As an intern with the West Orange Police Department, I have been splitting my time between the Records Bureau and the Policy and Training Bureau. In both units, I have been most impressed not by the cases on which I am working, but by the mentality of the personnel and the principles behind the police force’s operation.
Populated mostly by civilian employees, Records is in charge of storing, recovering, and distributing information about every incident to which police have responded. In any given year, Records processes about 45,000 reports, ranging from traffic incidents to identity theft to homicide. Each report is born digital and written by officers, but is printed, stored, and redirected as necessary by Records. The maintenance of both paper and digital copies of hundreds of thousands of reports, some dating back to the 1980s, requires incredible care and organization (and what seems like every box and file cabinet ever manufactured). To me, this reflects the police department’s awareness of the importance of its work. The personnel understand that every crime committed in West Orange impacts individual civilians and the town as a whole, and that by diligently recording these incidents, the police can provide evidence to convict criminals and appropriate information and support for victims.
The Policy and Training Bureau ensures that all police department operations meet or exceed federal standards. So far, I have helped the bureau prepare for upcoming officer training sessions, and participated in policy meetings to assess the way patrol officers record their daily activities. However, most interestingly, I have organized and reviewed the material that new officers must learn before they join the force. This content is equal parts technical and interpersonal: officers learn about specific offenses, penalties, and policies, but also study social psychology, community relations, leadership, and communication. This duality is reflected throughout the police department. Personnel at every level take continuing education courses in cultural sensitivity, just as they take courses in radar use or biohazard containment. There is even an entire unit of would-be patrol officers dedicated to public relations. These officers attend fairs and other public functions, and organize casual meet-and-greets with civilians. They dedicate their time to building trust and rapport between the police and the public. By engaging and fostering relationships with civilians, the police department works to eliminate crime in a preventive and minimally forceful way.
Tension between the West Orange Police Department and West Orange residents is minimal. This is not achieved or maintained with brute force. Every member of the police force, from the officers on patrol to the civilians in Records, works carefully, diligently, and sensitively to complete each task. I have learned that effective policing is psychological: it is defined by strategic thinking, meticulous organization, and close, cooperative relationships.