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Update from Plymouth Police Chief Mike Goldstein
By Mike Goldstein
Plymouth Police Chief and Public Safety Director
Last fall, I received an email from a resident who asked a poignant question about how our officers interact with the community. More specifically, the resident wanted to know about our department's training and what guarantees I could offer her family to ensure they would not fall victim to unnecessary force. Plainly, how can they avoid being shot?
When I received this email, the media was saturated with stories about police use of force and the divide across America between race and law enforcement. It was not surprising that a resident would want to know how her local police department fit into the national discussion. So I invited the resident to meet with me – and thankfully, she accepted, which allowed us to start an ongoing dialogue.
Our conversation showed me that our department needed to more effectively:
- Reassure residents that the police department was a part of the community and not apart from the community
- Explore better avenues to establish stronger connections with all segments of the community
- Find a way to better promote the department’s philosophies, mission and programming
These needs are not unique to Plymouth. Police chiefs across the country hear from residents who raise questions and concerns from all perspectives. All are grappling with these difficult and complicated issues.
In light of these discussions, it is important to share a few ways the Plymouth Police Department is retooling our operations to better promote public trust, engage with those we serve and create a culture of openness. Some of our efforts dovetail with national efforts and some are specific strategies tailored to our community.
Ongoing Officer Training
Plymouth officers have been and will continue ongoing training in Crisis Intervention (mental health crisis), Conflict Management/Mediation (de-escalation) and Cultural Competency (recognizing and valuing diversity). Thanks to a new state law and funding, all officers in Minnesota will be required to complete this same training. Many departments, like ours, have already been meeting or exceeding these standards.
A New Model: 21st Century Policing
In 2014, a presidential task force brought together law enforcement representatives, community leaders, academics and others to examine how to build public trust between law enforcement and those they serve. The new model, called 21st Century Policing, identifies six pillars and associated action items:
- Building Trust and Legitimacy
- Policy and Oversight
- Technology and Social Media
- Community Policing and Crime Reduction
- Officer Training and Education
- Officer Wellness and Safety
Plymouth has embraced this model. We are working to continually improve policies and tactics by implementing the recommendations. Visit the 21st Century Policing webpage to learn more about our progress.
The Plymouth Police Department has revamped our department’s outreach efforts to create more meaningful connections with the community and more vigorously showcase the department’s mission, values and activities.
Increased Officer Engagement: Steady growth in Plymouth has continuously increased demand for police services. When officers are responding to call after call, they are not able to proactively engage with the community. To remedy this, we are creating a fifth patrol district and adding new police officer positions – two each year from 2016-2018. This will help reduce call loads and allow officers to make more proactive personal connections with those they serve.
Community Conversations: In Plymouth, we are holding ongoing conversations – and plan to do more. I have participated in a number of large community forums discussing police/race relations in various segments of the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. I appreciated those opportunities, but I left those meetings thinking, "Now what?" I did not want that to be the case here in Plymouth.
In lieu of a one-time event, I asked the resident mentioned earlier – the one who emailed me – to help expand my circle. She invited other interested community members to an informal meeting at a local coffee shop where we could talk in an open setting without a specific agenda. This has evolved into an ongoing, bimonthly conversation that has grown to include our mayor, city manager and the Minnetonka police chief.
This ongoing dialogue has created an atmosphere where community members can gather and talk about not-so-comfortable social issues in a comfortable and respectful manner. Due to the mutual trust and respect that have been established, we are able to engage in robust conversations and genuinely share valuable advice with one another.
For me, this opportunity is priceless. I have a new and trusted group that I am learning from – and more importantly, exchanging ideas with to improve our procedures and enhance our relationship with the community.
Of course, I continue to meet with other residents one-on-one when requested and am always open to meeting with local groups. Our community outreach team also plans to create more opportunities for interaction among street officers and community members by offering informal events like Coffee with a Cop. Please stay tuned for more information about these upcoming opportunities.