Thursday, December 25, 2003

Riverside Sheriff Reaches Out to Community

Riverside Sheriff Reaches Out to Community
by José Pérez
Black Voice News

When Bob Doyle was sworn in as Riverside County’s new sheriff, many observers saw it as the culmination of a long and accomplished career in law enforcement. 

For Doyle, a lifelong resident of Riverside County, the new post marked the beginning of a new chapter in his personal desire to see a more harmonious relationship develop between the community he was born and raised in and the department that he has spent his entire adulthood working for.

“I am a strong believer in relationships,” said Doyle.

Fostering, building, and enhancing the relationships between any police department and the community it serves is always a daunting and tricky challenge. Doing so in Riverside County, California will have to involve something other than tricks. The history of tension and tragedy between the department and the community – especially the minority community – was already long and sad when the gut-wrenching death of Tyisha Miller shocked many. 

Effecting a change on a well-entrenched institutional culture is never easy but Doyle figures that he has some advantages that others may not have had in similar situations in other agencies. He has spent virtually his entire adult life working for the sheriff’s department and he has lived his entire life in Riverside County as a resident. Moreover, he sees his biggest advantage in very plain terms: he wants to make it happen. He stated “I am dedicated to doing everything I can … I think it is important.”

“I want to truly partner with the community,” said the veteran cop. “Helping each other to understand each other and being open” is important, according to Doyle.

How does he plan to achieve that level of understanding? One of the more important tenets for Doyle is to stress the importance of “being tolerant.” In other words, individuals on both sides of the police divide have to understand that they will not always agree with nor understand one another. Tolerance is the key to maintaining peace when comprehension is not a viable option. Still, sheriff department public information officer Shelly Kennedy-Smith said that it is important that the community understands “what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Doyle also hopes to gain ground via community policing whereby his deputies are looked at as equal members of the community just like a teacher or a preacher. The sheriff referred to this as returning to the practice of the “beat cop, [of] cultivating relationships via interaction” with the people in the neighborhood. This is important to the sheriff’s department for more than just good public relations. When the cop on the beat has developed “that relationship, in times of crisis that becomes critical” because the person in need of help will feel more comfortable coming to “officer friendly” beat cop versus some stranger with a gun that he/she has never met before.

For Doyle, it is all about how community members “help each other.”

Kennedy-Smith added that the goal was to secure an “updated, current perception for our personnel” in the community.

The bottom line for the Sheriff’s department is making sure that every resident of Riverside County can enjoy their lives in one of America’s fastest growing communities without having to worry about their safety. The goal is, according to Kennedy-Smith, to “keep, maintain, promote peace.”