The Heart Behind The Badge

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The Heart Behind The Badge

By: Ari Pintado

Often the men and woman of the police community deal with criticism. The bad actions of a few have affected the reputation of many. These unfortunate events have led some community members to view police departments as detached from the community and only protecting the few, not the many.

The Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) is trying to break that stereotype and introduce themselves to the community as a department that truly cares for every one of their citizens.

For decades, the CVPD has maintained a culture of community-based policing, innovative problem solving, community engagement and accountability. The need to provide public safety services to the community with fairness, equity and justice is not new to the organization. It is deeply engrained into their history and their shared culture. They uphold the highest ideals for the profession and are proud that their officers serve residents according to their community’s expectations and needs.

The CVPD promotes principles that are expected to be upheld by each of its officers. Some of these principles include embracing mutual respect for human life of all people and reinforcing progressive and transformative community policing strategies. They also require officers to intervene to prevent misconduct, report misconduct to superiors and their leaders. This consistently reinforces a compassionate and respectful interaction with our community. The police department’s chief, Roxana Kennedy, speaks directly to community members in one-on-one interactions and frequent group communications to reinforce their shared vision. Their leadership and training personnel reinforce community expectations, policies, and decision-making guidance through progressive training strategies.

The CVPD strongly believes in their idea of “The Heart Behind the Badge”. The whole initiative is to tell the community that all their officers aren’t just crime fighting robots, they’re actual community members who truly care for their citizens and want to help keep them safe.

A big way they show this is through their community engagement. They uphold the values of transparency and accountability and maintain an open government website that includes their entire policy manual along with data and information related to their operations. They have focused on connecting actively with residents, business owners, students, community leaders and the unsheltered. This is done through a dedicated branch of the department headed by the Executive Captain called the Community Engagement Division. They also have several social media platforms, open input and dialogue, and community meetings and forums for the community to keep in touch. The Police Department Community Advisory Committee is made up of a diverse group of community leaders who provide CVPD with a variety of perspectives that guide practices and policies to meet the needs and expectations of the community.

The Human Relations Commission collaborates on strategies to enhance the lives and ensure the rights of every inhabitant of the City of Chula Vista. The department’s police leaders and Community Liaison Officers proactively build and maintain collaborative relationships with a diverse cross-section of our community. The department also proactively collaborates with community rights and privacy advocates on department policies and practices.

When hiring new officers, the CVPD focuses on diversity and inclusion. They strive to recruit and hire quality officers that are representative of the diverse community they serve. They advocate and participate in the “30×30 Challenge” which aims to increase the number of women in law enforcement by 2030. CVPD has historically had more female officers than the national average. One hiring practice that they have stuck to includes a personal interview by the Chief of Police to be sure police officer candidates hold the values of equity, inclusion, and diversity.

Once hired all recruits go through various training courses to ensure they will best serve the community. The CVPD was the first law enforcement agency in the County of San Diego to require that every officer completes four hours of training on implicit bias. They were also the first agency in the county to require that each officer attends eight hours of de-escalation training, including a variety of de-escalation tactics. CVPD officers train four times more than required by California’s robust standards. All their officers receive training in Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE). This training seeks to prevent misconduct, avoid mistakes, and promote officer safety and wellness. CVPD officers are also taught to incorporate the tenets of procedural justice-helping people understand the law, remaining neutral, allowing others to have a voice, and respecting all parties.

One of their biggest goals for their officers is to uphold transparency and accountability. Their policies require officers to de-escalate and may only escalate as reasonable for changing circumstances. All incidents involving use of force are comprehensively reviewed by supervisors and subsequently reviewed by technical experts to ensure proper tactics and adherence to policy. When necessary, appropriate disciplinary or corrective measures are taken immediately to ensure compliance with the community’s values. Their policies require officers to intervene and stop unreasonable force and report such incidents to a supervisor immediately. The CVPD were among the first in the region to issue and require the use of body-worn cameras for all officers. They also maintain a comprehensive early warning system intended to flag officers with excessive complaints.

Another groundbreaking program of the CVPD is called Drone as First Responder (DFR). Its success has become internationally recognized. Now numerous other police departments nationally and internationally have started to use the Drones as First Responders program. One key benefit is that drones allow officers to view potential hazards and develop sound strategies and tactics before rushing into potentially dangerous situations.

The drones feed live-steaming video to the commanders and first responders. From there certified teleoperators evaluate the situation remotely and relay information to officers.

An incident back in 2019 is a perfect example of the benefits of having the drones as an aid. A call came in stating that a man was outside a Chula Vista taco shop and was waving around what appeared to be a handgun. Within 90 seconds CVPD had a drone at the site livestreaming the event to police officers. After analyzing the footage, they realized that the man had a gun shaped lighter in his hand not a real gun. Thanks to the use of a Drone as First Responder no one was hurt, and nothing escalated.

A major worry often brought up by community members is the invasion of privacy. CVPD policies prohibit drone operators from intentionally recording or transmitting images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as private backyards or inside private buildings, except where authorized by a warrant issued by a judge or in emergency situations. Any photos or videos considered part of an investigation are not available to the public under the California Public Records Act.

The Chief of the Chula Vista Police Department, Roxana Kennedy says, “the oath taken by the men and women of law enforcement to protect and serve is a responsibility we take seriously.” This is the stance all the members of CVPD hold true and stand by when serving the people of Chula Vista. They want to ensure that the citizens of Chula Vista know they are in good hands by officers who have received some of the best training and want to protect the human life of all people.

On Tuesday November 7th Chief Roxana Kennedy appeared on Our Hometown Podcast hosted by Michael Monaco. To view the entire interview please click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4omEeSxD0Q