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Captain’s Blog: Community Oriented Policing

Captain’s Blog, 7-6-15: Community Policing

By Captain Craig Schwartz

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about community policing, talking about how we sometimes define the term differently and how those differences can contribute to a lack of understanding between the police and the people we serve. I know at least a few of you saw it, although I can no longer find that post on our page. Some aspects of Facebook are still a mystery to me.

In that blog post about community policing, I gave two scenarios of officers at work and asked which group was engaged in community policing. In one scenario, officers were out in a neighborhood interacting with adults and children, handing out stickers and having casual conversations. This example is much like the barbecue event our Gang Crimes Team hosted recently on West Ninth Street or the numerous other community events we participate in on a regular basis. [NB: Check out the SRPD Facebook page for more events like this.–Thonie] The second scenario involved a group of officers responding to a complaint of drug sales from a house in the same neighborhood. The officers completed an investigation, got enough evidence to write a search warrant for the suspects’ house. When they served the warrant ad forced open the door they made arrests and seized evidence of drug sales. In the example, the officers brought code enforcement officers with them and the house was red tagged so that the occupants had to leave until the violations were fixed.

Many people would look at the two examples and say that the first group is doing community policing while the other group is not. The second group might even be accused of being overly “militarized” as they force their way into the suspected dealers’ home to take enforcement action. The trick to the original question is that there was only one group of officers.

We sometimes think of community policing in very narrow terms of activities I prefer to call community engagement. These trust-building activities are a critical part of community policing, but they alone do not make the whole. In the examples given, officers worked to build relationships with the community members who then feel like they can trust the police to help them solve their crime and safety problems. The neighbors tell the police about suspected drug sales in their neighborhood and work with the police to help them gather evidence of the crime. The officers also realize that criminal prosecution doesn’t necessarily resolve the neighbors’ concerns and sometimes the best resolution for them is achieved through code enforcement efforts or working with the landlord to get problem tenants evicted. In the end, the officers are able to take enforcement action and use their partnerships with the residents, other government agencies, and perhaps with community or faith-based organizations to provide a longer-term resolution to a crime, safety, and quality of life problem in the community.

The United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services defines community policing as follows: “A philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime.” I shorten the definition in my mind to say that we work to build and use partnerships within government and within our community so that we can bring the right resources to solve problems.

In that way, almost everything we do should help us improve our community policing abilities. Does the way we align our department structure and personnel, or participating in community events and activities mean we are practicing community policing? Is an officer making an arrest or chasing a suspect not engaged in community policing? I think the questions have complex answers and we need to look at the big picture to answer those questions. Obviously I think that we are a community oriented policing agency, but I recognize that in many cases the solutions we seek for neighborhood problems are difficult to reach and people are sometimes disappointed with the outcomes. Those cases are frustrating for us as well, and we will continue trying to improve our services.

The opinions that really count are yours, and we look forward to working with you. For more information about the Department and our community policing efforts, check out our annual report. It is on our website at

Captain Craig Schwartz of the Santa Rosa Police Department
Captain Craig Schwartz of the Santa Rosa Police Department

– Captain Craig Schwartz

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Captain’s Blog-Playful Realism

The subject of this post is near and dear to me: back in my Petaluma PD days, I worked with Tom Swearingen and his wife, Peggy. They were reserves with the department, then Tom went on to Santa Rosa and had a fulfilling career there. Since his retirement, he has re-invented himself with his art. I’m a fan; so is Craig. Check out his website and you might also find art worth spending a little time on.–Thonie

Captain’s Blog, 7-3-15: Happy 4th of July!

By Craig Schwartz, Captain

Santa Rosa, Ca Police Department

SRPD Badge by Tom Swearingen
SRPD Badge by Tom Swearingen

Happy 4th of July everyone! I hope you all enjoy a great day with family and friends celebrating our nation’s independence. I highly recommend checking out the Red, White, and Boom fireworks show at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday night. Also, please think of your pets and make sure they are safe and secure before fireworks start going off. I know…we shouldn’t have individual fireworks displays going off because they’re illegal, right? How could that happen? In any case, a lot of dogs are very frightened by the fireworks and escape their yards every 4th of July. I know I’d be devastated to lose my German Shepherd. Let’s keep ‘em safe.

For this 4th of July I’d like to show you a painting by my friend, mentor and former boss. Tom Swearingen retired from the Santa Rosa Police Department as a Lieutenant several years ago. He has been a mentor of mine since we met while he was doing my background investigation before I was hired in 1992. He supervised me several times during my career and I learned a great deal from him.

Since his retirement, Tom has taken up painting and is now a successful local artist. His work was showcased in the City Council Chambers within the last year. He recently completed a painting that I had to show you all on the 4th of July. Tom’s rendition of the Santa Rosa Police Department badge, reflecting the American Flag, is as patriotic and service-minded as anything I can think of. Tom is now looking to serve California law enforcement agencies and the families of fallen officers by creating and donating custom paintings of the deceased officers’ badges.

Thanks Tom, for your leadership and service over your career, and for your continued service to our profession.

Happy 4th everyone! Be safe.

– Captain Craig Schwartz

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Let’s Talk about Filming the Police

Captain Craig Schwartz of the Santa Rosa Police Department
Captain Craig Schwartz of the Santa Rosa Police Department

Captain Craig Schwartz of the Santa Rosa (California) Police Department writes about police matters in his Facebook Santa Rosa Police page. He has given permission to re-post his article. For the direct feed, go to Santa Rosa Police Department’s Facebook page 

Captain’s Blog: Let’s talk about filming the police.

Hello again,

Before I get into the topic of this post, I’d like to ask for your input. We want to continue these blog-like posts, with information about the Department, our work, and policing related topics of interest, but I need a good title for them. I’m calling my posts the Captain’s Blog for now, but if you have suggestions for a different title, send them in via the comments. Keep it clean please!

Now, on to our topic of the day. My recent post about the incidents in our Downtown on Monday morning brings up a chance for a conversation about a topic that sometimes bring the police into conflict with people in the community: filming or recording the police.

We see news stories all too frequently across the country which show officers ordering people to turn off their cameras, seizing cameras, or even arresting people who are recording us as we go about our duties. There were a number of people filming one of the events I described from Monday morning, and we regularly tell our officers to expect that they are being recorded every time they are in public doing their job.

The fact is that it is perfectly legal to film the police while they are performing their duties in a public place, as long as the recording is not surreptitious. The law does say that people cannot record a confidential communication without the consent of all the parties involved in that communication, but taking photos or video of the police working in public is a 1st Amendment right.

If a photo or video recording may constitute evidence, the police may ask your consent to view or copy the photo or video, but we generally do not have the authority to seize your property without a warrant signed by a judge.

We actually welcome people to film us. If we are doing our jobs right, the recordings will help us by showing that. If we act improperly or make mistakes, we need to see that so that we can be accountable and improve our performance. People should remember however, that the right to film or record the police does not allow them to interfere with officers in the performance of their duties. If someone gets too close or otherwise begins to interfere with the officers, they may be subject to arrest whether or not they are trying to exercise their right to record. Please stay far enough back so that we don’t have to divert our attention away from the tasks at hand. We may have legitimate safety concerns if bystanders get too close or try to insert themselves into an incident in the interest of getting a “close-up”. If we are at a crime scene, we may also need to keep people out of that scene to preserve evidence and continue our investigation.

Also, officers have the need to safely control people who are being arrested or detained and may have legal and safety justification to prevent those people from accessing their smart phones or other property during a detention.

Finally, I think it is important to remember that any recording, whether from a bystander the officer, or a patrol car dash camera, shows only a part of any incident. The camera does not necessarily present a situation as experienced by any of the participants, and we all view events or videos through our own lenses based on the facts we have at the time and our own biases. It is important to view a recording as an important piece of any investigation, but we can’t always judge an incident based solely on that video or audio recording.

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for reading,

Captain Craig Schwartz

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Law Enforcement Training

The following is a guest post from Craig Schwartz, a Lieutenant (for now) at Santa Rosa Police Department. He is posting on Facebook under the SRPD page. This is a copy of the first post. The intro is from the FBI website explaining the purpose of the academy.

I think you’ll agree–this kind of training only furthers the professionalism of all cops, through the ranks.


FBI National Academy seal
FBI National Academy seal

The National Academy

The FBI National Academy is a professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders that serves to improve the administration of justice in police departments and agencies at home and abroad and to raise law enforcement standards, knowledge, and cooperation worldwide.

Its mission is “to support, promote, and enhance the personal and professional development of law enforcement leaders by preparing them for complex, dynamic, and contemporary challenges through innovative techniques, facilitating excellence in education and research, and forging partnerships throughout the world.”

Who attends.

Leaders and managers of state and local police, sheriffs’ departments, military police organizations, and federal law enforcement agencies. Participation is by invitation only, though a nomination process. Participants are drawn from every state in the union, from U.S. territories, and from over 150 international partner nations. See below for more details on graduates over the years.

The course of study.

For 10 classroom-hour weeks, four times a year, classes of some 250 officers take undergraduate and/or graduate college courses at our Quantico, Virginia, campus in the following areas: law, behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism/terrorist mindsets, leadership development, communication, and health/fitness. Officers participate in a wide range of leadership and specialized training, and they share ideas, techniques, and experiences with each other, creating lifelong partnerships that span state and national lines.

Lt Craig Schwartz
Lt Craig Schwartz

Craig Schwartz

Hello everyone,

We have finished our first week here in Quantico, with 10 to go. This has been a tremendous experience so far, with great classes and instructors along with excellent opportunities to meet and learn from other law enforcement leaders from around the world. There are 262 students in session 251 of the FBI National Academy, representing 49 states and over 20 foreign countries. I have met students from Kurdistan in northern Iraq, France, Argentina, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Afghanistan, Antigua, Ukraine, and more. It is interesting to talk to leaders from agencies in other states to learn how they deal with the law enforcement and management issues we all face. My roommate is from a small department in Kansas, with 13 employees serving a population of 5,000 people. Despite the small size of his agency, he has been able to share experiences with programs that are worth evaluating for our department.

I have six classes here. The classes are both graduate and undergraduate level courses accredited through the University of Virginia. The two I will focus on in this update are: Intelligence Theory and Application for Law Enforcement Managers; and Solving Ethical Dilemmas in Law Enforcement. The intelligence class focuses on using data and intelligence to drive law enforcement operations, as well as methods for sharing that information between law enforcement agencies. We will have several guest speakers in the class, including Debra Piehl, a project manager for Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS). The class on ethics has already resulted in lively discussions about moral and ethical dilemmas from history and those we currently face. It is a class that challenges our ideas about ourselves and how we look at the world. Both classes should provide excellent learning points to bring home with me.

The Academy also focuses a great deal on fitness, with three fitness classes each week and two physical challenges for students. One, the Yellow Brick Road, culminates in a 6.1 mile run which includes a 3+ mile section over the Marine Corps endurance course. There are 26 obstacles on the course. We participate in a challenge each week, until we do the Yellow Brick Road Course in week 10. Students who complete the challenge are awarded a yellow brick with their class number stenciled on it. The other challenge is for the blue brick. To complete that challenge students must swim at least 34 miles during the program. I’m five miles in after week 1.

Each Wednesday is an enrichment day, with guest speakers and other events scheduled. More on that next time…