Community policing and citizen advisory board

Good evening, Chief. Thank you for doing this, for one. I think there’s a lot of agencies out here that would not want to be in your situation right now, taking questions from citizens. However, my question is it’s been theorized that one of the best and possibly worst things to ever happen to police officers is to put them in a vehicle with a radio. While this vastly increases response time to emergencies, it also tends to isolate the officers from their community. Would the Littleton Police Department ever consider requiring officers to spend a particular amount of time or prescribed amount of time outside of their vehicles, interacting with the community, talking to business owners, talking to patrons of businesses, knocking, even knocking on neighborhood doors? This would be something that every officer would do, not just a special squad. Additionally, would the city or the Littleton Police Department ever be willing to have a citizen advisory commission to assist in policy crafting? Thank you.

Littleton Police Chief Doug StephensChief Douglas Stephens: Great questions. I love where you’re going with that. You’re right. I think that as law enforcement has evolved over time, it went from the officer on the foot beat to the patrol car, and I think a lot of that went, as the officers on the foot beat got into the cars, you saw less officers because officer in the car kind of more calls than a person on a foot beat. So what came with that? That was the decrease in personal contact, right? Where officers became responders rather than proactive community greeters and everything. So when I was on the street in patrol, I loved being on foot, and I liked going and talking to folks, and it was great. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is, as I stated earlier, with 53,000 calls for service that we go on, our officers are very busy. Even in a low crime community like ours, our officers are fairly busy.

So I can’t say that I would ever mandate a policy where they would have to have a certain amount of time out of their cars. I can tell you we do highly encourage officers to do that, to get out and talk and meet with people and talk with people as much as possible. While I don’t restrict that to proactive units, like we have what we call the special enforcement team, which is the community based team as well, there are the officers you’ll see mostly on bikes, and then we have an ATV out in the parks and on the trails. But I love seeing the officers on the bikes. I think they’re very approachable. I think it really helps develop positive relationships with the community, much softer approach for us.

So I really like seeing those officers out there, and I know our officers, the ones that are going to patrol cars as well, I love getting out on foot and talking with folks as best they can. I think you see that in the support that we have from the Littleton community. Our officers are very well supported, and I think it’s because of that. I know it’s because of the decades and decades of work that men and women of Littleton Police Department have done in the past and currently to promote that relationship in those manners. The second part of the question [inaudible 00:35:11]. Thank you. Good question. I knew I brought you too for some reason. Yeah. Thank you. Great question too. I was previously an officer in a larger jurisdiction just North of here, [inaudible 00:35:22] and they had a community advisory panels, and I liked them, and I think they’re beneficial. We don’t have a formal opportunity for that yet here in Littleton.

But what we do have and we’ve had for years are tremendously wonderful Littleton Police Citizens Academy Alumni Association, which is a mouthful. So we just call it the LPCAAA, and they laugh at that. No one else does. But anyway, we have over a hundred members of that, active members of that organization who are involved in the daily operations of Littleton Police Department. As a matter of fact, those folks volunteered over 7,000 hours of volunteer time to our organization last year alone, and we involve them in interviews for our special assignments for our detectives ranks for things like that, for promotions. We have used them. When I became chief here in 2013, we rewrote the entire discipline policy, and we put a committee together involving, and it had a citizen community members on that as well.

So I value it. I think it’s important. We utilize them as best we can. If you want an opportunity to contribute to that, you can attend one of our two citizens academies we have each year. They’re 10 weeks long. We usually run them in the spring and fall. Unfortunately, we’re on COVID break right now. So as soon as we can, we’ll get those back up and running, and that’s a great opportunity to get a very detailed look inside the police departments become more involved in how we manage our operations.