UPPER MARLBORO—Tension between police and citizens has been on the rise lately with multiple cases of police brutality spouting throughout the nation. Prince George’s County has had its own issues, but the county police have been building relationships with the communities in each district community to keep them at a minimum, , according […]
UPPER MARLBORO—Tension between police and citizens has been on the rise lately with multiple cases of police brutality spouting throughout the nation. Prince George’s County has had its own issues, but the county police have been building relationships with the communities in each district community to keep them at a minimum, , according to District II Commander Irene Burks.
Officers build these relationships by using what the department calls “Community Oriented Policing Specialists”, Burks said.
“COPS is a theory based on the police department working with the entities within the community that are the stakeholders,” Burks said. “That’s the type of mindset that we train any new recruits that come in.”
The units build relationships with local businesses, municipal governments and others, Burks said, to get connected with the community. Burks said she came in on a COPS grant, but the department has utilized community policing for at least 40 years. During that time, however, policing has changed.
“It went from officers on their feet (covering beats) to officers in cars,” Burks said.
COPS squads are assigned to particular communities throughout the county,” Burks said. By building relationships with the community, she said, the community-oriented teams are more able to prevent future crimes from occurring.
“For example, if we’re having break-ins at a particular apartment complex we can send officers out there all day long to take in calls and file reports,” Burks said. “But the officer, at the end of the day, turns in the report and go home. A COPS officer will meet with the community and they will meet with the management company. They will ask ‘Why is this community targeted for break-ins and how can we stop it?’”
Burks said COPS units focus on long-term security issues in the county’s communities. “Those COPS officers are here to specifically address complaints for the community they’re assigned to,” Burks said.
When COPS officers are selected, the interactions they have with other people are taken into consideration, according to Burks.
“I may see an officer who has a really good relationship with a shop owner or a community member,” Burks said. “Those are some of the things that I look for as a district commander. Someone who goes above and beyond to help a community member.”
Burks said thinks the community in District II–which encompasses Bowie, Glendale, Greenbelt, Kettering, Largo, Lanham, Mitchellville, New Carrolton, Seabrook, Springdale, Upper Marlboro and Woodmore–appreciates the job the community policing units do. District II has two COPS teams with no more than six officers per team, Burks said, including a sergeant and a lieutenant who oversees the team.
Some communities are more active than others, but having COPS squads representing the police department helps take care of many issues in different communities at one time.
“It’s really quite remarkable how useful it is to have a COPS squad,” Burks said. “Just that specific attention that a community gets from someone can alleviate so much fear and concern.”