Community Engagement from a SFPD Captain's Perspective

During the SFPD’s Citywide Public Safety Meeting Thurs., Sept. 2, SFPD Ingleside Station Captain Nicole Jones shared her insights on community engagement from a captain’s perspective. Her insights were one aspect of an event with wide-ranging topics and underscored community engagement’s pivotal role in the department’s overall community policing strategy toward creating a safer San Francisco.

Noting that her “biggest priority is making a connection,” Captain Jones said that she not only wants to connect with community members who are district residents, but also, for example, those who own businesses and the people who have their kids enrolled in school there.

“How do we all come together and problem-solve and collaborate so that we can really accomplish everyone's goals? The police's goals in terms of crime, the police's goals in terms of engagement, the community's goals in terms of crime and the community's goals in terms of engagement,” said Captain Jones.

The captain went on to talk about some of the strategies she employs to engage people from all walks of life in her district, including monthly Community Meetings. “Every district station captain has a Community Meeting, and that's once a month, and that's really an excellent time for everyone to come together and [not only] relay the issues and concerns that they have, but also hear from the captain what we're seeing, and the problems that we're working on and give you updates that we know you're interested in,” said Captain Jones.

Captain Jones said she compiles the emails she receives from community members by common themes and then has in-depth discussions about them at the Community Meetings. She added that in those meetings, it's not her answering questions but also her reaching out to the community for solutions as well. “What have they seen? How can they assist us? How can we work together in partnership?” she said. “Because at the end of the day we can't do this without you. We need you—you’re our eyes, your our ears, you have solutions and we need to hear that.”

Another community engagement strategy Captain Jones highlighted are the Merchant Walks station officers conduct with district businesses. “We will go out as Ingleside Station and walk the corridors; we often do it in conjunction with other agencies like SF SAFE, our district supervisors and other community agencies to really discuss the goings-ons and work together to see how we can solve problems,” she said.

In a similar vein, the captain also referenced attending Merchant Association Meetings in her district where officers speak to small groups of businesses in certain areas so they can express what their concerns are, and what they'd like to see from the police—and, in turn, what the police would like to see from them. The captain took his opportunity to stress the importance of filing police reports when safety issues arise.

Recently, SFPD Ingleside hosted a Coffee with a Cop event at Mission Blue Café in their district, with these recurring events being another important part of community engagement. “We put out a flyer, people come and they just talk to us and sometimes we talk about police business and sometimes we don't. We just talk about what's going on in life…it's really refreshing to be able to connect with people on that individual level,” said Captain Jones.

She said these fun events are an important part of community engagement and that she has thoughts on expanding her efforts into a Kickball with a Cop event and also a Thriller flash mob for Halloween, for which she said she was promised a zombie pony would make a showing. “We're really trying to bring everyone together,” she said about these types of events.

While Captain Jones said the aforementioned examples are not the SFPD’s entire universe of community engagement, they do offer a snapshot of some of the efforts underway.

“At the end of the day, all of these are just ways for us to…make a connection,” she said. “Find out how the police can do better, and how we can work together to problem-solve. Collaboration is key here, and that's really what we're working for."

-Kathy Chouteau