By Leischen Stelter
Building partnerships is not a new strategy for law enforcement. Especially in the wake of ongoing budget cuts, police are focused on building as many relationships as possible. For example, the Baltimore Police Department recently stepped up a public-private partnership surveillance initiative to get more businesses to share their security camera footage with local police. In a similar vein, many police departments are improving their relationships with local retailers to battle organized retail crime (read about Target’s innovative ORC investigation model here).
But nowhere are partnerships more important than within the law enforcement community itself. It’s particularly important for police to work closely with officers in their respective corrections department to improve public safety, says Rob Stallworth, Deputy Chief Probation and a Parole Officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections.
“Police officers and officers in the Department of Corrections have a responsibility to work together for one simple fact: We’re both dealing with public safety,” he says. “We’re just on different ends of the spectrum.”
Probation officers and correctional officers have a lot to offer law enforcement, he says, namely intelligence and information. Often times, corrections officers gather information from inmates who are suspected to be involved in gang activities or other potentially dangerous affiliations like sovereign citizen groups and white supremacists. It’s important for these officers to share this information with police, since the issues that happen inside an institution will eventually flow out onto the streets.
Probation and parole officers in Prince William County are proactive about building relationships with police. For example, Stallworth has probation officers working directly with gang member suppression and intervention units. It’s not unusual, for example, for detectives to go on home visits with parole officers. There are also monthly intelligence meetings giving law enforcement and probation officers an opportunity to share information about investigations and people of interest.
In addition to working with local law enforcement, Stallworth said that his unit has formed relationships with the FBI, DEA, ATF and other three-lettered federal agencies. In addition, the department has also allowed outside agencies to access the department’s internal database, so if there’s a person on supervision, a detective can look into the system (in read-only format) and see who that person’s probation officer is, for example. Fostering these solid working relationships with police has been a critical component to improving public safety and reducing gang-related crimes in the region.