Innovative Community Policing | Matt Lennick | TEDxBillings

Translator: Fresa Jacobs
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard “I wanna help people.” Now that more than likely
is the answer you would hear to some version of the question: “Why do you want to be a police officer?” if you sat through any new hire interview, anywhere in this country. Now, I’m Matt Lennick,
and I’m a police officer with the Billings Police Department. I’m been an officer
for just over 11 years, and I’ve had an array
of different assignments. I’ve patrolled in a rural
county, and all over this city. I’ve led community watch groups, participated in the Adopt a Cop Program, and been a field training officer. But at the end of 2013,
I was given what I believe to be my most meaningful assignment yet. I was awarded one of the positions
of a Downtown Resource Officer. Now, this position allows me the ability to patrol within the
downtown District of Billings which encompasses approximately
a 200 square block area. Now, I do this using
a community policing model. Just so we’re all on the same page, community policing
is when I use a partnership approach to deal with certain issues. So, when I as a police officer
respond to a call for service or I realize it’s an ongoing issue, I do not just show up
and make the decision on my own on how it’s going to be resolved. I talk to everyone involved, we learn about the problem together, and then together we make the decision
on how best to combat the issue. Now, when I started,
I did the most logical thing possible. I went out there
and I spoke to as many people as I was going to be
working with as possible. I needed to know what the issues were, and what they expected me to do about it. Now, I won’t tell you that
I’m shocked by what I heard. But sometimes when you take
the time to talk to people, and learn how certain issues
affect them in their day to day life, what you hear can be surprising. Now, what they told me
was that the major concerns revolved around transiency,
street disorder, public drinking, loitering, and trespass; what we commonly refer to
as quality of life crimes. What I noticed was that the people
that were telling me about these things were beaten down, exhausted, and fed up with constantly trying to figure out
ways to coexist with these issues yet still feel safe and successful
within their businesses and homes. Now, I thought about it,
and I talked it over with my partner, Officer Nichols, who’s that guy
on the right there. And we thought, this can’t be so hard. There’s laws that are being broken,
and we’re police. Let’s go out and fight crime. And so we did! We went out and we arrested,
and we wrote citations, and we wrote warnings to everybody
that we found violating a law that revolved around
one of those quality of life crimes. And at the end of the year, we had written
618 open container citations, and we had arrested 474 people. But what was odd was that
as the year progressed, we were not seeing the impact that we thought
we initially were going to have. When we came to work in the morning, we were still getting the same calls
from the same businesses. And they were reporting the same crimes
involving the same individuals. It was then we realized we needed
to come up with a new approach to deal with this issue. Now, luckily for us, we had
an amazing team of individuals who were willing to help us
search the country for successful models
in dealing with this, and finding that key piece
that we had been missing. Now, keep in mind,
when we were looking for new ideas, we were not looking for ideas
that put more people in jail. We already knew that
that didn’t work for us. We had to deal
with this problem at the root. We had to engage the people
we were dealing with on the street at a whole new level. We had to help them, and in doing that,
we believed we would help ourselves. Now, we started focusing our efforts around the city of San Diego’s
Serial Inebriate Program, or SIP. Their program over the last 15 years has been successfully dealing
with a population of people that routinely suffers from alcoholism,
as well as other addictions. They do this by utilizing
a criminal charge for public intoxication as a way to incentivize people
into treatment instead of jail. They also use what’s called
a Homeless Outreach Team, or what they call, HOT. Now, that team goes out daily
and engages people on the street with the intent to link them into services before they’re dealing
with the police department for criminal behavior issues. We had the opportunity to go to San Diego, and got to watch SIP and HOT in action. And I can tell you the very
second that we realized, we wanted what they had for our community. We had walked into a room
in the Mental Health Building, with about 12 individuals
sitting in a group. Now, those individuals, when we walked in, were well-dressed, well-spoken,
clean, healthy individuals. But the group we were going to meet was currently enrolled
in their SIP program. We sat there and we listened
to these people tell us about how they lived on the street, how they battled their addictions, and how this program had saved their life. And that was it. That was how a motivated
addiction alternative program, or what we refer to as
MAAP, M-A-A-P, was born. And when we got back,
that’s when our work really began. The first thing we felt we needed
was an outreach program. Not having the resources
that our mentors have, we had, Officer Nichols and I, had to learn how to walk the line
between enforcement and outreach. Knowing full well that the
outreach could be just as, or more than efficient to us
in meeting our goals. Now, it was at this time
that our treatment partners provided us with an invaluable resource. They created the position
of a Resource Outreach Coordinator, or what we refer to as ROC, R-O-C. Now, our ROC is a licensed
addictions counselor that began riding with us
on the street in March of 2015, as well as operating an intensive
outreach treatment group, that he still runs today. Now, we quickly realized
that our ROC’s connections to the treatment world, and
his knowledge about addictions was part, was one of those key pieces that we had been missing. And as our program progressed
and as the months went on, our outreach part was responsible for getting 25 individuals
voluntarily into detox, with five of them moving through detox and into some level of treatment. Now, as our program
progressed even further, we partnered with our court system to build a sentencing structure. Now, this structure
increased the penalties of certain crimes,
as well as set guidelines based on the number of offenses
in a 30 day period. This allowed us to have the incentivization
that we were looking for, as well as build
consistency into our model. Now, currently,
MAAP only deals with 2 offenses because our State does not have
a public incapacitation law. We deal only with city ordinance
of open container, and the State Statute
for alcohol-related trespass. MAAP went city-wide July 1st of 2015,
and it currently looks like this. I know it’s a little hard to read,
so we’re gonna go over it. Any time an officer investigates
one of these offenses, it’s tracked in a tracking program that the police department shares
with our treatment partners. Now, at the time of investigation,
an officer must go back and look at an individual’s prior offenses to determine the proper course of action. At the time of investigating an offense, if it is less
than the offender’s fifth offense of one of these charges
in a 30-day period, the officer must allow
the offender the option of either speaking with a counselor
about treatment options, or receiving a citation. If the offense in that same 30-day period is the offender’s 5th or greater offense, they’re incarcerated. At the time of going in front of a judge and being convicted for either
an offense where an offender chose a citation, or it was
their fifth or greater offense in that 30-day period,
the judge imposes a sentence based on the sentencing guidelines that we’ve established for this program. So if you look at this model,
treatment is always an option. The only people sitting in jail are the ones that are not ready to choose treatment
as one of their options. Now, as this program has progressed, we’ve offered treatment
to a vast group of people who were in desperate need of help. We’ve had just over 60 cases
go through the court system, with less than 10% choosing to sit in jail versus attempt some level of treatment. Group is still held today, with an average
of 10 to 12 individuals that are active. And as the year progressed,
we watched our open container citations, and other calls for service be reduced. Now, more importantly than that, is this style of policing that allows
an officer the opportunity to truly be a link that allows a person
to make a life-changing choice. I know of no other model that allows an offender,
at the time of offense, to choose the course of action taken. Now, this program is seven months old and it’s already responsible
for changing people on all sides of the issue. One of our MAAP clients wrote us a letter and this is what he had to say: “I like coming to these
groups, we get things done. I could have taken the ticket, but that wouldn’t have solved
anything just to sit in jail. I’ve been to treatment
before but I like this one. Because we’re all addicts
and alcoholics looking for a better life. You’re trying to help us,
and I thank you for that.” Now, I’ve seen the change
in the individuals on the street. And I’ve seen the change in the people
working and living downtown And I’ve seen the change in ourselves. I think we’ve gotten back
to what we originally signed up for, when the answer to that question, ‘Why
do you want to be a police officer?’ was ‘I wanna help people.’ Thank you. (Applause)


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