Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Men & Women in Blue - "Friends not Foes"

Community Member Question:

Though we need police to serve as our protectors of our families and possessions, they are often disliked until the need arises and their services are needed. In most cases many residents do not associate with the police unless it is at a time that their service is needed and in doing their job, many residents take it personal when they do get their way. How does the city try to mend the relationship with the public and get them to realize they are there for the good of all and they themselves are family orientated and not pushing authority?

City Manager Response:

First, let me say that I disagree with your premise that police are disliked within the community. My experience shows me that police are highly respected in the community and that most people understand they are doing a difficult job for the benefit of the community and for the safety of individuals that live, work and play in Fontana.

Certainly there are some individuals that have had a bad experience with the police, but I believe that this is the minority of individuals and it often has occurred at a time where a situation has taken place where police need to go into harm’s way and take control of a bad situation to prevent it from escalating. This is what police are trained to do and the absence of such influence, some situations would likely move from bad to worse. I also realize that no one likes to get a traffic ticket. But we have laws on the books for the protection of others and it is the police’s job to enforce those laws.

With all of that said, fear of authority often comes from a lack of understanding. The City of Fontana Police Department has many programs that allow its police officers to get out into the community to “bridge” such gaps in understanding. These programs include:

Area Commander Program
This is a program where a Police Lieutenant has assigned responsibility for an area of the City and acts as Police Chief for that area. Between 30 and 40 community meetings are held each year in various areas throughout Fontana. Issues of concern are addressed at these meetings and the Area Commander has the authority to reach into the organization to bring whatever resources are necessary to address the issues.

Fontana Police Volunteer Program
Community members can share in the success of the Fontana Police Department by volunteering for a variety of tasks from office assignments to traffic control at a major traffic accident. The Police Department has a robust Volunteer Program that enhances the level of service the department provides the community.

FUSD Police Chief Program
In this program, a Police Lieutenant serves as Police Chief for the Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) Police Department. This allows two organizations to effectively work in cooperation with each other to address safety needs at various school sites.

School Resource Officer Program
This program places an officer at each middle school in all of the school districts that serve Fontana. This officer works with school children and can target at-risk youth for intervention.

Fontana Police Explorers
Community members as young as 14½ years of age can join the Fontana Police Department’s Explorer Post. This allows them to work side-by-side with a patrol officer. Explorers enjoy working in the police station and in the field at special events

Faith Based Community Meetings
This is a regular meeting between the Fontana Chief of Police and faith based organizations in Fontana to meet, discuss and address issues of common interest.

Breakfast with the Chief
The Chief of Police, in partnership with the Fontana Chamber of Commerce, meets quarterly with the business community to discuss issues that directly impact them.

Community Assistance Program
This is a program undertaken as a partnership between the Police Department and Water of Life Church to bring resources together to address families and community needs within Fontana. The Community Assistance Program (CAP) coordinates resources from around the County and makes them available to individuals needing assistance.

Shop with a Cop and Fontana Santas
These are programs that provide gifts during the holidays to families needing support throughout the Community.

These are but a few of the programs we have around town to begin putting a face on public safety. We also provide Children’s Safety Fairs, Red Ribbon Breakfasts, Teen Fests, Volunteer Programs, Emergency Preparedness, Explorers and many other events and activities designed to encourage community participation in public safety programs.

We are blessed in Fontana to have a very committed and professional Police Department. The men and women who work in public safety are always available to assist Fontana residents. Next time you see an officer, take the opportunity to say thanks for a job well done.