STOCKTON — It’s no secret police departments around the country are now looking for ways to bridge the gaps between themselves, and communities they serve, in response to the recent violence aimed at law enforcement.
Stockton Police believe they’ve found a way to do that – through its strategic community officers program, which stations one or two specific officers in certain problem areas, with the hope they’ll become more integrated in those communities.
Officer Justin Baur had made a few stops already Tuesday, but he hadn’t made any arrests or written any tickets. In fact, he’s not supposed to.
“Our theory is to not arrest our way out of these problems. It’s to help them get onto the right path or the right direction,” said Baur, one of eight Stockton officers in the SCO program. His job isn’t to police, it’s simply to engage with people, as he did at one apartment complex near the center of the city – an area to which officers are often called to respond.
“Here we’re just kind of hanging out. If anybody wants to come up or come talk, they tend not to the first couple of times but after they’re like ‘hey, you guys just hanging out? Yeah what’s going on?’” said Baur.
The program is expanding, and so far, it’s achieving what the department hoped for.
“He’s familiar with the situation that’s going on here. So it’s like, you know how sometimes they show up they don’t know what’s going on. It’s hard to help you out. But he knows the people, he knows what’s going on,” said Talia Pierce, the manager of the apartment complex.
For its efforts, Stockton PD seems to be getting a lot of attention. Filmmakers from the group Leadership Stockton produced a 20-minute mini-documentary about Stockton officers lives both on and off the clock. Officer Baur was featured in the film.
“There’s a bigger conversation going on about police/community relationships. A lot of times you don’t get to hear this side,” said Greg Bahr, one of the executive producers of the film, called “Hearts of Blue: Humanity in the Line of Duty.” Both Bahr, and his co-executive producer John Alita say they hope people walk away from it realizing behind the badge is a person, not just an officer.
“We can care about the rights of our citizens, and that they’re treated fairly by police. And at the same time we can also care about our officer,” said Alta. In light of the attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge in recent days, the filmmakers say the release couldn’t be timelier.
“I don’t want to arrest anybody. I want to take care of the issue,” said Baur. Stockton has a long way to go before it fully trusts its police community-wide. Baur calls this a good start.