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Gordon: Westminster Police Dept. advocating ‘9 p.m. routine,’ focuses on community policing | COMMENTARY

If you have spent any time the past few months on social media, you have probably heard the phrase, the 9 p.m. routine. What is the 9 p.m. routine? It is a recommended nightly security check of your home and vehicle by our local police department advising members of the community to eliminate the opportunity for crime. The 9 p.m. routine recommends one make sure they remove valuables from vehicles, lock their car and the door to their home, and turn on outdoor lights. It is a simple message, but one that people sometimes forget or become complacent in the busy moments of life.

According to their website, “The Westminster Police Department (WPD) is responsible for providing full-service law enforcement and public safety-related services to its citizens and visitors. In operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, WPD is in partnership with the community, striving to preserve peace and provide a safe environment by preventing crime, protecting life, liberty, and property, enforcing laws in a fair, impartial, and complete manner, and detecting crime and apprehending criminals.”

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The city of Westminster has 44 sworn police officers with a communications division and support staff of 13 non-sworn members and is dedicated to exceptional public service in our community. Our local police provide patrol, traffic control, K-9 and bike patrol, educational programs, and criminal and narcotic investigations. The WPD’s core beliefs include mutual respect, education, leadership, and moral and ethical standards which allows them to offer integrity, fairness, and service daily.

Chief of Police Thomas Ledwell assumed his duties on March 1, 2019. He had served as the department’s deputy chief since 2015. Ledwell’s law enforcement experience includes more than 22 years with the Frederick Police Department, where he rose through the ranks of police officer, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and deputy chief before being appointed as the chief of police.

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The WPD’s deputy chief is Maj. Rich Gibson, who was sworn in on Dec. 9. His career includes 24 years of service to the Baltimore Police Department where he served for the past 5 years as commander of the Northern District. I had the pleasure of meeting Gibson in December and was impressed with his thoughts on safety and desire to further utilize social media as a platform for reaching the public.

In 2018, the Westminster Public Safety Advisory Council published the results of a community survey on safety. The survey was to develop qualitative and quantitative data on the public perception of safety. The survey data was used to inform the city on public safety perceptions for future communication and interactions with the community. The survey respondents totaled approximately 1,300. One area that stood out in the survey was that Facebook and the city website were the predominant method that residents requested that the city use for communicating information for public safety.

I recently spoke to Gibson, who explained some of what WPD is working on.

“The first pillar of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing is building trust and legitimacy with the community. There are essentially four main objectives needed to accomplish this: treating people with respect and dignity, giving individuals a voice during encounters, being neutral and transparent in decision making and conveying trustworthy motives. The officers of the Westminster Police Department are guardians and strongly support the values and ideals of the Westminster community and President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Gibson said. “The Westminster Police Department will be developing an even more robust and interactive community policing program in 2021. 

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“What exactly is community policing? Community Policing is a community-based strategic approach where the community and your police department work together to develop crime fighting strategies consistent with community values. Some of the plans for our strategy will include meetings with all of the respective communities of Westminster to discuss topics that impact the perception of crime such as environmental issues, activity of police officers and how the community can help with the messaging to their respective community members regarding crime prevention.” Gibson continued.

“The Westminster Police Department understands the importance of messaging and the strength of social media. Through Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter we will be able to reach a very large audience and provide updates on recent crime and, most importantly, crime prevention measures.  You will see many PSAs on crime prevention measures to include the 9 p.m. routine. Many of our Westminster residents routinely share the 9 p.m. routine with their community members and the feedback has been very positive.”

The brave men and women who serve our community under the leadership of Ledwell and Gibson truly serve us all. We are fortunate to have not only good policing in our community; they are also community members who are a part of us.

Tom Gordon writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Saturday. Reach him at tgordonwrites@gmail.com.

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