Boston Police Department (BPD) Capt. Christine Michalosky plans to bring a new focus on community policing to Jamaica Plain during her second stint as district commander, she said at E-13’s Dec. 6 monthly Police Community Relations meeting.
Michalosky, who commanded the district in 2004-05, returned to E-13 last month. One of her first moves as commander was to bring in new blood for the district’s Community Service Office, she told the Gazette after the meeting.
“I want to get away from the perception that it’s a public relations thing,” Michalosky said.
She said she plans for the office to “work more closely with detectives and beat police addressing crime problems as well as quality-of-life problems.”
The new head of E-13’s Community Service Office, Sgt. Eric Krause, who introduced himself at the meeting, told the Gazette he has been more focused on crime-fighting than working with communities up to now in his tenure with the BPD.
Krause said he began his career as a patrol officer in the C-11 district in Dorchester in 1996. In 2000, he was promoted to detective and was assigned to the B-2 district in Roxbury. In from 2002 to 2007 he worked with a citywide major case unit, “doing things like wiretaps,” he said.
With two weeks under his belt at E-13, Krause said he is still trying to get acclimated to his new role. It is a new challenge, he said, “to solve problems that come up within the community, even if they aren’t crime-related.”
While Krause said it “is still too early” for him to say what changes he might bring to the Community Service Office, Michalosky had a few ideas on the subject.
The district is planning to publish pocket-sized resource booklets for patrol officers, she said, so they will be able to assist residents on the streets when non-law enforcement quality-of-life issues come up.
If, for example, a streetlight is out, “They will have the number with them, so if they see something they can make the call right away.”
Patrol officers will also have business cards to hand out to residents with space to write contact information for relevant city departments, she said.
Officers will still have the option to refer residents to the Community Service Office, as they do now, Michalosky said.
She said she is also interested in reestablishing a neighborhood advisory committee and updating the districts strategic plan for community policing.
The strategic plan, according to the E-13 web site (www.e13bpd.com), was last updated in 1999. It has four major focus areas—youth, quality of life, police/community relationships and problem-oriented policing guidelines for neighborhood beat teams. Broadly, it calls for increased interaction between district police and community residents on all these fronts.
Michael Reiskind, who has been involved in community policing in Jamaica Plain for close to 25 years, told the Gazette one change he hopes to see is more resources being devoted to foot patrols.
He would like to see more of a focus on preventative policing, he said. “If someone is sick or injured, don’t replace them with a walking beat patrol officer,” he said.
“They should be the last ones cut when there aren’t enough officers,” he said.
“[Walking beats] are not an ornament on the Christmas tree, they are the trunk, the basic structure,” he said.
Michalosky said ticket patrol officers are the first to be reassigned, but walking patrols are pulled if there are not enough police cars on the street. “We need a certain number of cars to respond to emergencies,” she said.
E-13 is facing a temporary staff shortfall because nine officers were recently promoted to detective. But they will soon be replaced with new-hires, she said.
In the past, the district has been able to put more officers on the street when it had a larger budget for overtime, Michalosky said.
Overall, Reiskind said, he is hopeful about the prospects for community policing in the district.
No one from E-13 would comment, prior to the institution of the new process, on what changes they would like to see made to the strategic plan.
But if the dozen-strong turnout at the meeting is any indicator, police have their work cut out for them in attracting even community members who are already involved in community policing to a neighborhood-wide meeting.
The Police Community Relations meetings are an opportunity for community members, and, particularly representatives from the neighborhood’s many crime watch organizations to meet with district police, but a number of crime watches do not bother to send representatives.
This month’s meeting was moved from the district headquarters at Green and Washington streets to the Greater Egleston Community High School on School Street in the hopes of attracting more participants. But the community members who showed up were apparently the usual suspects.
During the meeting, Officer Carlos Lara from the CSO office said he was disappointed not to see more new faces there.
Lara said this might be because community service officers regularly attend the individual crime watch’s meetings, but, he said, the JP-wide meetings are important for information sharing and strategizing.
“Please help us out,” he said to the sparse audience. “It seems like we are having issues with the meetings. People are not coming out.”
There were a number of potential scheduling conflicts on the Thursday evening. JP Centre/South Main Streets was hosting its regular shopping district-wide First Thursdays community event that night. Also, Egleston Square Main Streets, which, as an organization, has recently begun focusing on public safety and quality-of-life issues in their neighborhood, had a board meeting.