Monday, June 29, 2015

Coming out of the storm - A SafeGrowth Summit

Announcing 2015 SafeGrowth Summit

The post Great Recession years in this first part of the 21st Century carry great change, much of which fires the turbulence we see around us this summer.

A US President sings a eulogy following a racial massacre. American cities simmer in urban discord following police shootings. Broken windows and stop-and-frisk remain incendiary police tactics. And in Britain and Australia, quota-driven policing is seen for the sham that it is.

It's hard to imagine a more apt time to remember Haruki Murakami's words from his book Kafka on the Shore.

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

In response to the turbulence we just launched a three-pronged reply:
  1. An upcoming SafeGrowth Summit,
  2. A new SafeGrowth website with a network of SafeGrowth advocates, services, events, and answers
  3. A  police recruit training book by Gerry Cleveland and myself - You In Blue - outlining the shape of  21st Century policing. 
Check them out. We can choose our way out of this storm. That's what it's all about!

Blackstone Mountain Lodge, Alberta - Venue for 2015 SafeGrowth Summit

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Toronto tops safe cities index - but should it?

Night in Toronto - Rated best?
GUEST BLOG: Kallan Lyons is community development coordinator for a Toronto non-profit organization that provides affordable housing and support services for the homeless. In 2013 she spent six months in Ghana as a media trainer at the African University College of Communications. Prior to that she was contributor to the editorial board of the Whig Standard, the daily newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, and a reporter for Queen's Television. She has also blogged for Journalists for Human Rights.  


This year The Economist ranked Toronto one of the best places to live in the world, topping the charts in the 2015 Safe Cities Index.

I’ve called Toronto home for the past three years and recently moved to a newly gentrified neighbourhood in the west end. Crime rates have dropped and the local mall and subway station have been revitalized. Dufferin Station commuters now boast about the beautiful glass building and well lit buses that give their neighbourhood the glam it never had.

Interior wall foyer of new Dufferin Subway station
A 2009 survey revealed that 93 percent of Canadians feel safe from crime, and thus immune to crises in the United States such as the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

Yet in 2012 an armed man opened fire at a downtown Toronto mall killing two people and injuring several others. One woman who escaped was a young American who blogged: "Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I'd experience a violent crime first hand." Tragically she was killed in the Aurora shooting just months later, a fate she almost encountered in Toronto.


In 2013 Toronto again made national headlines. In my own recently gentrified neighborhood police shot to death an 18-year old Syrian man – Sammy Yatim – while he was alone on a streetcar after he drew a knife. What resulted echoed the aftermath surrounding the shooting in Ferguson. Torontonians erupted into a public outcry. Support poured in for the victim as faith in those who safeguard our community dwindled.

The result was a second-degree murder charge for the officer who killed Sammy Yatim.

This all emerged during a controversial "carding" program – contact information cards filed by police after street checks. Many minority community members denounce carding as a racially discriminatory program.

Toronto's revitalized Dufferin transit station
Safety is not just about gentrification. It’s about community and collaboration. There needs to be more community driven action and dialogue. Toronto may be rated one of the safest cities but we have a long way to go before public trust in our police is restored.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Police futures - A PBL conference in Madison

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's creation in Madison - photo courtesy of Monona Terrace
Madison, Wisconsin is one of those rare gems - a small city, a university town, nestled on northern lakes. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace graces the waterfront. Designed by Wright in 1938, it met opposition until final construction in 1997. A good idea, it seems, persists.

The University of Wisconsin in Madison was the perfect location for the annual Police Society for Problem Based Learning (PBL) conference where I attended this week.

Police PBL conference venue - the University of Wisconsin South Union 
I was impressed by this year’s amazing group of future-thinking police instructors at the conference. They explored PBL and showed how to keep the community at the core of training.


President Obama’s recent Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing makes that very point when it claims PBL “encourages new officers to think with a proactive mindset, enabling the identification of and solutions to problems within their communities.”

Given the depressing police news of late, this message was elixir for the soul.

We heard from one police agency implementing the PTO 2.0 street training program, a PBL replacement for obsolete field training known as FTO.

We heard from keynote speaker Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, who connected some PBL dots. Mike is a long-time supporter of the police PBL movement and he drew a line connecting Herman Goldstein’s problem-oriented policing method and the PBL style of learning.


Professor Herman Goldstein also attended the conference and mingled with attendees throughout, offering participants golden opportunities to rub shoulders with a giant in the world of police scholarship. Few have contributed as much to great policing as Herman Goldstein.

Afternoon walk along Monona Terrace waterfront
I came to Madison after co-teaching emotional intelligence with Gerry Cleveland to the staff of the Law Enforcement Training academy in South Dakota. In You In Blue Gerry and I write about the impressive gains in South Dakota with their academy staff and curricula.

From this latest PSPBL conference and its problem-solving POP cousin, and from the South Dakota academy, I hope we are finally glimpsing the rebirth of American police training.  A good idea, it seems, persists.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

You In Blue – Guidebook for the new cop

A new book on policing by Gerry Cleveland and Gregory Saville
As I write, citizens in Cleveland are protesting yet another police shooting.

Sadly, the wrong members of the community receive the brunt of the blame. Vandals and troublemakers cause the problems, yet many in America are prepared to lay the blame at the feet of African American citizens.  That blame is both misplaced and unfair.

Irresponsible media fan the flames. They mix editorial opinions and ideological pundits into their news coverage, a cheap parlor trick guaranteed to boost their revenues. They ignore root causes. Fed up with the nonsense, one Baltimore resident confronted an on-the-street Fox reporter on national television during a protest (which that network censored).

Without doubt the media, vandals, and a minority of cops all carry an equal share of blame in what is happening in our cites. So does racism, poverty, corruption and criminal behavior. But there is another culprit looming large.

A different kind of policing for the 21st Century city
President Obama’s recent Task Force and their report into 21st Century Policing point to one of the root causes of what we are seeing on our streets.

That culprit is police training.


Today my colleague, Gerard Cleveland, a former cop, a lawyer and law lecturer, and I completed a new book that responds to the problem of outdated and improper police training. It is called You In Blue – A Guidebook for New Cops.  We wrote it as a guidebook for rookie cops and for those who train them.

The book includes chapters on academy life, street realities, intelligent tactical response, arming oneself with emotional training and the destructive issues arising from a warrior agenda.

We describe a method that academy directors and police leaders should have adopted long ago. We will be launching the book at the upcoming annual conference of the Police Society of Problem Based Learning in Madison, June 1-3.

Now is the ideal time to reconsider our broken training system.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Haste makes waste - a city at night

Night time sodium lighting along the Saskatoon river boardwalk
I recently returned from a SafeGrowth training in Saskatoon, that city of a quarter million residents in north central Canada. Urban planner Elisabeth Miller and I have been running annual training there with city staff and others for over a decade.

SafeGrowth team project presentations were terrific and after the final day I strolled along the downtown boardwalk park of the South Saskatchewan River.

Plenty of night time visibility with sodium lighting
What a beautiful spot. Most of the boardwalk and surrounding buildings are lit by sodium lighting in spite of the universal rush by lighting specialists to replace night lights with bright white LED lights (some say for safety, I say for economy).

Sodium lighting? Yep, the lights that create that yellowish hue so many love to hate. People strolled along the boardwalk who didn’t seem the least bit fearful! (I didn’t photograph them in order to avoid looking creepy).

Bessborough Hotel on the South Saskatchewan River near the boardwalk
Does this place gets dicey later in summer when summer activities start? Perhaps. But when I walked here it was  beautiful. It might look monotone, but the ambient lighting effect is warm and it certainly isn’t too dark. I’m beginning to think we may be speeding too quickly to replace sodium lighting.

Monotone, but still beautiful lighting

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Building a relationship with law enforcement

Daniel Nicoletta's photo White Night Riots - photo licensed by Wikimedia Commons 
Last week there were more shootings by, and of, police. There were more riots - Baltimore, Seattle. Time Magazine commentators claim “protests and riots - uprisings - could become the new normal. Welcome to the new America.”

It does not need to be the new normal!

This Wednesday I invite you to a webinar on making things better with police and communities.

Over and over in SafeGrowth we discover that we develop the powerful skills of partnering through the very act of organizing together. As McKnight and Kretzman told us long ago in The Careless Society self-help doesn’t just happen in community and professionals like the police can’t do it all.


This Wednesday, May 6, the International Downtown Association is sponsoring a webinar Building A Strong Relationship With Law Enforcement. On the webinar I will be exploring new options for partnering with police with Martin Cramer from Downtown Dallas Inc., and Michael Schirling, Police Chief in Burlington, Vermont.

The webinar requires registration (it is a pay-for-service webinar) and you can register at the International Downtown Association webinar page.

The webinar times in different timezones are

  • Wed May 6, 3-4PM EST (New York/Toronto)
  • Wed May 6, 12-1PM PST (Seattle/Vancouver)
  • Wed May 6, midnight - 1AM (London/Amsterdam)
  • Thurs May 7, 8-9AM (Sydney/Brisbane)
  • Thurs May 7, 10-11AM (Auckland/Christchurch)

Please join us.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Whatever you do...keep moving forward

Together North Jersey's final report on the Newark SafeGrowth training - photo from TNJ report
With great respect for Martin Luther King Jr’s famous words about moving forward, I am reminded of crime prevention work in Newark, NJ.

Crime prevention can be slow and grinding. Six years ago I paid homage to participants in our SafeGrowth training with whom I am continually impressed. They are the ones who slog away at their daily chores and yet still remain committed to moving forward with changes they map out during the training.

Those local heroes are everywhere in these pages. In the past year alone they include Saskatoon, Milwaukee, Christchurch, Melbourne, St. Paul and this week New Jersey.

Newark SafeGrowth teams auditing abandoned buildings - photo TNJ report
You may recall my posts last year about Together North Jersey, the organization that heads a multi-agency initiative to work with low income and high crime communities around Newark. Their goal: Teach skills in neighborhood revitalization, CPTED and SafeGrowth to help local groups help themselves. AlterNation was hired to head up that training and project work.

Now their final report is available. The report, Training community-based organizations in CPTED - Together North Jersey Micro Grant Program lays out the entire Newark process from top to bottom.

Project implementation is still underway and the work is unfinished. Yet team members persist at fundraising and implementation. Plus, in spite of vexatious hurdles like high crime rates they tell me forward momentum continues. This report describes how. It is one of the clearest road-maps to date on SafeGrowth in action.

Testing Wanso Im's community crime mapping software - Mappler - photo TNJ report
The report also incorporates a new addition in the SafeGrowth story - Wansoo Im's innovative community mapping software that we tested during the class. During training walkabouts team members used their smartphones to upload real-time site evaluations on crime and fear. When we returned to the class the finished maps were waiting for us online.

Screenshot of Mappler crime mapping options available on smartphones

Congratulations to all team members in Newark (and everywhere we have done this training). Thanks go to the organizers, funders, policy folks, community workers, police officers, researchers, and mostly the residents and local associations. Your commitment to a better future honors us and demonstrates what citizenship should look like in the 21st Century.