By Sandy Belknap
Last evening I attended and spoke at a public hearing on the Accreditation of the Nashua Police Department (NPD) administered by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (aka: CALEA). This accreditation process is a big deal for our local law enforcement agency and for the Nashua community.
I accepted the invitation to attend this meeting because I've recently taken on the role of 'Watch Captain' for our Neighborhood Watch group that started this fall. (As a 'watch captain,' I'm simply the local communications liasion between my neighbors and the police department.)
From my previous experience, people who typically show up to speak at public meetings, most often attend bring attention to problems and unsolved issues (sometimes aka: the complainers!). I thought that this would be a great opportuntity to hear what people in the Nashua community had to say about our local police department. (In the back of my mind, I was thinking, "now I'm going to get the real scoop about what's going on in town.")
The stories I heard from local residents across the Nashua community were amazing and I left the hour- long hearing with a great feeling about the Nashua Police Department, its leaders and my community! (Yes, I got the scoop...and it was all good!)
All of the dozen or so comments from local residents were positive.
There was the retired US Marine, who is now handicapped. He spoke up about how he works with the NPD to ticket violators of handicapped parking spaces across the city. He explained how angry he gets when people abuse these spaces because it affects him personally. Whenever he calls NPD to report an offender, an officer shows up within minutes to ticket the violator.
There was the woman who described herself as 'just an ordinary citizen, without a fancy title' who came out to share her story about how the police department was helpful in finding her newly -adopted 'Katrina' dog after it ran off late one night shortly after coming to NH.
There was the local radio talkshow host who shared that he keeps an open line on his program to bring local law enforcement to talk about their jobs and issues in town. He talked about the great connection that he had with the NPD leaders to bring officers onto his program and how responsive the community is when they are 'on-air.'
There were law enforcement representatives from other NH cities and towns who praised the work of the NPD for their willingness and cooperation of working with other agencies across the state.
Then there were the 'Watch Captains,' like myself. We all had similar stories in that we live in neighborhoods where there have been issues that created the opportunity to engage local residents to work with the NPD to make our community safer.
The one thing that resonated with me over an over, after each speaker provided testimony, is that the NPD makes a concerted effort to engage and connect with the citizens that they serve.
As a citizen, I've never really put a lot of thought into how a law enforcement agency can truly impact a community. That changed when I left the public hearing last evening.