I attended last night's Town meeting hosted by The Safety Zone with Panelists from a number of our VIPD's Team. It was refreshing hearing our new St. John Deputy Chief Darren Foy own the long-time standing personnel issues within the Dept. specifically in regards to St. John. I truly appreciated this because without identification of a problem there can be no solution. This community needs to hear that there will be sincere attempts to change the lack of quality and professional Police service that has been lacking for way too long. This is the first time that a Deputy Chief has listened to the community and taken responsibility for the poor police service.
Our VIPD's former practice of sending officers to St. John as "punitive measures" has REALLY created the lack of motivation and problems of service here. Sadly, once again, St. John been put in the position of being controlled by Leadership from St. Thomas-resulting in it getting the short-end of the stick in service. Thankfully, Deputy Chief Foy says that this has ended.
As clearly expressed in this meeting, there is a serious trust issue between the Police and the community it serves. This trust issue could be more quickly resolved with a few basic changes in how individual officers behave on St. John in their day to day interpersonal interactions with the citizenry. The responsibility of initiating a new kind of relationship ultimately falls on the shoulders of the "frontline" officer. Each officer needs to pass every citizen in each interaction and offer direct eye-contact, a smile and a "Good Day". What does this do? It says "I am approachable" and here to serve you and your safety. It opens the door to "Police and Citizen Partnership" the basis of true Community Policing. Citizens should feel that if they have a problem, the Police is their ally and ready to support them in problem-solving. More than a "Police Officer" our police need to be "Peace officers" because ultimately their job is to uphold the peace and safety of the people of this Island.
When we experience officers doing this kind of "Policing," community trust will naturally take hold and rapidly grow. We need officers who will "walk the walk" and role-model ideal behavior in our community including: stopping at stop signs; using turning signals; listening to public concerns with an intent to help; refraining from total involvement on their own cell phones; patrolling on foot and initiating positive relationships with those they serve; being respectful to all; and rewarding individuals who work with them when crimes are committed (as opposed to behaving like they are being "put out").
If we are really to partner with our Police in making our communities safer-it is these officers who must reach out to us-the community it serves. The most important kind of Police service training needed, is in the area of self-awareness and problem-solving. If only officers could understand the incredible importance of their role and position- they would take great pride and find ample motivation because of the impact that they can have in their simple day to day interactions with people! This is where their real power is-not in their badge or their gun.
And what do we need to do as a Community? We need to take every opportunity to approach officers in our interactions and say "Thank you so much for your service to our Community"- this small gesture has a big impact on officers as they too must feel that they are being appreciated. Applaud those officers who do a good job in any manner that you can- through phone calls; letters to newspapers and even calls to their Supervisors. To those officers who seem to be "putting in time" and refuse to "serve"? Take down their names; badge numbers and make reports. Officers who continue to abuse their positions of power by neglecting to serve the public or help promote trust should consider finding a different line of work. We have a lot of "catching up" to do to get our St. John Community and VIPD working together as a "Team" against the crime elements that exist. It is only through working together -and creating a trusting relationship between police officers and community members-that this can be done. Thank You Deputy Chief Foy for your leadership and commitment to improving our VIPD. You will find that many St. Johnians care as you do and are most willing to support our mutual goals-Public Safety and Community Policing.
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