Wednesday, July 6, 2022

OPD Releases Five-Year Plan, Requests Community Interaction

In the name of transparency, the Oxford Police Department released this week a comprehensive five-year plan to both direct officers to their goals and assure residents the department is working for them.

Oxford Deputy Chief James Owens, left, and Chief Joseph East chat at the police department.
Oxford Deputy Chief James Owens, left, and Chief Joseph East chat at the police department. Photo by Amelia Camurati.

Oxford Police Chief Joseph East learned during his time in the investigation unit that the best way to achieve progress is to set concrete goals to paper with corresponding steps to reach them.
“Through my 20-plus years in law enforcement, I like to know where I’m going, where our goals are and what we want to accomplish,” East said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it tells you we’re trying to achieve small goals in a five-year period.”
East and Deputy Chief James Owens have worked together for months to construct a five-year plan for the department, complete with a mission statement, goals and objectives.
East said the plan is divided into two pieces: one for the public and a more detailed version for OPD officers, with specific actions to help officers and the department achieve their goals. Much like a city’s comprehensive plan, East said he will revisit the goals in a year and change the strategy as the town grows and needs change.
The plan is broken down into three distinct goals: reduce crime, become a high-quality department for employment and prepare for the future growth of Oxford.
The heart of the five-year plan revolves around community involvement and interaction. Though police officers have the resources to analyze evidence and make the arrest, East said information from eye witnesses in the community is just as important and often leads to a break in the case.
“I believe that we are absolutely as good as the community is. We’re not CSI: New York or whatever; we can’t solve a crime in 24 hours,” East said. “We absolutely need the community behind us, and we need their support. We need them to trust us so we don’t have a situation like Ferguson, Missouri, and situations like that. We want to be open to everybody and we need residents to help us solve crimes.”
A major part of the plan is to take a second run at the Citizen Police Academy, a five-day course spread over two-and- a-half weeks with sections on vehicle stops, DUI investigations and criminal law as well as a day at the shooting range. The class, run by Owens, kicks off next month with a pilot program and will then be opened to the public.
“A large majority of people get most of their understanding about police work from television, and most of the time, it’s all distorted and put together and directed by someone who doesn’t know the field,” Owens said. “This gives the community the time to come in and experience firsthand what it is we do on a daily basis, and it gives us the opportunity to get feedback from them.”
Luckily, East said, Oxford has a lower major crime rate than many towns of similar size in the South, and that is partly due to the type of people who flock to the town. Though a number of college students often get into some trouble during the school year, the majority of crimes are limited to small offenses.
“The people of Oxford are somewhat different — they’re educated, they get along, everybody works together,” East said. “We want to keep bringing that in because it’s our community. It’s not a black community or a white community or a student community. We’re a community of Oxford and Lafayette County and we have to pull together.”
East said though the plan is not perfect, it’s a good start to get the police department moving in a positive direction of growth and allow the community to see concrete goals and how officers plan to accomplish them.
“We want to be transparent. We don’t want to have doors or windows that look locked here, like we’re this paramilitary organization that’s not part of the community,” East said. “We challenge our officers to be part of this community, and we want to be open to the community as much as we can. We’re an open door. We’re your police department. Hopefully they’ll open their arms and take us in.”
For a copy of the police department’s five-year plan, click here or visit the Oxford Police Department.
-Amelia Camurati is associate editor for HottyToddy.com and can be reached at amelia.camurati@hottytoddy.com.

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