To new Bluffton chief, community policing is key

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 10, 2012 

The definition of "community policing" can change depending on whom you ask.

"There are some police officers who don't know what it means," said Sgt. Tony Charron of the Bluffton Police Department.

The department's new chief wants to change that. Hired in September, Chief Joey Reynolds aims to have all of his officers trained in his community-policing philosophy.

"Each police chief has their own vision of what they think it is, but it's really a very simple model," Reynolds said. "It's the idea that police are part of the public, and the community has to be part of the police so we can be successful in what we do."

"We can't arrest ourselves out of social problems," he added.

The foundation for community policing already is in place at the department. The Neighborhood Services Division, a team of three officers, has been around since 2009, funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant.

But Reynolds said he wants all 38 department members serving as community police officers, not just three. The neighborhood division could soon be tasked with training other officers, he said.

Officers need to learn more about partnerships and problem-solving, Charron said.

"When people tell you that community policing is riding a bicycle or going on foot patrol, that's a program," Charron said. "And when it's over, there's no great impact.

"In a partnership, each party has say-so, has input and has a stake in it."

That means police will be relying on community institutions, such as neighborhood watches and the town's Public Safety Committee, to develop solutions to crime problems.

Reynolds is drafting a strategic plan for the police department over the next few years that will outline specific steps. Town manager Anthony Barrett wrote in an email that he and Bluffton Town Council members look forward to discussing Reynolds' plans for community policing training during its annual planning retreat in March.

Kelli Normoyle, member of the town's Public Safety Committee and a retired New York City police officer, said she knows firsthand the difference community police work can make.

"I think it's the answer," she said. "When you have officers go out and deal with the community, eventually police aren't seen as the enemy, but as someone you can go to for help."

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.

Related content:

Bluffton's top cop pushes neighborhood police program, April 4, 2009

Bluffton taps private security manager to be police chief, Aug. 21, 2012

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