Powder Springs: “Integrity-based” policing

Moderated By Rick Badie

“Integrity-based policing” is the mission of the Powder Springs Police Department. To that end, the department and Cobb County police joined forces to present “Bridge the Gap,” community gatherings to discuss procedure and address residents’ concerns. Our lead column, written by the Powder Springs police chief, explains the importance of such continuing discussions. In the other column, a writer challenges us to combat bullying.

Bridging the gap in Powder Springs

By John Robison

Communication is a vital component of any successful relationship. For instance, a strong, healthy marriage will almost always be based on both spouses practicing open and honest communication. Parent/child relationships, work relationships and friendships are all more effective when consistent, honest communication takes place. This principle is equally important when it comes to the relationship between a police department and the people it serves.

Our mission statement says, “The Powder Springs Police Department exists to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Powder Springs by implementing integrity-based, progressive policing.”

To fulfill this mission, we must understand the importance of establishing trust-based relationships with those we serve. As a police department, we will always maintain the imperative function of protecting citizens and enforcing the law.

However, as we continue to “serve and protect,” we also need to create as many opportunities as possible to build and enhance relationships with our citizens. In light of the recent national spotlight on the perceived disconnect between police departments and their communities, this emphasis is more important than ever.

Our department, along with Cobb County police, has worked alongside several local churches to create community events called, “Bridge the Gap.” Our most recent Bridge the Gap session was held at First United Methodist Church of Powder Springs. The goal of these events is simple: open communication between police and citizens.

From the police perspective, we address “hot topics” related to policing, such as use-of-force policies. We have shared these policies with citizens and discussed an officer’s decision-making process when he or she is faced with the need to apply force, including deadly force.

We have also shared departmental procedures related to internal investigations of officers involved in use-of-force incidents, as well as the departmental processes for handling complaints against officers in general. These are just a few examples of several topics we have discussed, to communicate with citizens what we doand why we do it.

Moreover, attendees are encouraged to ask questions about concerns or issues they might have about our department or policing in general. Just as we want to be heard, we want to hear from those we serve. The hope is that open discussion about police-related matters will help build trust with those we serve.

These events are just one way we strive to communicate and enhance relationships with our community. Other examples include our neighborhood program called C.A.P. (Citizens and Police). Individual officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods to better meet that neighborhood’s needs.

We also offer two Citizen’s Police Academies a year that let citizens learn firsthand about police operations; citizens are provided training similar to that of a police officer. The academy benefits the community and the department because it builds and enhances relationships and creates a cadre of citizens better informed about the reality of police work.

Other programs include our annual Run for Food 5K, which raises lunch money for underprivileged children, and our mentoring program, which provides officer mentoring of local students. Business Watch, Chief’s Chat at McEachern High School and “Police and Pastors” quarterly luncheons are additional examples of how we strive to build and enhance relationships with our community.

We are fortunate to work in Powder Springs and Cobb County, where our officers receive tremendous support from citizens, businesses and local government. At the same time, in light of the national focus on police relationships with communities, we cannot take this support for granted. We must continue to work tirelessly to communicate in order to build and maintain trust with the citizens we serve.

John Robison is police chief of Powder Springs.

Time to combat child bullying

By Kathy Colbenson

Most of us can remember when we felt picked on at school or maybe, even worse, at home. We can remember how we felt: the shame, isolation, sadness and anger that resulted from a bully’s attacks. We may even think this experience is something everyone deals with and is a normal part of childhood, but it doesn’t have to be.

October was Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, and while the month is over, we must remember the fight against bullying continues for the more-than 3.2 million students bullied each year, and that we all have a role in winning this critical fight.

Bullying is a not a naturally occurring phenomenon; it is a learned behavior. According to Mental Health America, bullying is something children learn – sometimes when they are as young as 2 years old – from adults and other kids. Studies show physical bullying is high in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school, while verbal abuse remains constant.

However, the territory of a bully doesn’t end at the schoolyard. It now extends to the web. Mental Health America found 95 percent of children involved in cyberbullying were also involved in “traditional” bullying.

To combat bullying, we must all accept it is a real problem and not dismiss our ability to help solve it. Nationally, 1 in 4 students report being bullied, but only 1 in 4 teachers see anything wrong with bullying, so they intervene only 4 percent of the time. Repeat bullying causes 1 in 10 students to drop out of school nationally. In Georgia, almost 20 percent of students report being victims of bullying.

Intuitively, we know what happens to us as children matters. Advancements in brain science are proving there is a strong relationship between traumatic things that happen in childhood (like bullying) and our health and well-being as adults. When a child experiences stress, the brain chemistry changes in ways that can affect physical and mental health, and that impacts a child’s ability to learn. Experiences don’t have to cause physical scars to leave scars on a child’s heart and mind that undermine confidence and school performance.

The theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Awareness Month was “Let’s Stop Bullying Together.” There are many things we can do now and throughout the year. First, we can understand that children who bully and children who are victims of bullying share something fundamental in common: feeling powerless. Bullies “fight” against feeling powerless by lashing out wherever they can. Victims go into survival mode — “flight” or “freeze” — withdrawing or running away. So what is the answer?

As adults, there is one critically important thing we can do. We can speak up every time, firmly, and label bullying behavior as unacceptable. When just one person speaks up, it takes away a bully’s power. Speaking up is not to “attack” the bully, but to interrupt and label bullying behavior. Research shows that naming and labeling the behavior as unacceptable makes the greatest impact on the person being bullied.

Adults can also educate children. We must talk about what bullying is, how to stand up to it safely, and how to get help safely. We can help children practice using phrases and actions as tools — saying stop, using humor, saying we don’t believe in name calling, walking away and reporting bullying.

Most of all, adults must be role models for treating other people with kindness and respect. Children look to adults to learn what is acceptable. Adults can urge children to help other children who are being bullied by showing kindness and getting help.

Simply saying that bullying is wrong, whenever we see it, is more powerful than many of us can imagine. Just think of the impact that would be made if we all embraced this simple truth year round.

Kathy Colbenson is CEO of CHRIS Kids.

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