Frank Straub, Ph.D, director of strategic studies at the Police Foundation, discusses its recent study on foot patrol policing.

In March, the Mackinac Center hosted an Issues and Ideas Forum on a study produced by the Police Foundation on the use of foot patrol policing.

Over the last several years, police departments across the country have faced heightened scrutiny and fractured trust within their communities after some highly publicized and divisive incidents. The Police Foundation’s mission is to advance policing through innovation and science; naturally, it began looking for ways to bolster public trust in police across the country, as well as their effectiveness. One solution is foot patrol policing.

Chief Jeff Hadley of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety describes the impact of foot patrols in Kalamazoo.

The concept of foot patrol: Put officers on the streets in neighborhoods, encouraging them to interact with residents and build relationships. The Foundation studied foot patrol programs in five cities: Cambridge, Massachusetts; Evanston, Illinois, New Haven, Connecticut; Portland, Oregon; and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Kalamazoo embarked on an ambitious program. Chief Jeff Hadley explained the department’s goals at the forum, which include having an officer knock on every door in the city. Within the first few months of the program, he said, an officer out on foot patrol received a tip that solved a shooting, passed to him in a note during a handshake. Hadley pointed out that the trust built through foot patrols benefited both citizens and police. A resident had enough trust to pass along information, and the officer now had tangible proof that knocking on all those doors was worth the trouble.

Frank Straub, a Police Foundation official who holds a doctorate in criminal justice, noted that the people in the best spot to solve the problems in a neighborhood are the people who live there. The answer to violence in a park might be as simple as installing better lighting at night. Rather than arresting homeless people, wasting time and energy on a punishment that ultimately will not solve the problem, it could be better to teach officers how to connect people to services that could help them move forward in life.

Foot patrol has been a great success in the cities the Police Foundation studied, and it hopes to translate that success into a new way to enforce laws everywhere.