If members of the Lima Police Department and the Lima Area Black Ministerial Association are to sit down and talk about police tactics – as the ministerial group suggested last week – let’s hope both sides come to the table with open minds.
The center of contention boils down to the Police Department’s use of the “pinpoint policing” strategy. While ministers told the 150 people at a rally last Sunday that they are not against the way police do their jobs, they asked for a better explanation of how police go about “pinpoint policing” and why there is less emphasis placed on community policing.
Pinpoint policing is a strategy that was implemented in May 2009 by former Chief Greg Garlock and has since drawn accolades from current chief Kevin Martin as well as Lima Mayor David Berger. The concept sees police identifying a high crime area and creating a constant presence in those areas to shut down the criminal element. That’s typically done through increased car patrols, but also can involve police walking the streets and talking with residents or even going out on bike patrols. It has been used throughout the city in areas where there have been a high rate of burglaries or break-ins or there have been complaints about a high rate of drug activity.
We have little doubt pinpoint policing has helped curb crime in those areas targeted; the concern is the fine line that can be drawn between enforcing the law and harassing the citizenry. One of the tactics used by police involves strict enforcement of traffic offenses such as stopping motorists in the targeted area for slightly speeding or rolling through a stop sign. Police maintain the constant traffic stops are needed to exert their presence, and note that warnings are typically handed out in place of tickets. Yet, when law abiding citizens are being pulled over for minor traffic infractions that are normally overlooked by police, rightly or wrongly, it can viewed as a form of harassment.
For pinpoint policing to be successful, the Lima Police Department has said there must be three elements: citizen complaints, crime mapping to determine hot spots, and a willingness by residents to get involved. That last area is where police and the ministerial association need to work to find common ground.
The ministers want to see a return to community policing, which was put in place in Lima during the mid-1990s . It saw police sub-stations being placed in neighborhoods, with officers walking the streets and getting to know the neighbors. Few people will argue with the effectiveness of the community policing program, however, it was funded with federal money that has since gone away. Those funds allowed the police department to have staffing levels in the 90s. Today they’re at the high 70s to lower 80s.
A door was opened last week for further discussion between the two groups. They need to address the issues raised about pinpoint policing – why it’s being used, how it’s used and where it’s been used. It is an effective form of crime fighting, but one whose implementation raises legitimate concerns.