Partnering with the Police

Does your nonprofit have a partnership with the police? If you answered no, think again.

Do you organize a 5K Fun Run to raise funds for your nonprofit? Does your annual gala rely upon the services of security officers? How dependent is your organization upon local law enforcement, simply for day-to-day operations? The fact is, all of us partner with the police in one way or another – only most of us don’t give it much thought. Below are some suggestions on how to foster this relationship in ways that very likely will support your mission, also.

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First and foremost: Get to know the names of the officers on your “beat”. Ask them to stop by for coffee or lunch sometime, so they can observe what you do. The police serve as the eyes and ears of your community: they may know of someone who needs your services, have heard of a person who is looking for someplace to volunteer, or even offer to tell your story to a potential donor!

If your organization holds meetings for volunteers and/or the community at large, be sure to invite local law enforcement officers as well. It not only keeps them abreast of your activities, but provides an opportunity for members of the community and the police to interact in an informal, non- threatening environment. It’s very likely that you will benefit from the officers’ knowledge of the neighborhood and its needs, as well as their perspective on relevant infrastructure strengths and shortfalls.

Community leaders and law enforcement officers come together to perform a Safety Audit.

Community leaders and law enforcement officers come together to perform a Safety Audit.

A nonprofit that has done this very effectively is Avenue CDC, whose mission is to improve communities by developing affordable housing and economic opportunities. Through its GO Neighborhoods program and with the support of LISC Greater Houston (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), Avenue CDC brought together business and community leaders, neighborhood associations, families and local law enforcement, spearheading a movement to identify and clean up portions of Houston’s Near Northside neighborhood that had fallen into disrepair through neglect.

After seeing HPD officers participate alongside volunteers during six, site-specific Safety Audits, residents have become more vigilant about reporting illegal activity and locating “hot spots” where crimes could occur. Since the Safety Audit Program began 2½ years ago, violent crimes in the area have decreased by a remarkable 25% and non-violent crimes have dropped 19%, outpacing city-wide decreases for the same period of 22% and 14%, respectively, making the Northside not only a more aesthetically pleasing place to live, but a safer place to live as well.

One last recommendation: Take every opportunity to recognize officers for their service. Try to include a special mention of the police department every time you thank your supporters, whether verbally or in print. By doing so, you will send a message to your staff, board members, and donors that they’re not working alone. And, of course, your clients will also benefit by having the chance to develop positive relationships with members of the police force.

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Richard Beeman