Editor’s Note: The Norway Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy offers the public an opportunity to learn about law enforcement and what it does from those who do it. It began in April and each week we will feature a class from the eight-week academy.

Week 8 – SRO Mitch Shaw, Chief Rob Federico – Juvenile Justice – Part 2; Community Policing

NORWAY — “Four years ago, I started at the Rowe School under a federal grant design to build relationships between police and the community,” said The Guy E. Rowe School School Resource Officer Mitch Shaw. “My first focus is the kids, then the parents and staff.”

“I do a lot of talking [with kids].”

Shaw chuckled saying “the kids start the year off nervous and scared of police … within a few months they are passing me in the hall ‘Hey Officer Shaw!'”

School Resource Officer Mitch Shaw explains some of the intricacies of his job.  A.M. Sheehan

“We work through issues to help kids and families,” he explained. Other focuses are working through behavior issues after the fact, such as fighting or vaping, and discussing how things might be better handled. Sometimes, he said, he has to report extreme truancy to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Sometimes. I have to deal with irate parents and investigate crimes such as criminal mischief.”

His goal, he said, is to keep young students out of the criminal justice system. He said he works with the restorative justice team “although Dan [Hart, principal] and I have used restorative justice as long as I have been there. “The last thing we want is the Juvenile Community Corrections Officer involved.

“As an SRO I work a triangle,” he explained. “Teaching, Mentoring, Counseling.”

Teaching involves working in the classroom on such topics as bullying, dangers of vaping and drugs, theft and stealing and respect. Mentoring requires him to be a role model. “Some classes have incentives for good behavior such as eating lunch with me, getting to walk or play a game with me.” The kids, he said, really like that and that means he’s fulfilling his role under the grant requirements.

Community policing

The last instructor was the Norway Police Chief Rob Federico.

“Every year we buy equipment but never really do anything for the community,” he said, by way of explaining his desire to launch this Citizens Police Academy. Back in the day, it was all community policing, he said. Cops walked foot patrol, had regular beats and knew everyone on their beat. “All that changed because of technology.”

Once police took to automobiles and had radios they got off the street and patrolled larger areas, with little contact with the community. “In the mid-’60s law enforcement realized that had to change.”

Norway Police Department has gone back to foot patrols, talking with people who now, he said, feel comfortable talking with police. “Now, [because of this] we have a lot of the community helping us do our jobs. They pay attention and let us know.” The only caveat he had to that was the need for people to call as soon as they see something – not an hour or two later.

Norway Police Chief Rob Federico explains the department’s community policing philosophy. A.M. Sheehan

Another focus of community policing, he said, is the Walking School Bus. “Parents wait at the “stops (between the Rowe School and Ari’s Pizza) and we get to know them. Sometimes, if we recognize a family may be going through a tough time, we can help. We get a lot of donations that we can pass on.”

Then there’s Operation Sandbox, where the NPD will deliver a bucket of sand to those who can’t manage to get sand for themselves during the winter. “We get a lot of donations of pails for that,” said Federico, “from area businesses.”

“Our job is to serve the people — you can’t drive around in a cruiser for 12 hours and know your community.”

“This is the taxpayers’ police department, not mine.” He noted that on every shift report, there is a place for COP – Community Oriented Policing – and each officer needs to fill out at least two or three activities undertaken that fill that criterion.

Another example, he said, is every year police retrieve a number of abandoned bikes. After making multiple efforts to locate the proper owners, at the end of the year if the bikes are not claimed, they are donated to CEBE which paints, repairs and offers them on loan to the community.

At the end of the Academy, after receiving a certificate of completion and a gift bag, participant Merrill Kelley stood up and said how enthusiastic about their jobs and teaching the class the instructors all were and how dedicated the police in the community are. He spoke for the entire class.

Editor’s Note: The next Citizens Police Academy will begin Tuesday, September 24.




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