By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. —
After a tumultuous 2012 featuring two late-year fires and an unsteady beginning to 2013 with an armed robbery of a local convenience store on March 21, city officials have decided they need to “step their game up.”
In an interview with the Herald Bulletin, Mayor Ron Arnold, Police Chief Sam Hanna and Public Information Officer Jeff Howe revealed several new community policing initiatives aimed at efficient use of police resources and introducing a young force to the community. Initiatives include downtown foot patrols, bike brigades, a police cadet program, Hispanic outreach and introduction of a citizen review panel.
Recent incidents have increased the urgency for the changes, but Hanna and Arnold said they’ve been working on the measures for the past year.
“The thing we’re seeing is that the community might not be looking at police with trust and familiarity, and we want to change that, especially with our young people,” Arnold said.
The revamped approach features several plans to bring law enforcement in closer contact with the public. Starting in April, EPD will use downtown foot patrols during each shift. While it’s not a new idea, Hanna said he wants the foot patrols to focus on meeting with residents and businesses during downtime.
“What we’re hoping this will do is raise security, make employees at businesses feel a little safer at night, and we also want to introduce ourselves to the community,” Hanna said. “We have some older officers, but we’ve also got a lot of young guys that the residents aren’t as familiar with. We want them to get to know the community.”
To that end, EPD will also start a spring bike brigade, which will focus on patrolling parks and school areas around the city. Hanna said the department is also expanding its K-9 program and will have a police dog working on every shift.
“We live in a city where drugs are a problem, and we have the ability to have a drug dog on every shift to help with that; it’s a bonus,” the police chief explained.
Hanna also said assistant chief Scott Bertram is working on connecting with high school students who might want to join law enforcement. He said the department wants to hire local people, and working with students is the best way to build a funnel for the department. Bertram will run a weight training and physical fitness program for high school students who want to get involved.
Arnold said he’s taking measures to reach out to the Hispanic community in the city, too. EPD has been working with John Davis, a volunteer bilingual officer, who is about to be hired part-time to help communicate with Spanish-speaking residents. Hanna said Davis has already been helpful on a number of cases, including three domestic violence incidents.
The city will also introduce a citizen review panel, a three-person board that will field any complaints citizens might have concerning police officers. Arnold, who will appoint the panel, said the purpose is to make sure anyone reporting a police officer won’t have to go to the police and feel intimidated or pressured to recant.
“I want to make sure our citizens will have an independent panel to review their complaint and investigate it so it can be properly brought to the chief’s attention,” Arnold said.
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Community policing features
Features of the Elwood Police Department community policing initiative:
Review panel criteria
Three members will be selected for the Elwood Police Department’s citizen review panel. Interested citizens are encouraged to contact the office of Mayor Ron Arnold. Here are criteria: