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All 133 members of the Lawrence Police Department are undergoing a multi-day training program designed to improve their customer service skills, with the goal of improving community trust in the department and increasing cooperation.
Offered by former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ security firm, the three-and-a-half-day program focuses on de-escalation, cultural sensitivity and community relations.
Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said the program goes beyond the verbal de-escalation strategies that the department already has in its use-of-force policy. The training also addresses regular verbal interactions when residents call the department or approach an officer in public.
In a statement announcing the trainings, Mayor Daniel Rivera said the training reflects the department’s new focus on customer service and satisfaction and increasing trust between police and the community.
The overarching theme is for every officer to treat each interaction with the public with the same level of urgency.
“You need to handle every call like it’s the most important going on for that person at that particular time,” Fitzpatrick said. “If we focus on that and trying to solve the little problems, we can expand upon that.”
In that sense, what’s called “community policing” is really customer service, Fitzpatrick said. Having those positive interactions helps the department build the trust that assists officers later on.
“When we build that goodwill when interacting with the public, even on minor issues, it builds a lot of political capital and goodwill to make our job easier, if something does in fact end up tragically or we need help from the community in solving a crime,” he said.
Those interactions aren’t necessarily calls for service or a response to a crime, he added.
“It could be something as simple as a pothole or a street sign and you assist them in finding out how to go about addressing it – or someone trying to get a new driver’s license,” Fitzpatrick said. “It goes a long way when something serious happens … when you’re on a serious crime looking for information.”
The city has spent about $20,000 so far on the training, Fitzpatrick said.