The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Opinion

April 4, 2013

Editorial: Elwood policing plan full of good ideas

We’ve all seen the movies where cops are walking a beat in a crowded neighborhood, stopping to talk to merchants and josh with the kids while swinging a nightstick and whistling a tune. Every so often, he (they were always men back then) would hear about a crime and take off down the block. Everyone knew the familiar officer who patrolled their streets.

Those days seem to be gone. Now police ride in their patrol cars, safe from the outdoor elements but without the same human contact their forebears knew.

Elwood is trying to change this. As part of a new policing policy, getting officers back on the beat is a priority. Also, when the weather gets nicer, some officers will embark on a bike brigade.

The purpose of this is to get officers closer to the public so they can know who their neighbors are and the people can get to know the officers.

This is a good program, drawn up by police Chief Sam Hanna and Mayor Ron Arnold. It’s not like Elwood is a hotbed of crime, but like any small, rural community there are plenty of drugs and domestic violence. When people get to know their police officers, they’ll be less hesitant to call on them when needed.

Plus, as Hanna explained, there are new officers on the force who need to be introduced to the community to get up to a level of recognition the veterans already have.

These aren’t the only policy changes Hanna and Arnold envision. They want a police cadet program in the high school to get young people interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. There will also be a Hispanic outreach program to help people who have limited English skills. Elwood Police Department already has a translator whose language skills have paid off in some domestic violence incidents.

A citizen review board will be established to take public complaints about police actions. Finally, Elwood PD will have a drug-sniffing K9 for each shift.

This is a progressive move for Elwood that really puts the police in service of the people. The department is recognizing its two main sources of crime — drugs and domestic violence — and is making the Police Department respond by becoming part of the community.

That sounds like common sense, but most departments are detached from the public and people don’t see police officers unless there is a crime or accident to be investigated.

Hanna and Arnold’s plan aims to erase barriers between the police and public. That should give the officers a quicker response time when crimes occur and, most importantly, become good neighbors.

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