Harry Dolan, a retired police chief from North Carolina, on Thursday recalled a method of policing his grandfather used.
“Out-of-car experience,” Dolan said. “It’s about getting out of the car and talking to the people you serve.”
Dolan, now a consultant on community policing, was in front of more than 50 police officers from several local agencies “rediscovering the wheel” on community policing during a class at Jacksonville State University’s new Center for Law Enforcement Best Practices.
“We look at research-based evidence and talk about what used to work in community policing, why it does or does not work and if it does work why we aren’t still doing it,” Dolan said.
Dolan, along with state legislators and JSU and law enforcement officials, unveiled the center, which is intended to provide education and training classes for officers and the people they serve.
The center’s establishment comes as state and federal governments are pushing for more community police training because of the rise in protests against law enforcement across the nation in recent years, officials said Thursday.
JSU’s board of trustees approved the center’s creation in October 2016, and it was brought to fruition by a partnership between the school, the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office, state Sen. Del Marsh and state Rep. Randy Wood.
“This is part of the regional stewardship President Beehler encourages,” university attorney Sam Monk said Thursday, referring to JSU’s president, John Beehler. “Policing is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Law enforcement officials are confronted with problems indicative of changes in society. This is here to serve law enforcement in our region first.”
Richard Davis, head of the JSU criminal justice department, said in October 2016 that the center would spend its first year assessing the area’s policing needs, then build its training program around the findings.
Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said the center did complete a community survey.
“The community said they were angry with police, but that they wanted more,” he said. “That was curious to me. Really what they wanted, when we dug into it deeper, was that they wanted more community-oriented training and de-escalation training for officers.”
During the class on Thursday, Dolan made suggestions to the officers about small changes that can improve the community’s perception of them.
“When you’re at the Friday night football game don’t keep each other company,” he said. “Go hang out with a group of parents or teenagers. Talk to them.”
Anniston police Capt. Curtis McCants along with about 10 other Anniston police officers attended the class on Thursday.
“A lot of times police talk about the need to do more community policing, but never get to the why or how,” he said. “The speaker today, he’s taught us many ways to implement that right here in Anniston.”
McCants said he’s going to further encourage patrol officers to take five minutes to go into a convenience store and talk to a store clerk.
“Business checks are more than driving up and having a look around,” he said. “If there are a group of young people, we need to spend as much time as we can with them.”