Affirming its commitment to community-oriented policing, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Police Department (UMBPD) has won a 2021 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)/Walmart Leadership in Community Policing Award.
“The University of Maryland, Baltimore Police Department is an exemplary police agency and leader in the field of community safety,” IACP president Cynthia Renaud said in announcing the award, which honors agencies for having programs that exemplify the principles of community policing and strengthen trust through active and inclusive collaboration. “On behalf of IACP, I thank you for your service and congratulate [UMBPD] on this achievement.”
Founded in 1893, IACP is the world’s largest professional association for police leadership. According to its website, IACP has more than 31,000 members in over 165 countries and is committed to advancing safer communities through thoughtful and progressive police leadership.
Police agencies from around the world apply for IACP awards, and there are three winners in the Leadership in Community Policing category: small, midsize, and large. UMBPD won in the midsize agency category and will be recognized at the IACP Annual Awards Banquet on Sept. 14 in New Orleans.
“Community policing isn’t about just one thing. It’s not just about ‘checking the box.’ We’re continuously learning and evolving,” UMBPD Interim Chief Thomas Leone said. “We’re collaborating with social work interns this fall so we can better provide resources to vulnerable populations. We’re forging partnerships at UMB so our officers have more training that’s focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our comfort K9, Lexi, was one of the first in the country at a university police department. But even as we take these strides, we know it’s just one step in a long journey.”
UMBPD’s award application focused on the work of its Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST), which was developed in 2018 and tasked with building partnerships and making a positive impact in UMB’s surrounding West Baltimore community, which faces challenges that are common in many urban areas such as drug activity, poverty, mental illness, homelessness, and crime.
Two of COAST’s programs focus on building trust and providing educational opportunities and information to youth in the community, with UMBPD officers teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education weekly in Baltimore City schools and mentoring students after school in the Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL).
The UMB chapter is one of just two PAL programs based at a university in the United States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PAL moved online, offering virtual mentoring and coaching each week. UMBPD police and security officers also delivered boxed lunches to the homes of PAL students and their families to ensure that they were still receiving much-needed resources during the crisis.
The Community Engagement Academy invites community members to get a behind-the-scenes look at UMBPD, including what it’s like to enter the police academy and the daily decision-making process for law enforcement officers. The academy also allows the community to interact with and provide feedback to UMBPD officers.
In other outreach efforts, the Safety Awareness Council meets quarterly to discuss campus safety and departmental updates; COAST partners with the UMB Intercultural Center to provide 30-pound boxes of nonperishable food to students experiencing food insecurity; and the department’s comfort K9, Lexi, is a therapy dog trained to provide stress relief and affection to people dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, or mental illness.
COAST also has an outreach and crisis intervention liaison, Cpl. Yale Partlow, who leads UMBPD efforts to connect community members in crisis with critical social services. Partlow is a key liaison to Baltimore City’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which redirects people arrested for low-level drug offenses to treatment and other services.
And, beginning in fall 2021, the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) will provide an administrator and two interns to be embedded with COAST outreach and crisis intervention officers. The UMSSW team will provide case management for vulnerable populations, including follow-up to see if resources were helpful and if additional services need to be recommended. They also will provide crisis intervention training to officers and attend roll calls.
The IACP award is just the latest recognition of UMBPD’s leadership in the field of progressive, community-focused policing. The department was awarded a 2019 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Proactive Crime Prevention, and COAST officers have received the Governor’s Certificate of Merit for Crime Prevention, UMB Employee of the Month honors, and the IACP’s 40 Under 40 Award, which recognizes law enforcement professionals under the age of 40 who demonstrate leadership and exemplify commitment to their profession.
“The IACP Leadership in Community Policing Award is well-deserved recognition for our entire team,” Leone said. “We work hard to support our community and do things the right way. I’m so proud of each police and security officer, police communication operator, and administrative staff who made this award a reality.
“We’ve set ourselves apart as leaders in community policing,” he added. “Awards are great, but the relationships we’re building with our students, employees, and neighbors are the real prize. I’m committed to continuing to grow and improve. We’re not done yet.”