Jo Anne Darcy

 Best Practices of Mayors and Their City Governments in Promoting Tolerance and Respect for Diversity

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The city of Santa Clarita utilizes a variety of methods to promote tolerance and respect for diversity in the community. Among these policing programs is the development and implementation of a Community Interaction Team (CIT). This team consists of four Sheriff’s deputies and a sergeant. The goals of the program are to: 1) reduce crime and improve public safety; 2) improve police-citizen cooperation and communication; 3) improve law enforcement responsiveness to members of the community; and 4) increase quality of life and increase police and citizen’s ability to creatively solve community problems.

The CIT is assigned one particular area within the city of Santa Clarita to concentrate their efforts. A large contributing factor involves the implementation of a community-based policing philosophy. The team works to increase law enforcement visibility and involve residents in the solutions. The presence of the Community Interaction Team allows law enforcement to get to know the community residents and improve interpersonal relations and respect.

The Community Interaction Team, along with others from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station, also receives some training on tolerance and diversity. In addition to the training from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the city of Santa Clarita offers diversity training through community dialogue. The Santa Clarita Valley Human Relations Forum offers training to the community. This training involves the viewing of a documentary, The Color of Fear, and an in-depth discussion facilitated by trained diversity counselors. The goal of this training is to educate participants on improving race relations, tolerance, and their respect for diversity.

2. When was the program created and why?

Criminal activity exists everywhere. As with any community, there are areas in Santa Clarita that need more attention and specialized programs. Each neighborhood has particular issues and areas that need to be addressed. Santa Clarita has identified certain areas in need and their neighborhood-specific issues. In order to improve the quality of life, the city of Santa Clarita implemented the first Community Interaction Team in October 1997 in the Newhall neighborhood of Santa Clarita. This team was our pilot project and remained in the area for a year. The team targets one particular area and helps residents address issues ranging from intimidation to drugs and abandoned vehicles.

The Color of Fear human relations training began in spring 1995 and has continued since. This program is open to the community, however, specialized training sessions have been offered to community-based organizations and the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station.

3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?

The effectiveness of the Community Interaction Program is primarily measured by crime statistics. Additional performance measures are citizen comments and crime statistics for that particular area.

4. How is the program financed?

This program is financed through a joint effort of the city of Santa Clarita and the Bureau of Justice Assistance through a Local Law Enforcement Block Grant. The Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station has been able to readjust their scheduling to allow four deputies to take on a special assignment as members of the Community Interaction Team. These deputies are paid out of the Public Safety section of the City’s General Fund Budget. Grant funding is used to pay overtime to cover the position vacated by the staff who is serving as the Community Interaction Team’s sergeant. This funding is also used for supplies and equipment necessary for the operation of the team.

The community training for The Color of Fear is funded by the Santa Clarita Human Relations Forum, a city of Santa Clarita General Fund program.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

The community has been heavily involved in the entire process. During the development of the Community Interaction Team, city and Sheriff’s Station staff met with residents to hear their concerns and identify areas that need to be addressed. The community remains an important part of the program.

A vital part of the work of the Community Interaction Team depends on the input of residents. Throughout the program, the team works closely with the community to gather information and help them to implement solutions to community problems.

For example, the Canyon Country Team visited every business in the area to identify the emergency contact and action plan. This contact has helped law enforcement meet the business owners and establish a relationship. Businesses in the area have been very receptive and appreciative of this effort. Another example is the efforts the team has made to help clean up the community. The team made available the tools and resources necessary to allow residents to clean their yards and dispose of unwanted trash.

6. What are the major lessons learned that would be helpful for others trying to implement a similar program?

The major lessons the city of Santa Clarita has learned from the program that would be helpful for others trying to implement a program similar to our Community Interaction Team are:

(1) Gather input from the community. Residents are major stakeholders and the more they are involved in the process, the more pride and ownership they feel. This results in long-term change.

(2) Expect the unexpected. Not everything can be predicted. Design your program with enough flexibility to allow you to deal with unknown factors.

(3) Be flexible. As with any program, the first time is always a learning period. Learn from your experiences and make adjustments to assure it is the most useful for your community.

(4) Involve all stakeholders throughout the process. When gathering information and working in the community, remember to include the business owners and community-based organizations in your program. This will create more ownership and sustainability for the program.

7. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?

Mayors interested in replicating a program like Santa Clarita’s Community Interaction Team should know the importance of including the community and all stakeholders in the process. There is no set formula or program that has an exact fit with all communities. Agencies interested in replicating this program should be flexible and responsive to a community’s individual characteristics and realize that the more ownership felt by the community, the more long-term the results will be. It is also important to remember that there are resources available to implement a Community Interaction Program, thus reducing the need to reinvent the wheel.

For more information, please contact:

Pam Matsuoka
Community Services Analyst
City of Santa Clarita
23920 Valencia Boulevard
Santa Clarita, California 91355
Telephone: (805) 255-4956
Fax: (805) 255-4967

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