Eight Philadelphia police officers have been deployed to a few of the most blighted, crime-ridden neighborhoods to attend community meetings, clean up parks, bond with kids and basically do other “warm and fuzzy stuff,” as Jerry Ratcliffe, chair of Temple’s criminal justice department, puts it. Ratcliffe’s studies partly inspired the initiative, which Mayor Michael Nutter wants expanded, says the Phildelphia City Paper.
It’s a policing tactic that enjoyed some popularity in the ’60s and ’70s, says Ratcliffe, but gradually fell out of favor. The idea is to get cops doing things they weren’t doing before. Since about a year ago, when the project began, the police have asked residents what services they need, and worked with other city agencies to get them. They’ve taken part in the reclaiming of an abandoned pool, helped get trash compactors installed, and played active roles in organizing a fair, demolishing several vacant buildings and tidying up dozens of lots. The program is “about changing the mindset of young police officers as to what their job is” — not just resident perceptions, says Temple’s Ratcliffe. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”