Community Policing Program
Boston MA, Providence RI and Miami FL March 9th – March 19th, 2008
The cities of Boston MA, Providence RI, and Miami FLA played host to a group of thirteen senior police officers and policing professionals from Ireland and Northern Ireland in March last. The visitors were participants on a program examining US community policing practices and policy. The ten-day study visit was designed and delivered by the Irish Institute at Boston College and funded through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Irish Institute’s mission is to support the peace and reconciliation process on the island through the provision of educational seminars and programs for public officials, business leaders, and educators. This is the tenth year in which the Institute’s programs have received funding from the U.S. Government.
The 2008 Community Policing program offered participants the opportunity to explore policing strategies with respect to establishing an effective channel of communication between law enforcement and the community. Seminars and site visits focused on such topics as establishing a tradition of active and concerned citizenry, working with existing community organizations, working with the media, working with youth through the schools, balancing security and accountability, etc. The group comprised ten officers from the PSNI and Garda Síochána, and three individuals from civilian policing bodies including the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, the Ombudsman’s Commission (ROI), and the Garda Inspectorate.
The first portion of the program took place in Miami, Florida where the group spent two full days with the men and women of the Miami Police Department and a third day with representatives from both faith-based and secular community organizations. Participants heard directly from the Miami Police Department’s key personnel including Chief John Timoney and Commander Raul Herbello. They spent a day with the Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) and representatives from Narcotics, the School Resource unit, and Community Relations. Participants were taken on a guided tour of the city’s Allahpattah neighborhood and they visited several urban Miami community organizations including the Belefonte Tacolcy Center and Jordan Grove Baptist Church.
The program then shifted to Boston, where participants spent a day with key members of the Boston Police Department, the Ten Point Coalition and with leaders from several community organizations that have successfully established themselves as trusted intermediaries between the police and the neighborhoods they serve. Seminars included those on policing in immigrant communities, controlling gun proliferation, and earning the confidence of community members. While at Boston College, participants took a seminar on “Policing Diverse Communities” with Professor Jack McDevitt. Several members of the group went on an optional “ride along” with the anti-gang Youth Violence Strike Force on the Friday night.
On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, the Executive Director of Boston College’s Center for Irish Programs hosted the group at a special luncheon to honor two visiting Government Ministers from Ireland and Northern Ireland: Irish Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan TD and Minister of State for Northern Ireland Paul Goggins MP. Also in attendance were the Irish and British Consul Generals, the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána (Fachtna Murphy), Secretary General of Ireland’s Department of Justice, Mr. Sean Aylward and former Boston Police Commissioner and current Chief of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, Ms. Kathleen O’Toole.
Program participants next traveled to Rhode Island where they spent a very informative day with the Providence Police Department, an organization known internationally for its excellence in community policing. Colonel Dean Esserman successfully decentralized the department out into the city’s neighborhoods and as a result, Providence has experienced one of the largest nationwide drops in crime over the past five years. Program participants were invited to sit in on the weekly senior staff meeting. In addition, they met with leaders from Family Services of Rhode Island and the Institute for Nonviolence. A highlight of the visit saw the group hosted at City Hall by Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline. In the afternoon the group split up and went out on patrol with some of the department’s district officers.