The United States Conference of Mayors: Celebrating 75 Years

Boston Hosts Second Community Policing Peer-to-Peer Exchange

By Kathy Amoroso

On February 5, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Police Commissioner Paul Evans hosted Leominster Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella, North Adams Mayor John Barrett III and Louisville County Judge Rebecca Jackson for a one-day Peer-to-Peer Exchange on Community Policing. Peer-to-peer exchanges are a key part of The U.S. Conference of Mayors' Institute for Community Policing program funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), under which mayors and police chiefs from cities that wish to implement or expand their community policing efforts are paired with mayors and chiefs who have offered to be host cities, describing their community policing efforts.

The one-day session was attended by over 50 people, including Lawrence Chief of Police John J. Romero, North Adams Commissioner of Public Safety E. John Morocco, North Adams Director of Police Craig Millard, Pawtucket Chief of Police George L. Kelley, Stamford Chief of Police Dean Esserman and many other police and community representatives from throughout the New England area.

The exchange opened with a welcome breakfast and discussion at the city's Parkman House. "Everyone in this city is busy working to prevent crime," Mayor Menino told the group. "We truly collaborate with our community partners and put our money where our mouths are by financially supporting the work that these community groups are doing. They are our eyes and our ears and we work in true partnership -- one that we have been developing for the past five years."

Commissioner Evans showed a video detailing the success Boston's "Operation Nitelite" and "Street Workers" programs have had in turning the lives of countless gang members around. The exchange then opened up for questions and lively discussion among the participants.

Next was a tour of Boston's new Police Headquarters and state-of-the-art crime lab, followed by panel presentations by "Operation Nitelite" partners including representatives from the police department, probation department, community centers, "Street Workers" program, faith community and schools, outlining Boston's widespread and comprehensive partnership effort to fight youth crime.

"I'm not going to tell you that this stuff is easy," Tracy Lithcutt, Director of the "Street Workers" program told the crowd. "I attended over 100 funerals in my first year on the job. But we're changing the way we do things around here. Years ago the police were doing a lot of 'stop and frisk;' now they're in the schools leading violence prevention programs. And we're finding jobs for these kids...it's the key to our success. You've got to give these kids hope…make them see the opportunities for their future so they can see a way out."

"It was the Morning Star incident that turned things around for the faith community," Reba Danastorg, Executive Director of the 10 Point Coalition explained to the participants, referring to an evening when gang members shot at the crowd attending the funeral of a rival gang member at Morning Star Baptist Church in Boston. "We had to take a long hard look at ourselves and say it's time for us to do something about this. Until then we had figured that the violence was 'out there' and was someone else's responsibility. The Morning Star incident was a wake-up call to the faith community that we hadn't been doing our job." Now the 10 Point Coalition, a partnership of numerous religious organizations within the city of Boston, collaborate with the police department to try and reach gang members and other at-risk youth.

The exchange ended with a final question and answer session to all available panel members after the final presentation.

For more information on The U.S. Conference of Mayors' Peer-to-Peer Exchange on Community Policing Program, or if you are interested in hosting or participating in an exchange, please call Kathy Amoroso at (202) 861-6723.