The idea of community policing is not new, but as seen in both Pullman and Moscow recently, the concept continues to thrive and even evolve. We feel that’s a good thing for residents in both cities.
The idea of community policing first took hold in the 1980s in the United States. The concept, at its core, is based in the belief that law enforcement officers are more effective when working daily in the same physical neighborhood or among the same community of residents.
This idea of community policing has grown in the 40 years it was first implemented — from keeping officers in the same areas to getting them out of their patrol cars and more recently, allowing communities they serve to help set priorities within the force.
Pullman police unveiled last week a new electric bicycle program that, according to officers on the bikes, already has changed the game in the city. True to the concept of community policing, the bikes promise to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.
In addition to providing officers increased mobility, agility and adaptability on the streets, — allowing them to reach emergencies more quickly — the e-bikes provide an avenue for connecting with the public. According to Scott Patrick, the department’s school resource officer, the bikes are conversation starters that lead to friendly dialogue between the public and the officers.
In Moscow, something a bit more subtle yet likely more significant recently took place with regard to community policing. Moscow Police Chief James Fry, sensing the mood of many in the community and realizing more education and groundwork would be needed, recently withdrew a request for a drug-sniffing dog from the police department’s budget.
Two weeks prior, Fry was firmly behind spending money on the dog, which would be able to detect marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and potentially cocaine.
The drug-dog idea, especially the inclusion of marijuana, was met with pushback from several City Council members. One of those members said she had “never seen such an outpouring of emails about a specific issue or idea — all of which were in opposition (to the drug dog.)”
Fry, for his part, still believes the drug dog is a good idea and said he will use the next year to educate the council and residents to alleviate concerns about how and when the dog would be used, He plans to bring the request before the council again for the fiscal 2021 budget.
“Idaho law says (marijuana) is a violation of the law, and I’m not going to step around that,” Fry said during a budget workshop. “I don’t think you hired me to step around that.”
Fry is right. It’s the police department’s job to enforce laws, and residents should want its officers to do no less.
Additionally, a good community police force — like we have come to largely expect in communities like Pullman and Moscow — becomes more effective and successful by, strategically, letting the community it serves shape some of the priorities for enforcement. It sure feels like the police chief has done just that.
Fry may not be completely pleased, but if it’s truly time for a drug dog in Moscow, he now has the opportunity and the platform to convince the council and the community of that.
Educating the public with the purpose of getting buy-in will make the community safer and trust in its police force stronger.
Those are two ideas we should all buy into.