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By Amanda Milkovits
The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Providence Police Department is planning to launch itself as a "teaching police department," modeled on the idea of a teaching hospital, where police officers from here and around New England will learn from each other's best practices.
Police Chief Dean M. Esserman announced those ideas yesterday during a meeting of the New England Major City Police Chiefs Consortium, which gathered at the Providence Public Safety Complex for seminars on the long-term benefits of including mental-health clinicians on police patrols, and using mediation as an alternative to sentencing for some violent crimes.
Esserman said later that he'd been in discussions since spring with Roger Williams University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, Brown Medical School and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence to develop the concept of a teaching police department. While the details are still being worked out, Esserman said that part of the plan will include an exchange program for police supervisors between Providence and police departments in other major cities.
Such an "exchange program" has been going on unofficially here for the last several years. The Providence department has played host to the police from other cities who were interested in the department's approach to community policing. The most recent visitor was the new police chief in Burlington, Vt., who spent all day Tuesday with the district commanders and accompanying patrols in one of the neighborhoods for ideas to update his own city's decade-old community policing program. "Providence stands out as a success story in community policing and crime reduction," Burlington Police Chief Michael E. Schirling said yesterday.
The Providence police have also visited other cities to gain ideas, including taking several trips to High Point, N.C., to learn about an initiative used there to eliminate street-level drug dealing. After seeing how the initiative worked there, the Providence police decided to apply the idea in the Lockwood neighborhood in South Providence, which was thick with open-air drug dealing. Now, nearly two years later, the drug dealers are gone and haven't returned, the residents are overjoyed, and police officers from other cities have been visiting to see how Providence made it work.
Esserman said he wants to formalize the exchange program, where newly promoted Providence police supervisors will visit other large police departments in New England, while those departments send their supervisors to Providence. Esserman had formed the Major City Police Chiefs Consortium about a year after he was hired in Providence. The intention was to bring the police commanders together to share ideas and information about how they were handling crime, from gangs to guns. It was a turnaround for the Providence Police Department, which previously had a long-standing reputation for working in isolation -- even within Rhode Island.
Several dozen police commanders from throughout New England attended yesterday's two-hour conference, which discussed ideas on involving mental-health clinicians on police calls for children who've witnessed violence, and a pilot program being developed in New York City that offers mediation as an alternative to sentencing for offenders of some violent crimes, such as robbery and assault.

Wire Service
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