Webinar presenter Chief Sheryl Victorian answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Relational Policing: Using the Power of Connection to Build Trust. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Have police agencies connected with, perhaps, like, their local alcohol and drug prevention coalitions? Is that another relationship that we could maybe be building to gain both community intel, but also to build relationships within the community?
Sheryl Victorian: I think any community stakeholder can improve our cities, and move our cities forward in addressing some of the key issues. Because we all experienced different issues. Right. When I was in Houston, Harris County was number one in alcohol-related deaths. So, partnering with organizations, such as that when you know you’re having those type of types of issues and bringing them in, whether it is internally for your officers, or whether it’s bringing them into a positive interaction program, is an awesome idea. In inner-city Waco, I’m just letting you know that I am meeting with everybody that I possibly can, as I learn about this city, and learn the issues of this city, to make sure that I’m able to make those connections, to solve some of our community problems, and move our city forward.
Audience Question: Are there any other places where we can learn more about relational policing?
Sheryl Victorian: Unfortunately, no. This is it. I mean, it’s not a new concept or anything. It’s just something that our chief brought to us or years ago that I fell in love with and just felt like it needed to be branded. And I know the City of Houston still embraces the concept of relational policing, but it hit some of us harder than it hit others, and we just ran with it. And I just think as a leader, I just need to spread the word. And so, yeah, maybe that’s an article, is something that needs to come up on some research that we need to start doing on our relational policing like you said but outside of this, not that I know of.
Host: You know, it sounds like something that maybe you need to go back to your alma mater and see if there’s a grad student or a master’s candidate or a doctoral candidate looking in search of a topic. That might be a great place to start.
Audience Question: So, then, it sounds like relational policing is both a managerial approach and organizational strategy, and it also sounds like it has tactical tentacles as well things that our officers should be doing too, is that the right interpretation?
Sheryl Victorian: Absolutely. This is a department-wide philosophy that everybody needs to understand that this is how we can build trust. That every contact is an opportunity for us to build trust and keep in mind that being transparent, being real, being honest, letting people know what we’re going to do, make sure that we’re respectful and that we’re engaging like we’re engaging with one of our family members. And don’t get me wrong. Ya’ll know some encounters with police, we have to de-escalate the situation, but there’s still a way that we can engage and connect and build that trust in doing so build emotional capital and accountability. Our officers, everybody needs to know and understand this, which is why I thought it was important that we brand it and we put it on the elevators that we put it in the police garages where people can see it, so they know it and keep this in mind when they’re interacting with our public.
Audience Question: Has TREEAT influenced or changed who or how you recruit?
Sheryl Victorian: Oh, that’s a good question. And I hadn’t even thought about that. But I can see how we can very well put this in interview questions or scenarios based on our recruits. So, Houston is different from Waco, the City of Waco is 140,000 in population. The City of Houston is 2.4 million. You know, 266 officers in Waco, 5,400 police officers in the city of Houston. Well, I get to sit down with every candidate before I offer them a job in the city of Waco. And so, this is a great opportunity to kind of ask about those guardian warrior mentalities based on relational policing. So, thank you for that idea. I’m not sure if I answer that question but that’s it.
Audience Question: Is there are a way to infuse TREEAT into the Academy as well? Does Waco, have its own academy, or how does that work? Could it be infused through the curriculum from day one?
Sheryl Victorian: So, we have an original academy with other law enforcement agencies in the area, community college. Every class, the most recruits in the class, in Waco —– since we were the largest area agency here in Central Texas. But I know the Houston Police Department on day one. When the cadets went into the academy, Chief Acevedo was in every class on their first day. And guess what he was talking about, relational policing. He would present to the class almost an hour, he talks about other things, as well, but he spends a great portion of his address on the first day of our cadets and recruits are relational policing.
Audience Question: You’ve talked about social media playing a role in relational policing. Can you expand on that? Do you have a social media team? Do you have a civilian? And how does this work when some of our agencies are just so darn small? It’s like they’re kind of trying to cobble things together. Talk to us a little bit about that social media aspect.
Sheryl Victorian: Yeah, so that’s a great question. So, when I was in Houston, our chief encouraged us to be our own social media and to help tell that story. And if you go to my social media page, it is Twitter where I put things out. Every time our community outreach teams, our police officers, were doing something great, I told the story. I would push it out there. I show the pictures. I’ll let the community know where different events that we were having, were happening. I was really, really engaged. And I’m not as engaged now, just been really busy, I have a lot of pictures that I need to post from things that we’ve done. But we do have an officer who’s in the role of public information officer right now. Who is telling the story and understands that messaging out the good stuff, it’s going to have to come from us ——-? Waco’s been really good in messaging out the good stuff to me. But I know a lot of agencies look for those sensational stories that ——— divide. But, yeah, we have to have either an individual page, if you’re in law enforcement or any other form of criminal justice, make sure that you get permission from whoever your legal department is, your chiefs or your directors, and when you’re doing something good, or your team is doing something good, see if it’s okay to take pictures and push that message out there and let the world see us doing great things.
Audience Question: You were talking about all the different tenets of relational policing and that they’re all important. But sometimes, some are more important than others at different times, can you explain how those tenants may evolve or change in their importance or priority depending on the situation?
Sheryl Victorian: Let me try to think of an example. So, let’s say the release of the body-worn camera. We know that that is a topic of controversy. Depending on what’s happening, also involved shootings or mistreatment of a citizen or something. When we’re talking about releasing body-worn camera footage. Do we have a policy? Do we tell them we will release it in so many days? Do we tell them why we’re not releasing it? So that transparency may be playing a bigger role at that moment. Then everything else, because people want to see, okay, yeah, we saw this amateur video footage, but we want to actually see what the officer said and what the officer did from his perspective. So, at that point, transparency may weigh heavier than anything else. So, when I say at times, it may be different. You know, one might stand out from the others, then I meant something like that. But for the most part, for the whole philosophy of relational policing to build trust, to work, we will need all of those in order for us to build trust and earn that trust in our communities.
Audience Question: What are ways you see relational policing and this approach overlapping with mental health support for our officers or even for our community members? How did those two concepts go together?
Sheryl Victorian: Wow, that’s a great question. We know that a lot of the calls or many other calls have a number that we respond to now have a mental health component. So, our officers receive unlimited training or crisis intervention, but we have so many community organizations that specialize in what we do not specialize in. So, it’s important that we partner with those mental health organizations, and that we learn from those mental health organizations how we can incorporate social work or one of someone from that industry into what we’re doing in policing to help us best respond to those calls using these principles of relational policing. What is being transparent in our actions when we come across mental health and —- Regardless of anybody’s mental state, we need to always make sure that we’re being respectful. And in that engagement in Houston, I know we had a homeless outreach team that was very proactive in dealing with our homeless population. You know, homelessness is not a crime, but a lot of people in the Houston area that were homeless had some mental issues, and officers always show genuine concern when engaging with them and attempting to find them resources. So, I just think that partnering with our mental health professionals, and coming up with ideas to best address, and respond to some of the needs of our communities, would be helpful. And, yes, that these tenets can help both of the organizations address the issue.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Relational Policing: Using the Power of Connection to Build Trust.