can help our police departments continue to grow their community engagement efforts without compromising their other duties is critical towards enhancing connections between law enforcement and our communities.
The Creating a Safer Upstate initiative is committed to helping police departments and community leaders increase outreach efforts, but success will be achieved only when local communities and those who have the ability to provide funding and man power recognize that dedicated support is essential to building the level of partnership between law enforcement and communities needed to truly foster a culture that respects and values the lives of officers and all residents.
— Dean Hybl, executive director, Ten at the Top
Ten at the Top is an Upstate-based non-profit focused on encouraging partnerships around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life in the 10-county region. You can learn more and participate in TATT virtual and in-person events through www.tenatthetop.org.
You can learn more about the Creating a Safer Upstate initiative and become involved with the effort at https://www.tenatthetop.org/creating-a-safer-upstate/.
Dean Hybl is executive director of Ten at the Top, an Upstate-based non-profit focused on encouraging partnerships around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life in the 10-county region. Learn more at tenatthetop.org.