Since 2015, the Georgetown Police Department’s CommUNITY Initiative has focused on building and strengthening relationships with residents in an effort to enhance public safety, said Police Chief Wayne Nero, who started the initiative.

“Relationships between the police and the community are important,” Nero said. “Especially in today’s world where there is a strain between police and community relationships.”

The initiative focuses on working with seven groups or stakeholders in the community, including neighborhood leaders, youth, the business community, seniors, faith-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations and the media, Nero said.

Through the initiative, police department representatives explain how, why and what the department is doing. Stakeholders also have an opportunity to give feedback and highlight issues they see in the community, Nero added.

“The reason for the CommUNITY Initiative is not for me as the police chief to tell people what we should be doing for them,” he said. “As a police chief, what I want is more community involvement, like you tell us what you need from us.”

To help strengthen these relationships, the police department engages in several efforts that differ depending on the group.

For example, engagement with youth includes field days for high school students to spend the day at the police station, a summer youth police academy, and the annual Chase the Chief 5K and Fun Run. The initiative has also established a chief’s advisory task force, comprising leaders from stakeholder groups that help the police department better understand community needs, Nero said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the initiative was in the process of establishing a subcommittee made up of leaders from the task force who would help the police department develop more opportunities for engagement, Nero said.

“[This initiative] is about how do we create meaningful relationships within these stakeholder groups, and how do we bring people together?” he added.