Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships
Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) is a one-day, in-person facilitated program, which engages local law enforcement and community leaders in a dialogue to identify issues and collaboratively develop solutions that improve police-community partnerships. The SPCP program can be scheduled proactively or in response to a critical incident. It is designed to improve public safety by strengthening trust and developing partnerships between law enforcement and the diverse communities they serve. The program can also help local leaders address longstanding community distrust and other historical barriers which impact police-community partnerships.
SPCP Program Benefits
- Increases local capacity and develops local solutions to local problems
- Empowers local communities to solve local issues
- Supports local law enforcement’s ongoing community outreach and engagement efforts
- Develops trust and partnerships between law enforcement and the community
- Increases community capacity by training local volunteers to facilitate future small group discussions between key stakeholders
- Assists law enforcement and community leaders to develop a customized action plan that aims to improve trust and partnerships between local law enforcement and the community, and serves as a roadmap to implement tangible solutions developed in the facilitated sessions
- Creates an SPCP Council, which works closely with local law enforcement and city officials to implement solutions developed during the program, and advises law enforcement and city leadership on community relations issues
In August 2019, following a community forum, city officials and the Galveston Police Department (GPD) Chief of Police in Galveston, Texas, agreed to participate in a CRS Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) program in the Gulf Coast city. Racial tensions increased in the Black community in Galveston after police officers, mounted on horseback, arrested a Black man and led him in handcuffs by a rope behind their horses. The public compared the officers’ actions to patrols used for catching men and women who fled slavery. Community members expressed distrust in the police department for its handling of the incident.
Galveston community leaders organized a forum to allow residents to voice concerns and ask questions of a panel consisting of political candidates and local activists. Concerns raised by the 150 participants included the need for mental health resources, police training and procedures for arresting individuals with mental illnesses, and policies for filing complaints against GPD officers. CRS shared information about CRS programs and services at the forum to help reduce tensions and address its source. After the community forum, Galveston city officials agreed to conduct the SPCP program to re-establish trust with the community and partnership with the GPD. An SPCP planning group of five community members prepared for the delivery of the program. CRS facilitated the planning meetings and trained session facilitators.
In November 2019, CRS facilitated the SPCP program for approximately 100 participants, including representatives from the a local university, a local school district, NAACP, and a Hispanic American national civil rights organization. Other participants included GPD officers; youth leaders; clergy; business owners; Black, Latino, and white community members; and residents from the east, midtown, and west end neighborhoods in Galveston. The participants worked in facilitated small groups to identify the strengths of the community and areas of concern. As a full group, the participants prioritized law enforcement’s and the community groups’ primary concerns, including negative perceptions of each other, a lack of police training, and mental health, and identified potential solutions to these issues. During the program, program participants selected representatives from each small group to serve on a council to implement some of the identified solutions.
In January 2020, CRS facilitated the first SPCP council meeting, including Galveston city officials, the police chief, and the newly elected 2-member council. CRS drafted the rules of engagement to guide the SPCP council’s work, which the police chief approved and the council adopted. The council now operates independently, and CRS is available to support the council as needed.