Community policing isn’t just a buzzword thrown around by the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department (PSD). According to Chief Jack McManus and Deputy Kevin Brown, it’s an aspiration the department is trying to live up to – and it starts with training.
In a presentation to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association’s Public Safety Committee Tuesday, McManus and Brown outlined newly revamped training efforts that are being put in place at all levels of the department.
“We are trying to find out what is important to this community and train on that,” McManus said.
Broadly speaking, community policing is distinct from traditional policing in its focus on building relationships with the surrounding community. Its main goal is to assist the public in establishing and maintaining a safe and orderly social environment, with community input. The goal of traditional policing, on the other hand, is solely to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals.
The Path to PSD
According to Brown, new members of the department come in as Public Safety officers. They receive two weeks of orientation by the department’s in-house trainers, then they must take and pass a New York Police Department (NYPD) certification exam to become special patrolmen. Special patrolmen (and women) are not authorized to make arrests.
The next step for new officers is a 99-hour course to become peace officers, enabling them to make arrests. This course consists of PR-24 baton training, tactical training, OC pepper spray training, and additional CPR training (CPR, in police talk, stands for courtesy, professionalism, and respect). Then they are deputized as peace officers.
Brown said, “Right now we have 38 officers, and 17 are not peace officers.”
The peace-officer training used to be outsourced, but there is now an in-house trainer, a helpful addition for a department that also mandates yearly, and bi-yearly recertification in many subjects, including Article 35, defined by Brown as, “use of force and handcuffing techniques.”
Beyond the Requirements
But in addition to the required training, McManus and Brown say they are working to add additional training in community-focused areas. “Therein lies the challenge, to do extra and above that,” McManus said.
“We started this in January,” Brown said of the additional training. “I was a training officer in the NYPD for the last ten years, so I am certified as an instructor. What I did was retrain all of our staff.
“There were a few incidents that happened in November and December on Roosevelt Island, and I wanted to get everybody [aligned]. I retrained [our officers] in the use of force, especially important in a small community like Roosevelt Island. Additionally I gave them some tactical training, which I had done recently with the NYPD, just so we are all on the same page. This is a small community and that does inform how we go forward with our training.”
Brown says his mission is a “focus on having all of our officers be aware of what’s going on on the Island, [and] not being oblivious.”
Citing the January 12 assault and the community’s concerns with public marijuana smoking, Brown said “I want the community problems to be the officer’s problems. [The officers] don’t go to the meetings. So I thought the best thing for us to do is to bring the information to them.”
“We’re not going to wait for an issue to come up before we do certain training,” said McManus.
Brown emphasized the need for continuous training. “The way they worked it in NYPD, and I think that it worked, is we trained every day. The last 30 minutes of your day, you’re getting training, whatever the hot topics of the day are, I’m giving it to them. And that’s what we’re doing here.
“I like that the officers know what’s going on in the community. We know what has to be done, and I want to share it with them. The [community] meetings mean nothing if the officers don’t know and can’t follow up on [what was discussed]. For example, after school lets out, there’s an officer by the seawall, and on Main Street, to make sure the kids get home.”
One byproduct of the community-PSD partnership, according to Brown, is found property. Brown said, “I’ve never seen so much found property. People bring in everything.”
In the month of February alone, there were 27 items turned in to PSD, including debit cards, state-issued identification, iPhones, perishables, watches and wallets.
“We get property,” said Brown, “because a lot of the people in Public Safety know the residents or they know how to track them down.”
Of other community services they perform, Brown says, “We notify people who leave their lights on on their cars. We come up and we knock on your door, ‘your lights are on.’ A lady who fell last week, we went and checked up on her. We called her son so he could look out for her. We do get involved in a lot of people.”