Now the Rockford Police Department is starting to catch up!

Posted: May 13, 2010 by parchangelo in Uncategorized

Wow, 1993!! That’s when the Addison Police Department got smart. Hinsdale is getting smart and Naperville has been smart for 28 years. So, what are we talking about that is so smart?

The Rockford Police Department talks about “community policing”, but it really has had little idea up to now of what can be done with the concept. Up to this point, the Rockford Police Department has really wanted to remain separate from the Rockford community. The Rockford Police Department has wanted to remain a mysterious entity, powerful but secretive and closed to outsiders and non-responsive to the community it serves. It really wants the Rockford community to be obedient to it’s directions but not to question any of it’s actions.

This attitude and method of operation has created distrust of the Rockford Police among individuals and neighborhoods who have had closer contact with their methods but no input with the department. A series of very public incidents, such as the Barmore shooting have further acerbated relations. The Rockford Police Department’s response in recent years is to send it’s officers into the neighborhoods to “community police” in order to acquaint them with the streets. But, community policing, by the Rockford Police Department is still a far cry from the department itself opening up to the community and becoming more accessible and thus open to more criticism. Plus, up to now, the Rockford Police Department has always had more money and no reason to question that continuing.

Other police departments in the state have had to do with less and long ago started to become practical. What they have done is to invite the public into their operations by training and using volunteers to staff programs and positions throughout their departments which do not necessarily require the use of trained officers.

Addison, for example, “…Now Addison has more than 50 volunteers doing everything from filing to greeting visitors. More volunteers work in the Community Emergency Response Team and on the streets with the Citizens on Patrol. They alert police officers to speeders and other suspicious activities.

Larry Stoll, the records supervisor who spearheaded the volunteer program, said volunteers in the records department have racked up more than 33,000 hours in the past 17 years. The village would have had to pay someone about $22 an hour to perform the same duties, he said.”

The quote is from a recent Chicago Tribune article, here, showing the uses which other statewide police departments have been making of volunteer help for years. Using volunteer help is a great idea; you would think that the Rockford Police Department had even heard of the idea from it’s previous contact with other cities. Sure, there have to be safeguards in place to protect confidentiality on information, but it is a start to the mentality of doing more with less and could go far in rebuilding community trust through familiarity.

Well, Rockford is slow, but it is finally beginning to get underway.  It has it’s first 16 civilians set up to start volunteer work this June (See article). Of course, the first jobs are very limited in scope, but this is something that will be difficult for the Rockford Police Department to screw up.

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