Local police department considering restructuring staff - WNEM TV 5

Local police department considering restructuring staff, improve community policing

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There was once a time when Flint police officers were assigned to a beat.  Lifetime resident of the city, Gene Skelton remembers those days.

"They got to know the people in the neighborhood," said Skelton.

But with a reduced police force, the majority of the mini-stations where the local beat officers worked are shuttered. And with officers now dispatched from downtown, police and neighborhood relationships have suffered.

"We absolutely need community policing. It's how we interact, especially with the limited resources that we have," said Flint Police Chief James Tolbert.

Tolbert said he wants to get back to the old days. He said he doesn't expect to get additional officers anytime soon, but believes changing the way  his guys patrol the city would go a long way.

"You can't just sit back and wait for nothing to happen. You have to do something to make something happen," said Tolbert.

Last year, there were 52 homicides in the city. In several of those cases, Tolbert said people were hesitant to speak up. So he said assigning officers to work in districts and getting to know residents on a first-name basis could help break the city's crime cycle.

"If we want these streets to be, want the crime to decrease in these streets, we've got to help each other," said Skelton.

"It's called the collective advocacy of the community, where the people help us police that community," said Tolbert.

Tolbert said the first step in getting the community involved in police work is getting the police involved in the community.

"Just the presence of the police could keep something from going down, so I'm all for it myself," said Skelton.

Tolbert also proposed increasing the number of officers in the criminal investigations bureau hoping to work to solve more crimes.

Tolbert's next step will be to take the plan to the emergency manager and the city council for approval.

The potential changes could be put in action by July.

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