Chief Riley should hit ground running

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

The issue: William T. Riley III comes in as Selma&8217;s new police chief.

Our position: We should give Riley an opportunity, but he shouldn&8217;t wait too long to begin improving the city&8217;s police force.

The Selma Police Department has reached its nadir.

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Now, under the direction of William T. Riley III as Selma&8217;s new police chief, the department has the opportunity to climb again.

But the department has many challenges: morale, training, salary and numbers. These are similar to &8220;inside baseball,&8221; and will not become noticeable at first to the public.

We understand Riley&8217;s expertise in various fields of police work. We hope he will begin instituting community-oriented policing when feasible.

Community-oriented policing came out of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Instead of reacting to crime, officers become woven into the fabric of a community to prevent crime. Community-oriented policing also calls for intensive and consistent policing in neighborhoods, high and low-risk.

Some communities have formed Neighborhood Watch groups that help policing action This is also a part of the program &8212; people looking out for other people.

This type public safety philosophy is more than throwing money at a few people who walk door-to-door, leaving tracts in their wake. Instead, COPS is demanding.

Many COPS neighborhoods have undercover police officers riding through in unmarked cars all the time. Each of these officers has a cell phone, and most of the people in the neighborhood have those cell phone numbers. If something suspicious occurs in a neighborhood, an officer receives a call and checks it out immediately.

If too many people gather on a corner or at a club or other businesses, then COPS officers stop and talk with them. Some COPS neighborhoods have curfews.

Usually, the COPS neighborhoods form associations and meet once a week. The police officers assigned to that neighborhood come and talk about recent incidents. They ask questions of the residents and the residents ask questions of them. Everyone knows everyone.

If Selma&8217;s police force became better trained and more pro-active, it seems our neighborhoods would not be the war zones some of them turn into late at night.

Sure, many things in the department require attention. This is one.

The public should welcome Chief Riley to town. But he shouldn&8217;t hesitate to begin showing the community just what he can accomplish.