Community policing can bring the entire town onto your team. And working together means communication, relationships.
No matter the demographics of the department, no matter the socio-economics of the community, relating as people and neighbors changes everything.
When I became chief in Mooreseville in April, I wanted to ease tensions in this large department, so I met one-on-one with every member of my staff — sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for hours. It gave me an opportunity to hear from them what they thought was working and what wasn’t. We molded our department into one of trust, partnership and team-building. I have a true open-door policy. If they come in and sit, I will never turn staff away.
How does that bridge with community? When you have an increase in morale in the department, it increases productivity in the community. In fact I have the same open-door policy with the community. If someone comes in, talk with me no matter how long it takes. Be open, talk about things that are unpleasant, and talk about how to fix it.
It’s effective. You can’t argue against it. To reduce recidivism, you have to get to the roots of problems by engaging.
The people know me by name, which changes their perspective of me as an officer. They know the human behind the badge.
We push strongly to change the culture in law enforcement. That thin blue line must be transparent. See right through it. See what we’re doing. Nothing we do is secret here.
We eschewed normal channels of law enforcement and pursued creative methods. I use programs to get youth in the door.
While Chief in a previous town we started a step team, and cooking and etiquette classes. To see an officer trying to break dance was kind of interesting, but it worked. Once we had them engaged we had them.
The youth and their families related to us differently when they knew our personalities. It’s not, “There goes Chief,” but, “There’s my boy Chief.”
We saw a reduction in the negative activity they had been involved in. Young people inherently want discipline. They want respect and they want to respect.
This community is willing to engage with us and make this work. We let the community know we’re a working partner.
We have 88 officers protecting 40,000 people. I want to have 40,000 people protecting 40,000 people. It must be a partnership.
Damon Williams has been the chief of the Mooresville Police Department since April 2016. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice and Master’s Degree in business administration.