LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The newly-formed LMPD Community Policing Unit has been working to connect with the public for six weeks, and it's still figuring out how it is meant to best function.

The new unit was created in September when the LMPD restructuring was announced. Nine existing officers were pulled to create the unit and started working together under Lt. Jamey Schwab in early November.

“We bring a personable side to the police department to these interactions,” Lt. Schwab said.

The unit was designed with the intent of bridging the gap between the public and police by rebuilding trust in what are being called "critical areas" of Louisville. But it will take some time to define goals and intentions.

“There are a lot of directions that we could potentially go in,” Lt. Schwab said. “So we're trying to identify where are we going to get the best benefit? A lot of what we're doing is kind of going out and building some relationships with the community and start working on projects.”

The officers have teamed up to hand out Christmas presents to children. And as schools are out on holiday break, officers are playing and connecting with kids at community centers.

“I think that's really the key with some of the violence going on in our community,” Lt. Schwab said. “...Is being able to reach out to the young people.”

Officer Amber Ross is one of the officers in the Community Policing Unit. She says it’s giving her more time than she had working her beat to interact with the community to build trust.

"We're trying to get to know these kids,” Ross said. “We're trying to get to know who they are, where they come from, what they are about."

Ross said her vision and hope working with this unit is to get “more kids on the right goal.”

Defining how the unit is successful is difficult to do.

"We want to be qualitative instead of quantitative,” Lt. Schwab said. “So we really are basing what we're doing on the quality of our interactions. So I think success for us ... [is] going to be one program at a time, or one person we reach out to at a time."

Lt. Schwab said for as much as people see detectives or public information officers out at crime scenes, he wants the public to see this unit just as much.

"Just like you have officers respond to a critical incident like a shooting or something and you have investigators, our unit actually offers resources on the back end,” Lt. Schwab said. “Where we can actually get into that area and offer a more personal side of law enforcement and really try to identify what the root cause of the issues in the community are."

The unit is not just focused on connecting with kids in high-crime areas. Currently, the officers are divided up to connect to these 12 groups in the community:

  • Immigrants and refugees
  • Homeless population
  • Mentally ill
  • Substance abuse (Healing Place)
  • LGBTQ community
  • Latino community
  • Clergy/faith-based organizations
  • Minority and special interest groups
  • Citizen’s Police Academy (this will include our existing Alumni Associations)
  • Youth outreach
  • Veteran’s groups
  • Special Needs (Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

The federal grant will fund the Community Policing Unit for the next three years. Lt. Schwab will have to provide quarterly reports on the activity of the unit to support the grant.

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