podcast

Episode 12: How the Sand Springs Police Force Created an Award-Winning Community Policing Plan

Keri Roberts

If you watch too much news, you may believe communities across America are at odds with their local police agencies. But on this episode of the Pinpoint podcast, we highlight one area where the agency and community aren’t just coexisting, but cooperating in harmony.

Chief Carter of the Sand Springs Police Department in Oklahoma has led the town in creating a community policing plan that aligns policing plans to the values of the community. In 2018, Chief Carter accepted the IACP/Cisco Leadership in Community Policing Award on behalf of the agency.

His agency proactively set a plan in motion after the 2014 Furgeson incident to ensure a safer, more vibrant community. Chief Carter gave us his plan, and how we can all learn from their strategy.

Chief Carter has been with the Sand Springs PD for over 26 years, and he was also a graduate of the 221st FBI National Academy.

The SSPD Community Policing Plan: A Proactive Plan

After the unrest from the Furgeson incident, and the DOJ report that followed, Chief Carter went through their policies at Sand Springs.

They didn’t have complaints about racial profiling, or any known problems, but he wanted to go a step further. He wanted to ensure nothing the SSPD policies, strategies, and tactics were consistently viewed as best practices for the community.

What started as a self-audit, later morphed into a paper. Then he thought, “Why don’t we release this to everyone to explain our positions?”

As it began to take on a life of its own, Chief Carter researched other cities that had employed community policing plans. These are particularly common in Ireland and Britain, so Chief Carter borrowed from their successes, put his own spin on it, and began to initiate community engagement in their plans.

When having the backing of the entire agency, community policing “should result in a reduction of crime, and better cooperation from our citizens in solving crimes and crime prevention,” he said.

We asked him how others could replicate the success of Sand Springs in their own agencies and communities. Here’s what he said:

Ask Yourself, ‘What Is Our Agency Doing Right?’

First, Chief Carter looked at their agency and asked, “What have we done that is positive, and how can we improve upon that?”

He realized they were doing things well, but there was a communication breakdown. When you consider the demands coming from Black Lives Matter and others, many agencies are already doing what is being requested. The problem isn’t usually lack of action, it’s lack of communication. So Chief Carter made communication a top priority.

‘Pop With a Cop’: Give the Community a Significant Voice

One specific program he started is called Pop With a Cop.

Quarterly, the SSPD invites the public to informal meetings where they share a “pop” (soda), and allow the community to drive a lot of the conversation. Further, the agency uses these meetings to develop an ever-improving policing plan. Currently, the SSPD is on their third successful iteration.

Proactively Discuss the Hard Topics, Before an Incident

“Why not have tough conversations before you have a high-profile incident?” — Chief Carter

Here’s a major reason the SSPD plan has been so successful:

Chief Carter doesn’t shy away from the tough conversations, and he doesn’t wait until a high-profile incident brings these conversations onto center stage.

He faces them, front-and-center, at their Pop With a Cop meetings, and by allowing the public to speak at formal hearings with the city council before the PD enacts a policing strategy.

When you allow all stakeholders (community, police, union, city council, etc.) to have a voice in the conversation earlier, you likely alleviate loads of controversy later on. Further, citizens aren’t surprised or criticizing the police force over tactics in a given situation when their input is what guided those policies and strategies.

Glean From Other Agencies

You can always use the successes of other agencies to uncover what will work best in your own.

Chief Carter used this report from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

“We correlated our policing plan with that report. We built on it, since they had already invested a lot of time into it.”

Share Ideas, But Remember Your Community Is Unique

Every agency and every community has their own culture, their own struggles, and their own successes.

Any community policing plan must be adapted to your community. Take ideas from the most successful organizations, and then make them your own.

This blogpost was taken from a Pinpoint podcast interview with Chief Carter of the Sand Springs Police Department.

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