By Alex Kellum
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore City police officers have begun undergoing specialized training aimed at reconnecting officers with the communities they are patrolling.
T.J. Smith, the director of media relations for the Baltimore Police Department, said the community policing tactics being incorporated into the training process of new and veteran officers is designed to help createbonds between community members and their local officers.
“It starts with interaction, and we want to create positive interactions between police and people,” Smith said.
Community policing is one of the profession’s biggest challenges, according to Smith. He said that as a profession, it is the department’s responsibility to provide their officers with the tools they need, including the training and knowledge to go out and talk with people.
One of the ways officers are being trained, Smith said, is in their ability to go on foot patrol. Foot patrol is about getting officers out of their patrol cars and onto the streets, Smith said.
According to a police report in regards to community policing made on Jan. 1, 2016, officers are already required to complete 30 minutes of foot patrol per shift. However, officers have not been properly trained on how to get the most out of their time on patrol.
Smith said that Baltimore has begun incorporate foot patrol training into the curriculum for graduating officers, and that Baltimore was the first police department to standardize the curriculum.
“I think it’s safe to say we have really reignited the conversation and taken the bull by the horns,” Smith said.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a speech in February that members of city neighborhoods have been asking the department to employ foot patrol training and other community policing tactics. Davis also said that real policing is about being part of the community.
“We’re doing as much as we possibly can to communicate 24/7 with our community what’s going on with our police department,” Davis said at the time.
The department has identified areas where it hopes to establish permanent posts, Davis said. Specific officers will be assigned to these posts within their patrol area, allowing officers and communities to become familiar with each other.
Aside from foot patrols, Davis said the department is incorporating cultural lectures and youth-outreach programs as well. “The History of Baltimore” speaker series is designed to teach officers about many of the different cultures that mingle in the Baltimore community, according to Davis.
“We all should have a working knowledge of the gems that live here,” Smith said.
Smith said that the speaker series is important because it provides officers and community members with insight as to why things are the way they are. Along with understanding local cultures, other programs are aimed at working with the perceptions of the Baltimore Police through the eyes of the city’s youth.
Davis said that the department has also begun to focus on working with youth. The Outward Bound program in Baltimore helps pair officers with troubled youth in one-on-one conversation. The initiative is another step at improving relations between police and communities, Smith said.
According to the Baltimore police report from earlier this year, the department is working alongside the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office to create a plan on further engaging with communities.