When Watertown Police officers are on patrol, Police Chief Michael Lawn wants them to get to know the people in town and form relationships in the areas where they patrol.
This is part of the Watertown Police Department’s emphasis on community policing, Lawn to the Town Council at Saturday’s budget hearing.
“I tell them, I want you to get out of your car and talk to people,” Lawn said. “You are not starting a new program or making speeches, but talk to people.”
As one example, he pointed to Sgt. John MacLellan, who one afternoon bought a bunch of big lollipops and gave them to a group of kids in East Watertown.
“He Tweeted a photo and said, ‘Community Policing weather. I love my job!'” Lawn said.
The WPD has a list of goals for Fiscal 2018, many of which fall under the 21st Century Policing Report that came out a few years ago, Lawn said.
“Many things we have been doing for a long time, and officers in the Northeast have been doing for a long time,” Lawn said. “But there are many things we can work on.”
Some programs started this past year will continue in Fiscal 2018. The Cops and Rec for Kids will have street hockey, dodgeball and family movie nights this year, Lawn said.
Also, the Citizen’s Police Academy will return in September 2017, Lawn said. The first class of the revived Citizen’s Academy graduated earlier this year
“It ended up being eight weeks. We had 25 people in the class including Councilors (Angeline) Kounelis and (Lisa) Feltner,” Lawn said. “They didn’t want it to end.”
In June, there will be a Citizen’s Academy reunion cookout so the graduates can get together again.
Lawn hopes to start a Junior Police Academy. It is a program that the WPD used to run which Lawn himself and some of the other current officers went through. Councilor Ken Woodland did it, too, and he said he loved it.
Lawn himself visits the Watertown Senior Center every couple weeks for Coffee with the Chief where he talk about issues facing older adults or just to chat with people.
As part of the 21st Century Policing, Watertown Police have gone through anti-biased training, and de-escalation training, Lawn said. The Police will also continue to have two School Resource Officers, one at Watertown Middle School and one at Watertown High School.
Wellness of the officers is also an important thing, Lawn said.
“We’ve got to take care of our officers. They have problems, too,” Lawn said. “A healthy officer is a good officer.”
The Police Department has also made an effort to get out on social media. It has Twitter and Facebook accounts to not only inform the public, but to have a little fun. The WPD has been posting old photos for Throwback Thursday on Twitter, Lawn said.
The Watertown Police will be adding an officer this year, bringing the number of uniformed officers to 50. Lawn said the person will be in the traffic division, which has been busy.
“Traffic issues are a daily occurrence,” Lawn said. “We get request from you (the Town Councilors) and others about people using side streets for cut throughs. Internally we are going to look at how we are going to break up the calls.”
Even with a bigger force, it is always a challenge keeping the positions filled. The WPD had two resignations this year and a retirement. They had three officers graduate from the Police Academy and complete field training, and another three graduated from the academy in March and are currently in field training. One more recruit will enter the Police Academy in June. However, the department could lose a couple officers to the State Police and there may be a couple more retirements, Lawn said.
“I’m not sure if we can ever get (to a fully staffed department) because of retirements, but we want to get there,” Lawn said.