The first element of working with a diverse population is teamwork. And having a diverse and educated workplace is key. "We reflect the community we serve," explains Kusmiss. "We have historically had a good complement of diversity in the department. We have very highly educated officers. At one point, we were the only agency to require a BA or BS." Madison also boasts a high degree of degrees. "We're one of the most educated departments," explains Joel DeSpain, Madison PD's public information officer. In the current academy class, 90 percent of recruits have a bachelor's or a master's degree, and the other 10 percent have an associate degree and are endeavoring toward a bachelor's. Twenty-five percent of Madison officers have a master's, and the department doesn't dictate what those degrees are in. "We feel when you look at achieving a diverse workplace it means getting people with all kinds of experience." Their degrees include disciplines such as special education, journalism, law, business, philosophy, production, as well as criminal justice.
Another key to teamwork is facilitating relationships within the community. "Each district has a community policing team," explains DeSpain. "They are able to tailor what they do to their community. We have a mounted unit and a K-9 unit that are both good ways to deal with younger people, and get them accustomed to talking with police officers and letting them know police officers are people they can trust. We use our community rooms quite often to invite people in to talk about things."
Eugene PD also participates in listening sessions. These sessions include 10-to-15 community members and 10-to-15 police employees from various divisions and levels. "They sit in a circle and each talks about their experience," McLaughlin explains. Communities including those of color, Asian-American, University of Oregon, Department of Youth Services and internal groups have utilized these sessions.
"These aren't short sessions," says McLaughlin. "They could take up to a day or a half day. It's a way to start discussions. The community outreach coordinator identifies people in the community who get invited. The framework helps build shared knowledge and builds new partnerships and relationships in a secure environment where everyone can talk."
Being a college town can have some additional challenges in developing teamwork. "(The students) question authority and institutional strength," says DeSpain. "These young people are learning and questioning and that is an important part of being a good community member. They keep us on our toes. We face crowd control and marches more so than a typical department. We are exceptionally proud of the fact that we are good at protecting First Amendment assembly. (We ask) how do we make this a win-win objective? How can you demonstrate your point to the public and how can we protect you?"
The second element common to these departments is transparency. In incorporating electronic control devices (ECDs) into its police force, Eugene PD utilized this element well. "When new tools are introduced, it requires a lot more public interaction," explains McLaughlin. "There was unprecedented community input with roundtables where people could receive information and share input and concerns. These went through a police commission." With this framework, the department put together a pilot project. "We put out a news release every time the ECD was activated until people weren't covering it anymore and it was very transparent," McLaughlin says. "When we do those things, we maintain transparency. That's a process that in another town might occur quicker with not a lot of public input. In this community, the public input was necessary."
Kusmiss agrees transparency is important, but also points out limitations. "If you take the mystery out of things, then it minimizes the rumor and innuendo and conspiracy theories, but we do have to follow the framework of law and personnel rules," she states.