Liaison program still building a stronger community
[Editor’s note: In 2006, Jo Ann Garner wrote an article for The Forum based on a full day ride-along with Shreveport police officer Mike Dunn. It was titled “An Eye-Opening Experience.” The following story is an update on Dunn and his role as a community liaison officer.]
In 2007, Mike Dunn stepped into the role of corporal and a community liaison officer in addition to his patrol duties. He remains assigned to Shreveport’s Allendale District No. 3, where he continues to fulfill his oath to “protect and serve.”
“When I’m on patrol, I’m in protection mode; in liaison work, I’m in service mode,” he said.
The liaison program is a product of the 2007 efforts of former Mayor Cedric Glover and former Police Chief Henry Whitehorn to bridge the gap and to strengthen the connection between the residents of Shreveport and their police department by finding ways to solve community problems and concerns across the board.
To accomplish this, an officer has been assigned to each district of the city and works alongside a property standards inspector.
Together, they coordinate their energies to address quality-of-life issues within the city. Since the program’s implementation, a number of projects have been added to help assist the liaisons build a stronger community.
Working with Operation T-Bone (Taking Back Our Neighborhood Everyday) officers target violations and respond to complaints from residents which range from tall grass to abandoned cars to drainage issues to disposal of debris and anything that is determined to be an eye sore. Every month a “property sweep” is performed in a district with the councilman from that district in attendance.
Visiting in schools and speaking with students is another area of community liaison work that these officers do.
Through the Officer Friendly Presentation, Dunn said he is pleased to be able to dispel the fears and doubts of the little ones in the Headstart Program.
“Some are terrified of me at first because they’ve only seen policemen take people away. I kneel down to their level, shake their hands, give them hugs and highfives and read books to them. They like seeing my badge and patch and all the gadgets on my belt,” he said.
During the Law and You Presentation, students from junior high to high school learn about their age of accountability and at what point they become responsible for what they do as well as those crimes that are usually committed within their age range. Summer camps have been set up for both children where they participate in activities such as basketball and fishing. They are counseled in regards to the choices they make for themselves and ways to maintain their self-respect.
During the holiday season, donations from sponsors throughout the city are used to fund the Shop with a Cop project in which each liaison officer chooses an especially needy child from his/her district.
The Operation Santa Claus project also makes it possible for officers to fill the wish lists of families in their districts.
Dunn attributes the success of the police department’s community liaison program to the dedication and teamwork of four neighborhood assistant team coordinators, a unit captain, a lieutenant, three sergeants, 12 officers and a secretary.
“It’s all good!” he said proudly. “It’s actually helping to break down the myth that we are ‘out to get you rather than help you.’ In the news, we get only an occasional small glimpse of the serving side of police work. Through this program, we are strongly focused on that side,” he said.
Nine years ago, Cpl. Dunn said he truly believes that police work is his calling and that he cannot imagine doing anything else.
Today he said he feels the same with gratitude for his colleagues, his profession, its rewards and responsibilities.