On Dec. 5, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Police Department’s (UMBPD) Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) will receive the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Proactive Crime Prevention Programs in Maryland during a ceremony in Annapolis.
COAST was formed in October 2018 under the direction of UMBPD Police Chief Alice K. Cary, MS. The team provides opportunities for the UMB community and its neighbors, who often face a wide variety of hardships. By fostering positive relationships year-round, UMBPD is able to build bridges with people in communities who might otherwise be hesitant to work with police. This strategy of community-based policing focuses on police being a part of the community, not just simply working in the community.
Officers in COAST mentor young students after school in the Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) and teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) weekly in Baltimore City schools. The Community Engagement Academy invites members of the community to get a behind-the-scenes look inside UMBPD, from what it’s like to enter the police academy through the daily decision-making process for law enforcement officers.
In June, comfort K-9 dog Lexi joined COAST. Lexi is only the third university police comfort dog in the country. The K-9 is trained to provide stress relief and affection to people dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, or mental illness. Lexi serves many different communities — working with UMB’s students who undergo immense pressure and stress; working with community members who might suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, and anxiety; and working with UMBPD officers to promote self-care. Lexi also helps to humanize the UMBPD by encouraging all dog lovers to approach and interact with police.
COAST’s outreach and crisis intervention liaison, Pfc. Yale Partlow, connects community members in crisis with critical social services. He is a key liaison to Baltimore City’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which redirects people arrested for low-level drug offenses to treatment and other services. Every day, Partlow works with dozens of people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore, providing not only needed support, but also empathy and compassion. This role delves beyond the surface-level view of homelessness and explores the complexities of drug addiction, mental illness, and poverty.
COAST has become a nationwide model for outreach and crisis intervention efforts. Members of COAST have worked with law enforcement agencies across the country to grow their own community outreach programs based on COAST best practices.
The following interview subjects are available for in-person or phone interviews:
- Chief Alice Cary, MS – UMBPD Chief of Police
- Acting Lt. Matthew Johnson – UMBPD COAST Commander
- Officer Lexi and Pfc. Kelli Blackwell – UMBPD’s Comfort K-9; Lexi’s handler
About the University of Maryland, Baltimore
Founded in 1807, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is Maryland’s only public health, law, and human services university, dedicated to excellence in education, research, clinical care, and public service. UMB enrolls nearly 6,800 students in six nationally ranked professional schools — medicine, law, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and social work — and an interdisciplinary Graduate School. The university provides more than $40 million each year in uncompensated care to Maryland citizens, and received more than $677 million in grants and contracts in Fiscal Year 2018. For more information about UMB, visit www.umaryland.edu.