Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Police Corps futures - a chance missed

A quiet Italian dinner at Thats-a-some Italian ristorante
Aged wine barrels for decor and fresh linguini smells embrace patrons in an ambience that anticipates a great meal in a quaint Italian restaurant, this one nestled beside a bay in Puget Sound.

What I didn't expect was the polished glass plaque about John Kennedy Jr. mounted innocuously beside the table and buffed for clarity both optical and sentimental. He and his wife Caroline, apparently, sat at this very table long ago no doubt enjoying the same ambience.

For me it was an irony. Over a decade ago I arrived in the United States, drawn by an idea hatched in the heady days of Kennedy’s Camelot, maybe even while toddler John Jr. hid under his father's desk in the Oval Office.

Memories from another time
I heard of the National Police Corps program for the first time in 1997. They needed an associate director for their program at Florida State University. It was a chance to modernize the stale world of academy training. It was a chance to educate cops in more advanced, community-based methods (like POP and CPTED) and fund their university education at the same time. It was a dream come true! I moved to Florida.


Instigator of the Police Corps program was Adam Walinsky, former aid to Robert F. Kennedy. The goal: Create an intense liberal arts degree hinging on civil rights, critical thinking, and social justice. A year after we started, our Florida team designed just that. Then we added rigorous, hands-on academy curricula with an advanced educational method called problem-based learning. It was a leading-edge and integrated curricula unmatched in academies even today!

Unfortunately the program was later starved to death by underfunding. Two steps forward, three steps back. An opinion piece in Time Magazine recently said something similar.

Fortunately lessons did survive. The seed for problem-based learning in American law enforcement grew out of that era. The Police Society for Problem Based Learning proves the persistence of a good idea.

As I read of the latest federal task force to tackle police shootings I wonder; What if there had been some way to overcome the implementation obstacles and funding hurdles of the early Police Corps? What would policing look like today?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Connecting the circuit

Screen capture from Duracell's moments of warmth Youtube

Following stories of terrorist hate-mongers in Paris, and as if on cue, my urban design and transport planner friend Megan Carr sent this fabulous video. It shows how transport design can connect people together even in the dead of winter. It is a candle in the dark news of late.

Montreal and Duracell Canada have a plan to warm bus stops in Canada's cold winter months. Imagine a bus shelter heater that only works if people waiting for a bus hold hands to connect the electrical circuit that activates the heater.

As with Lisbon's dancing traffic lights and New York's say-something-nice, this shows yet again that given the opportunity people will put their fear aside and reach out to each other in new and wonderful ways.

This is not opportunity-based crime prevention. Rather it's opportunity-based connection - warming our social circuits by charging our electrical ones.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How to gumpify benches

Access controls on street benches? Photo Creative Commons
Forrest Gump was a genius! He solved problems and figured things out with his teeny IQ.

Gump taught us problem solving is really easy. You don't need to think about it, especially if the problem looks simple on the outside but is actually complicated on the inside.

Simple like why homeless, drunk people sleep on park benches because they prefer not to sleep on the ground. Or complicated like how to deal with their addictions, mental health and poverty? Or why we can't do better to help the indigent living on the street?

Target hardeners in the city of Angouleme, France have found a simple answer: Fence the benches!

Sadly, just like like homeless spikes in London last year, public outrage forced Angouleme's Forrest Gumps to remove the bench-fence-defence. Some ungrateful sod complicated matters by pointing out it's not just the homeless who can't use fenced benches, no one can! Forrest was so right - Stupid is, as stupid does!

Shame too. They looked so darned attractive.