Our Santa Cruz Police Department has a longstanding commitment to Community-Oriented Policing. Many of the progressive programs and policies employed for decades are recommended by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report, which was finalized in 2015.
“Community-Oriented Policing helps us align the department’s values with those of Santa Cruz,” Deputy Police Chief Rick Martinez said. “Policing isn’t just about making arrests, it’s about partnering to find long-term solutions on issues affecting our city.”
The core Community-Oriented Policing philosophy was first enacted over 20 years ago under the direction of then-Police Chief Steve Belcher. Until then, SCPD had been a traditional police department focused on response times and making arrests. Rising crime rates coupled with tensions locally — shootings, immigration raids, out-of-control beach parties—and around the country, including the 1992 L.A. riots, led Belcher and SCPD to reassess their policing model.
SCPD initiated Community-Oriented Policing by realigning the strategies and practices of its officers to engage and collaborate with residents and business owners to reduce and prevent crime, build trust and create mutual respect.
Community-Oriented Policing also brought focus to the root cause of issues. Rather than repeatedly dealing with the same call for service, officers became responsible for solving the problems the calls reported.
Early Community-Oriented Policing initiatives in Santa Cruz included:
- Specifically assigned beats so officers could get to know neighborhoods and residents could become familiar with them.
- Launching the first Citizen Police Academy classes to offer transparency about how policing works in Santa Cruz.
- Installing dash-cams in patrol cars to record police work.
- Establishing civilian oversight for enhanced accountability.
- Partnering with other agencies—such as the City Parks and Recreation Department, State Parks, the State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and more—to find creative solutions to problems.
- Starting Neighborhood Watch programs, led by the Community Policing Coordinator, who was Officer Jim Howes.
For more information on our Community Oriented Policing, please visit: http://cityofsantacruz.com/departments/police/community-oriented-policing-tradition.