For more than 14 years, it has been my pleasure to serve as the Chief of Police for the town of Oro Valley. I consider myself fortunate to work for an amazing community and to stand beside the honorable men and women of the Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD). Throughout my 36-year career, community policing principles have been the foundation of my role as a police officer, supervisor, manager and leader.
OVPD is a true community policing organization, and we understand that community policing is not a program or series of programs – it is a way of life. In Oro Valley, community policing is considered a core value, which underlies all programs and initiatives. Although the most visible aspect of community policing is with the uniformed police officers, it is the norm for all of our members.
OVPD’s approach to maintaining a community policing organization centers around five principles that define its philosophy: service, accountability, problem solving, neighborhood focus and decentralization. By ensuring all five principles are applied, the department focuses on working with the community in a “co-active” manner to assure issues are identified and addressed either before they occur (prevention) or immediately following incidents (mitigation). This approach also looks at potential threats and trends in the surrounding areas in order to take steps to shield Oro Valley from falling victim to those issues.
OVPD is an organization that exists to provide service. In Oro Valley, when citizens call for a police officer, they get a police officer. Not all calls for service require enforcement action, nor do they involve an arrest. Police officers mitigate problems, provide direction and guidance, help the injured or sick, educate the public, direct traffic, unlock car doors, look for lost pets and so much more. Service comes in all shapes and sizes. OVPD members never lose sight of that, and they recognize that residents pay their salaries.
Accountability is the personal responsibility OVPD members have toward their service performance. OVPD employees challenge themselves to provide the highest level of professional service, making the necessary changes when they fall short. OVPD personnel live by the motto of “Continuous Improvement.” Moreover, accountability also pertains to our community. I hold the community accountable and expect them to report crimes and suspicious activity. We are all in this together, and this principle illustrates the partnership that must exist between the police and its community. Paraphrasing, Sir Robert Peele said, “The people are the police and the police are the people.” This concept is illustrative of how we approach safety in our community.
Problem solving is our commitment to working with all members of the regional community to identify issues of concern and proactively address them. Our approach to this goes well beyond our town’s borders. This means we work with our law enforcement partners (local, state and federal), the business community, neighborhoods and schools. Our responsibility is to proactively problem solve and prevent it before it affects the safety and quality of life within our community.
Neighborhood focus involves breaking the community down into smaller areas. Each officer focuses on a geographical location daily to gain a greater understanding of its needs. They’re learning about what is going on within the businesses, schools, parks, neighborhoods and streets. They’re asking questions such as: Are we seeing problems or potential problems? Who can we contact to help resolve the problem? This principle is key to knowing the service needs and expectations of the community.
For all of this to work successfully, decisions must be made at the point of contact. Decentralization is the process of pushing decision-making down to the police officer during the point of contact with citizens. This involves hiring the right people and giving police officers the tools, resources, training and supervision to make the right decisions at the right time. Community policing cannot exist if officers are not able to engage with our community, problem solve and make sound decisions.
To learn more about OVPD’s policy and practices, visit www.ovpd.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
(Editor’s Note: Daniel Sharp is the Oro Valley chief of police.)