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Baltimore's "Uniformed Sensitivity in Action" (USA) Program Connects with the Community

May 24, 2004


The Baltimore City Police Department's "Uniformed Sensitivity in Action" (USA) program was designed to enhance the relationship between citizens and front line law enforcement personnel. The program is a collaborative training effort to facilitate dialogue on a wide range of issues. These include racial profiling, public perception, and the effect of negative police contact may have on the children in our communities during their early developmental years, as well as other subjects.

Members of the community are invited to attend weekly forums. Access to the USA program is granted to any member of the public with special emphasis on those who reside within the city, particularly each of the nine police districts. The training is for both police and citizens.

The USA program was created in October 2003 and implemented in February 2004. The idea for the USA program was born out of a program developed by the New York City Police Department in 1996 called the Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect (CPR) program. However, there are some very distinct differences that make this USA program specific to the Baltimore Police Department. There is a cultural diversity component, a Community Oriented Policing (COPS) videotape which provides a structured classroom guide; and the use of sworn members of the department to facilitate the dialogue.

The Importance of the Community's Role in Daily Policing

The USA program is conducted weekly and has been incorporated as a day of training for officers- annual in'service training. Officers attending the program begin their day by viewing a videotaped interview of two of the highest activity members of the department who have earned an exemplary arrest record while sustaining no substantiated civilian complaints. The officers interviewed explain the importance of the community's role in their daily policing efforts.

The officers also view a one-hour basic lecture on the meaning of cultural diversity in the United States. The department has enlisted the assistance of a renowned expert in the field of cultural diversity training who has granted permission to show this videotaped lecture to Police Department personnel.

The officers then join the community members in a common area for light refreshments and a "meet and greet". Both groups are then directed to specific classrooms that focus on each of the nine police districts in which they either live, or patrol.

Each classroom is under the supervision of a sworn member of the department (police officer, sergeant, or lieutenant) that has been chosen because of their perceived ability to handle the types of volatile dialogue that may ensue. A video tape produced by COPS, U.S. Justice Department entitled "Mutual Respect in Policing" is then used as the catalyst for group discussion that is referred, directed, and supported by the facilitator assigned.

O'Malley is head of a city that has benefited from a strong Community Affairs Policy. Any enhancement to the lines of communication between the community and the police department is valuable, not only as it relates to community policing, but also as community policing relates to homeland security. Information is intelligence, and Baltimore's citizens are a vital resource whose power must be effectively incorporated into the efforts of modern day policing.

The "Mutual Respect in Policing" training videotape utilized in the classrooms, as well as most other COPS training material, is a training resource available, free of charge, to all law enforcement agencies from the COPS, U.S. Justice Department. The non-profit Baltimore City Police Foundation supplies the funding for the refreshments that are served.

Lessons Learned

Law enforcement personnel are the best facilitators regarding generating constructive dialogue between civilians and other law enforcement personnel. By utilizing civilian personnel, an agency runs the risk of alienating the police officers, thus losing the much-needed -buy-in.- Additionally, the pleasant atmosphere complete with refreshments and professional learning tools demonstrate a willingness on the part of leadership to view the front line personnel as important to the success of this collaborative effort, as many realize that such treatment is often reserved for department members in the rank of Lieutenant or above.

For more information contact Joel M. Francis, Chief of Special Projects, Baltimore Police Department, 242 W. 29th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211, Phone: 410-396-2518, Cell phone: 443-250-9134, E-mail: joel.francis@baltimorepolice.org. This program and others like it will be featured in the next issue of the Best Practices publication, Best Practices of Community Policing in Reinforcing Community Trust: The Role of Community Policing and the Mayor in Building Trust in the Police Department and Better Engaging Citizens in Working with the Police, which is supported by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), U.S. Justice Department.