257 – Community Engagement

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I. Policy

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Community Engagement Division is committed to the development and perpetuation of community crime prevention programs. All Community Engagement personnel have the responsibility to assist citizens in the reduction of crime through proactive crime prevention measures, victimization and avoidance. A safe, secure, and knowledgeable citizenry is critical to achieving this mission.

II. Definitions

Community Engagement Deputies must have the ability to work with a wide variety of people and possess strong organizational and communication skills. They must be willing to have significant interaction with the general public, local businesses, schools, religious organizations, and other law enforcement agencies. The deputies will conduct crime prevention training and educational programs for the general public. Serve on community boards and work closely with groups to provide.

Crime Prevention / Community Liaison Deputies shall be responsible for a predetermined patrol district. Their duties shall include, but are not limited to: reaching out to local businesses, homeowners associations, churches, chambers of commerce, and attending community meetings. The primary goal is to find out and address concerns the community is facing.

Harris County Youth Programs: The following youth programs are HCSO Junior Mounted Posse, HCSO Police Athletic and Activities League (PAL) and HCSO Law Enforcement Explorer.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a multidisciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior through environmental design. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. Generally speaking, most implementations of CPTED occur solely within the urbanized, built environment. Specifically altering the physical design of the communities in which humans reside and congregate in order to deter criminal activity is the main goal of CPTED. CPTED principles of design affect elements of the built environment ranging from the small-scale (such as the strategic use of shrubbery and other vegetation) to the overarching, including building form of an entire urban neighborhood and the amount of opportunity for “eyes on the street”.

III. Procedure

A. The Community Engagement Division shall be committed to providing Harris County citizens with information that will increase their knowledge and practices of crime prevention awareness.

B. The Community Engagement Director shall have the responsibility of managing and planning the bureau’s crime prevention activities and forwarding the information up the chain of command for review.

C. The Community Engagement supervisors shall prepare and submit unit reports at least quarterly or at the request of the Community Engagement Director. The reports may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. A description of current concerns voiced by the community,

2. A description of potential problems that have a bearing on law enforcement activities within the community,

3. A statement of recommended actions that address previously identified concerns and problems,

4. A statement of progress made toward addressing such concerns and problems, and

5. Status reports as required.

D. Community Engagement shall, when available, have deputy personnel conduct residential and business security inspections or surveys. A survey will include, but is not limited to, a basic review of a structure in order to make safety recommendations to the owner.

E. The crime prevention educational programs and events provided by Community Engagement shall be designed to provide information to as many persons within Harris County as possible.

1. Crime prevention programs and events shall be designed to target crimes by type and geographic area. Analysis of local crime data shall identify those areas or types of crimes to be targeted.

2. Crime prevention programs shall be designed to address community perceptions or misconceptions of crime activity.

3. Crime prevention educational programs and events shall be evaluated by the Community Engagement Supervisors annually to determine efficiency and effectiveness.

4. Such evaluation shall be forwarded with recommendations to be considered to the Director for review.

F. Community Engagement Division shall make a wide array of crime prevention programs available to all residents and businesses within Harris County. The programs will be organized for residents where there has been a request for such or the need is identified by crime data analysis. These programs may encompass, but are not limited to the following:

1. Robbery and theft prevention presentations offer awareness to businesses to improve physical and procedural security and also offer suggestions for employee training. These types of programs also address losses due to employee theft and pilferage.

2. The “Rape Aggression Defense” (RAD) program is primarily a basic education of confrontation principles and personal defense for women. It provides training and education in self-realization of one’s own physical power, awareness, prevention, and risk reduction and risk avoidance.

3. School education programs offer opportunities for deputies to promote awareness for children and increase public relations in elementary and secondary schools within Harris County.

4. Neighborhood Watch programs are implemented and organized through the Community Engagement Division, and are designed to promote security awareness in block” areas within Harris County.

G. General crime prevention presentations are designed to promote awareness in areas other than those listed above and include, but are not limited to:

1. Scams and fraud,

2. Pedestrian and bike safety,

3. Home and business security,

4. Travel safety, and

5. Safety programs for senior citizens who are more vulnerable to crime due to slow or hindered mobility.

H. Community Involvement

1. The Community Engagement Director or designee shall be the liaison for the HCSO with community groups and organizations, and shall allow community groups and organizations to transmit and convey information to the HCSO to assist in the implementation and / or improvement of police community interactions.

2. All personnel assigned to the Community Engagement shall be responsible for achieving the community involvement objectives of the HCSO.

3. Community Engagement shall develop community involvement programs and publicize the objectives, problems, and successes.

4. Community Engagement shall identify and develop training needs and shall assist in the establishment of community groups where they are needed and / or requested through interviews with citizen representatives and conferences with supervisors.

5. Community Engagement will conduct a community survey every two years.

I. The HCSO Law Enforcement Explorer program, Junior Mounted Posse and Police Athletic and Activities League (PAL) is supported through the use of HCSO personnel and facilities. Refer to HCSO Department Policy #705, “Youth Programs,” for specific details.

J. Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA):  The HCSO Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA) program utilizing curriculum designed to educate participants in current laws and procedures as well as introduce he/she to the various divisional units within the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The classes may be modified as deemed necessary to address issues in the community.

Classes may include but are not limited to:

1.  Penal Code/Case Law

2.  Detention Operations

3.  K-9 Unit

4.  Homicide

5.  Gang Awareness

6.  Bomb Squad

7.  Cold Cases

8.  Scene scenarios

9.  Human Trafficking

10.  Internal Affairs

11.  Traffic Enforcement

12.  Patrol Procedures

13.  Marine Division

14.  Livestock Division

15.  Community Engagement

16.  SWAT

a) Authorized Participants: Citizens participating in the Citizen’s Police Academy must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age, complete a Citizen’s Police Academy application and meet the following standards:

1. Be a citizen of Harris County.

2. Is not on bond for a criminal offense.

3. Is not on probation for a criminal offense.

4. Is not on parole for a criminal offense.

5. Is not on deferred adjudication of a criminal offense.

6. Is not a convicted felon

7. Has not been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor or higher offense within the past eight (8) years.

8. Has not been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

b) Prior graduates of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy may apply for and attend future classes. Applicants must meet the standards listed under Authorized participants or receive approval from the Community Engagement Director.

c) Graduates of the Citizen’s Police Academy may apply to become a member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAA). The CPAAA is a 501 (c) 3 organization with the purpose to bring together graduates of the Harris County Citizens Police Academy.

1.  Authorized participants:

A. Graduate of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy class.

B. Paid member and good standing with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA)

C. Sign appropriate waivers of liability with the Alumni Association. Waivers will be maintained by Community Engagement.

2. Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Alumni Association (CPAAA) volunteers shall adhere to the following dress code:

A. Be clean and present a professional image at all times.

B. Authorized attire:

1) Authorized CPAA Alumni uniform shirt.

2) Black or blue dress pants.

3) Closed toe shoes or boots.

4) Any attire deemed acceptable by the supervisor in charge of the activity.

C. Unauthorized attire:

a) Unclean, soiled, or dirty attire.

b)  Obscene, vulgar, or insulting clothing accessories (i.e. hat pins, shirt buttons, etc.)

c) Sandals, flip flops, steel toed boots.

d) Any attire deemed acceptable by the supervisor in charge of the activity.  

e) Volunteers shall not carry a weapon while volunteering with any HCSO activities unless he or she is an active/certified Texas peace officer. The Community Engagement Director, Bureau Commander, and/or Watch Supervisor must be notified if the officer is armed while participating in a HCSO activity.

K. Volunteer Personnel: Volunteers are utilized to provide additional resources for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as needed.

1. Authorized Participants:

a) Graduates from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Policy Academy.

b) Student Interns

c) Graduates from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

d) Volunteers from other HCSO divisions

e) Members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy 

   Alumni Association (CPAAA)

2. Volunteers may wear attire deemed acceptable by the Community Engagement Director, Bureau Commander, District/Division/Section Commander, Watch Commander and or watch Supervisor.”

Unauthorized attire:

a. Unclean, soiled, or dirty attire.

b. Obscene, vulgar, or insulting clothing accessories (i.e. hat pins, shirt buttons, etc.)

c. Sandals, flip flops, steel toed boots.

d. Any attire deemed unacceptable by the Community Engagement Director. Bureau Commander, District/Division/Section Commander, Watch Commander, and/or Watch Supervisor.

3.  Restrictions: The following restrictions will be enforced by HCSO staff:

a. Volunteers who are acting as representatives of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and their behavior shall be businesslike and professional. Participants shall be guided by the following responsibilities:

Acceptable Responsibilities:

1) Answer Phones.

2) Greet walk-in visitors.

3) Provide answers to public information questions.

4) Assist with child restraint inspections.

5) Act as a directory for other county services.

6) Aid in language translations.

7) Perform general office duties.

8) Educate the public on available Crime Prevention programs.

9) Assist with scheduling Crime Prevention programs.

10) Any duties deemed acceptable by the Community Engagement Director, Bureau Commander, District/Division/Section Commander, Watch Commander, and/or Watch Supervisor.

Unacceptable Responsibilities:

1) Interfere with law enforcement activities or investigations.

2) Utilize Sheriff’s Office computers.

3) Access Classified Information, such as criminal histories, driver’s license information, or other personal information.

4) Disseminate reports or information in reports.

5) Provide legal advice.

6) Use abusive, vulgar, or insulting language.

7) Recommend any law firm, attorney, legal counsel, or bail bondsman.

8) Any activity deemed inappropriate by Sheriff’s Office personnel.

4. Procedures: In order for an individual to participate in the job functions as a volunteer, the following procedures must be followed and the individual must:

a. Complete a background check based on job responsibility.

Volunteers representing HCSO must not:

1) Currently be on bond for a criminal offense.

2) Currently be on or have ever been on probation for any criminal offense.

3) Currently be on or have ever been on parole for any criminal offense.

4) Currently be on or have ever been on deferred adjudication for any criminal offense.

5) Be a convicted felon.

6) Have been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor or higher offense within the past eight (8) years.

7) Have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

b. Possess a valid State identification card or driver’s license.

c.  Sign appropriate waivers based on job responsibility.

d. Possess and present, if requested by Sheriff’s Office personnel, a valid volunteer identification badge.

e. Follow the procedures and restrictions as set forth in the Patrol Bureau Standard Operating Procedures Manual, i.e. Civilian Observers Policy #114, if the participant intends to complete a “Ride-Along”.

f. Volunteers shall not carry a weapon while volunteering during any HCSO activities unless he or she is an active/certified Texas peace officer. The supervisor must be notified if the officers is armed while participating in a HCSO activity.

g. The Community Engagement Director, Bureau Commander, and/or Watch Supervisor have the authority to revoke an individual’s privilege to participate as a volunteer in any Sheriff’s Office activities.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

January 26, 2022

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