Police Department Wins International Award for Outstanding Community Policing

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The Columbia Heights Police Department Wins International Award for Outstanding Community Policing
The Columbia Heights Police Department was selected by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for the 2018 Leadership in Community Policing Award, marking the second time the department has won the honor. The first was in 2012

“It’s not just our award. It’s the community’s award,” said Police Chief Lenny Austin. “Policing is challenging in and of itself, but quite frankly it would be impossible without the strong partnerships and strong ties we have with our citizens, with other city departments, and with our government and community leaders.”

The IACP award goes to one agency each year, worldwide, in one of five population categories. 

The CHPD won in the “under 20,000 population" category for its successful work in community policing strategies and crime reduction programs, particularly its involvement in the City of Peace Neighborhood Center.

The City of Peace Neighborhood Center opened this June in the heart of the Columbia Heights’ Circle Terrace Neighborhood, an area that has seen high crime rates in the past but continues to make improvements through the combined efforts of residents, police, and community groups. The building was conceived of as a gathering place for under-served communities, where residents, city officials, and volunteer groups could meet and build relationships.

Planning for the Neighborhood Center began over three years ago. Near the beginning of the process, officers went door-to-door, survey in hand, to listen to the needs of Circle Terrace residents. The survey results showed that almost 90 percent of residents were looking for more interaction and a more engaging relationship with law enforcement. City of Peace Neighborhood Center web

The police and community development departments then reached out to state, county, and city stakeholders, the school district, the faith community, public works, recreation, and political and community leaders to develop a plan that would provide the neighborhood with a better opportunity to grow and invest in itself. The City of Peace Neighborhood Center grew out of that collaborative effort.

“It’s a whole team that made this happen,” said Columbia Heights Mayor Donna Schmitt. “I’m so proud of everyone involved.”

In 2012, the department won the IACP award for pioneering several community policing initiatives it still uses today. They were also a finalist for the award in 2015. 

“Law enforcement is often asked to respond to crime and disorder as a reactionary force, but to truly affect the outcome of public safety you must rely on the partnerships of an entire community,” said Sgt. Justin Pletcher, who nominated the police department this year for the IACP award. “To truly affect public safety we need to seek out the approval and understanding of the communities we serve.”

The Leadership in Community Policing Award will be presented to the Columbia Heights Police Department on Oct 9 at the IACP’s Annual Conference in Orlando. Travel expenses will be paid by the IACP to ensure officers can be there in person.

“We still have work to do,” said Chief Austin. “But I think this award tells us we are on the right track.”