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Community Policing Gets a Makeover

LONG BEACH, California, is sometimes considered the largest suburb in the United States, because of its proximity to Los Angeles. In reality, it is a city of half a million residents, with many of the problems of an urban area. The city’s police department has enhanced its community-oriented public safety (COPS) program to address typical urban problems including drugs, graffiti, gangs, shootings, and prostitution, with promising results. The program may offer valuable lessons for other communities.

Though Long Beach police have had a COPS program for years, it consisted of only a few officers from each patrol division, who liaised with neighborhood organizations and met with residents. The new philosophy has been for the police department to focus on “institutionalizing [COPS] practices at all levels of the organization, as well as the city of Long Beach and the city prosecutor’s office,” according to a recent article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.

For example, the city has transferred its nuisance abatement officer from city hall to the patrol bureau of the police department. With this officer now in the police chain of command, neighborhood problems get solved quicker and information is shared more readily. In addition, crime analysts, once centralized downtown, are now in police divisions, “helping officers review crime trends in their assigned areas and examine best practices for impacting those areas,” write Cynthia Renaud and Anthony Batts—respectively, director of the Long Beach Police Academy and chief of the Long Beach Police Department.

Building, fire, and health code officers have also integrated their services with the police. A team of code enforcement inspectors accompanies patrols in each police division. The city prosecutor has designated a deputy prosecutor to each division as well.