Salisbury Twp. Police Chief Allen Stiles gets White House briefing
In June, Salisbury Township Police Chief Allen W. Stiles received an email from The White House, inviting him to participate in a “White House 21st Century Policing Briefing.”
The White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs coordinated the event.
“[O]ur nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us and keep our streets safe. We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources that you need to do the jobs. That’s the mission of our police task force, which brought together local law enforcement, civil rights and faith leaders and community members to open dialogue and build trust and find concrete solutions that make your jobs safer. Our country needs that right now,” President Barack Obama said during the Medal of Valor Ceremony held May 16.
The briefing was open to public safety officers of all ranks across the nation.
“In 2014, President Obama launched the ‘Task Force on 21st Century Policing’ to identify the best means to provide an effective collaboration between law enforcement and local communities that reduces crime and increases trust,” the office of The White House press secretary said.
The purpose of the briefing was to review the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
The task force recommendations involve six topics or “pillars,” including building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, officer training and education and officer safety and wellness.
“The one-day seminar was held in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building,” Stiles said.
“The topics revolved around how to improve relationships with the community and minority community.”
Presenters included Elias Alcantara, senior associate director, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Ron Davis, director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice; John Matthews, director of federal partnerships, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund; Clarence Wardell, digital services expert, White House Office of Management and Budget; Denise Ross, senior advisor, White House Office of Management and Budget; Bryant Marks, Ph.D., director, Program for Research on Black Male Achievement, Morehouse College, presidential advisor, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans; Simon Harari, social impact and public policy analyst, Tumblr and Jeron Smith, deputy director, White House Office of Digital Strategy.
“About halfway through the briefing, I saw some large secret service personnel come in and look around the room,” Stiles said. “Right away, the presenters gave us a 15-minute break during which time they hung up the Presidential Seal. We knew then the president would be making an unscheduled visit to the briefing.”
Stiles said President Barack Obama spoke for about 15 minutes.
“I just wanted to come by to say thank you for being here and the extraordinary work that you do each and every day,” Obama said.
Obama said he was delayed due to the shootings in Germany and was being briefed as the events unfolded.
Obama said, “Our freedoms, our ability to go about our business every day, raising our kids and seeing them grow up and graduate from high school... depends on law enforcement. It depends on the men and women in uniform every single day who are, under some of the most adverse circumstances imaginable at times, making sure to keep us safe.
“But I wanted to come by to make sure that all of you knew how grateful the American people are for your service, how appreciative we are of your sacrifice. As a general proposition, you guys are not looking for the spotlight; you just want to do your jobs and keep your community safe. And you also want to come home to your own families at the end of a tough day. And for you to put yourself out there like that is one of the greatest gifts that you could give your fellow citizens.”
The president continued, “Our job is to support you in every way that we can. It is my view – and, let’s be honest, sometimes this is a controversial view – that one of the best ways to provide support to our police officers is to make sure that we are addressing potential underlying tensions between officers and the communities where they’re serving; that pretending sometimes that those tensions aren’t there is not going to make things better. But when we’re able to bring people together and strengthen those bonds, then that’s going to make the lives of police officers on a day-to-day basis just a little bit easier, and it’s going to make our streets safer, and it’s going to create the kind of atmosphere whereby we continue to bring crime rates down to near-historic levels.”
Obama said it is a fact exceptional policing is being done every day. He said he is a citizen with two children who will depend on law enforcement for the rest of his life so he has a big stake in this.
“I’m going to make sure that I do everything I can to move this in a positive direction so that, out of some heartbreaking tragedy, we can look back five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, and say, you know what, we kept getting better, and police officers are honored, their communities are supporting them, they are safer, and those communities truly recognize that they are being served and protected by the men and women in blue.”
Stiles said Salisbury is fortunate not to have some of the problems other police departments have across the country.
“I learned a lot about the use of social media,” Stiles said of his time at the briefing. He has implemented a program, Nextdoor.com/Salisbury and is encouraging residents to sign in to this program.
“This is just for Salisbury residents and is another way to communicate with Salisbury residents,” Stiles said.
The program will text and/or email residents if there is an emergency. There is no fee to participate in Nextdoor for the residents or the police department.
The department is also utilizing Facebook and is considering posting on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter.
“It is not that easy for a small police department such as Salisbury to actively post in social media, but we try to be as up-to-date as possible,” Stiles said.
Stiles said he is also looking into ways to interface with community members personally by hosting a “Coffee with the Chief” event or something similar.
“So many times, law enforcement is shown in a bad light,” Stiles said. “Another task I would like to implement is to provide transparency of the department to the public.”
Officer safety and wellness is another topic Stiles wants to improve upon in the department.
“During the briefing, we were provided statistics on officers killed in the line of duty who were not wearing vests, seat belts or driving safely. We will be providing additional training for Salisbury officers.”