Topic: Building Relationships with Communities of Color.
This is the Beat—a podcast series that keeps you in the know about the latest community policing topics facing our nation.
This is Tawana Waugh with the COPS Office. With us today is Captain Harold Love, commander of the commercial vehicle enforcement division and former commander of the second district of the Michigan State Police. Captain Love is here to talk with us about his work on racial reconciliation. Historically, Captain Love, communities of color, specifically the African-American community, has had a strained relationship with law enforcement. What efforts are underway in Michigan to bridge the gaps?
Captain Harold Love
First of all, speaking for the Michigan State Police, we recently have partnered with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Alliance, what we call our community service troopers. We form partnerships with them to work in our urban cities of Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac, Detroit, and Lansing, to get police officers involved in the mentoring that goes on with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Also, Michigan State Police has partnered with many local police departments in developing what we call TEAM training, Teaching, Educating And Mentoring, a school liaison project. This project was developed by the Michigan State Police years ago. We train not only our troopers, but many local police officers to go into schools and put forth a proactive effort to make schools and communities safer by promoting and understanding of social rules, the consequences of unlawful behavior, and students’ responsibilities as good citizens.
One other thing we’re doing is called the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy—again, targeting young people in the urban cities to bring them in with members of their local police departments, as well as troopers, into the Michigan State Police Academy. This is done every summer. We bring them in for one week, put them through a mini trooper recruit school, and allow them to build relationships with their local police officers, working on team-building skills, self-esteem, mentoring, and those sorts of things.
Can you tell us about the Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT)? Is this an example of a crime prevention approach through collaboration? What are some of the issues that this group has addressed that affect communities of color?
Absolutely, it definitely is a crime-prevention approach. ALPACT has been around in the southeastern Michigan/metro Detroit area since the late 90s. With the strong support of our two U.S. Attorneys, Barb McQuade in the Eastern District, and Pat Miles from the Western District, we’ve expanded over the last couple of years into pretty much every corner of Lower Michigan. We have a Flint-area, Saginaw-area, Grand Rapids-area, and Benton Harbor-area ALPACT now.
ALPACT is made up of groups from both government and non-government human rights organizations as well as members of law enforcement agencies. Members such as the NAACP, the Michigan Round Table for Diversity and Inclusion, Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Bangladesh-American, Asian, Indians, you name it. Every human rights organization is represented. Federal, state, and county government officials as well, come together on a monthly basis to build and develop relationships and talk about issues of police and community trust.
One of the major things we’ve taken on is working with our Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to develop culture competencies for law enforcement agencies or law enforcement academies. That came out of ALPACT. Also, we have had numerous discussions on issues of Tasering. As you know, that’s in the news pretty often, regarding the use of Tasering or Tasering policies that may be in different police organizations. We’ve had numerous discussions on those and we continue to work on efforts to create some type of a standard for police agencies to go by.
You are in a unique position as a law enforcement executive and as an African American. How do you navigate these roles? Do you feel you walk a tightrope, sir?
No, not really. Police officers work in all of our communities and are from all of our communities. I grew up in the city of Detroit and never wanted to be a police officer growing up. I had different types of interactions with police officers, but as I came of age and ventured away from the city, I found that being a police officer is one of the noblest professions that there is. I consider ourselves the guardians of our democracy; we not only enforce the laws but we protect the rights of everyone. As an African American, being a police officer, I never forget where I come from. I stay plugged in and involved with community organizations such as ALPACT. I also am very involved with the Better Detroit Youth Movement which is run by a young man out of the city of Detroit. That allows me to stay plugged into the community, doing school programs, getting involved in mentoring programs and that sort of thing. I don’t feel I walk a tightrope at all. I don’t see my job as being an “us vs. them” position. I’m from the community and I serve the community.
You know, that’s a perfect segue for my next question, which is how can community and faith-based organizations promote positive relations between law enforcement and communities of color.
I think everything we do in life is about relationships, building and maintaining relationships. From a public service standpoint I think it is critical that we develop and maintain relationships within the community in any way we can, whether it be partnering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters, whether it be partnering with different community organizations, or with our faith-based organizations. I think because of the audience that our pastors have within the community, it is critically important that we maintain those relationships with pastors. I think one of the things that comes out of building those relationships is having an understanding, promoting the philosophy and policing style of the local police department within your congregation and then, in the same way, having communications with police organizations about what the citizens or the members of your congregation want them to know—so that we have an understanding and, when things go bad, we already have relationships; we can reach out to one another and try to keep things from getting worse. I found that that works very well and a lot of local communities, local police departments, as well as churches, work that way and it works out.
What can law enforcement do to build trust within this community?
Well, I think many of the things that I’ve already talked about. Get involved with different community organizations, whether it be Big Brothers and Big Sisters, groups like ALPACT, or other community organizations, whether they’re youth-based or involve adults. I think it is critically important that law enforcement agencies get involved with those groups to build relationships and maintain those relationships. When we have those relationships, it’s easy to get an understanding of one another and build that trust that is necessary in order for us to do our jobs effectively and for the community to feel safe and trust the police.
Thank you so much for your expertise and your time, Captain Love.