Our Approach

We are proud to be at the forefront of modern policing, which focuses not just on law enforcement, but on avoiding the need for law enforcement.

For us, that includes community-oriented policing, Legitimacy and Procedural Justice, and our work with the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace, all of which (and more) we describe here.

Community-Oriented Policing: the “PIER” Strategy

In partnership with the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace(CASP), the City of Salinas is recognized nationally as a leader in reducing crime by making enforcement part of a bigger, more integrated strategy of Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement and Re-entry services (PIER). This approach is based on the understanding that “you can’t arrest your way out of the problem,” but must also address the sources of violence, such as poverty, lack of opportunity, or the pain and anger that can result from a history of racial or ethnic disparities.

Prevention means working with families to help young children get a healthy, happy start in life. This is by far one of the most effective ways to make sure they never get in trouble as teenagers or adults.

Intervention means reaching young people who might be drawn towards a violent lifestyle, and offering them better alternatives, like counseling, mentoring, after school programs, recreation centers, sports or job training.

Enforcement is what we do when we have to — protect people from those who have become a threat. Here, we focus on using data to target enforcement on the most dangerous people (see “Group Violence Reduction Strategy,” below). We no longer do broad-based “sweeps,” which can undermine trust when people have unnecessary encounters with the police — and we don’t go after people because of their immigration status.

Re-entry services are provided to people who are returning to society from prison. Instead of just being dumped back into their old neighborhood with few options, the goal is to help them make a fresh start.

By following this integrated strategy, other cities have shown that violence can be reduced significantly. For example, San Jose went from being one of the most dangerous big cities in America to one of the safest.

By demonstrating both the seriousness of its gang violence problem and the credibility of its response, Salinas was invited to be one of the founding members of President Obama’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. In 2012, former Chief Kelly McMillin was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for his work to prevent youth violence through community-oriented policing.

An important part of community-oriented policing is recruiting officers who reflect the community they protect. We actively seek recruits from Salinas and the surrounding area, and encourage those with skills in the languages and cultures that make up our community.

Place-Based Policing

As part of our PIER strategy and our work with CASP, we have two “place-based” police officers station in the Hebbron Heights neighborhood, where they focus almost all of their time on developing trusting relationships and helping families solve problems. They do that in partnership with social service providers and government agencies, through CASP’s Cross-Functional Team. The work of these officers is so valuable that we kept them off regular patrol, even during the worst of a funding crisis that saw our department very seriously under-staffed. Now that we’re emerging from that crisis, we plan to expand place-based policing to Acosta Plaza and elsewhere.

Legitimacy and Procedural Justice

We were the first police department in California to train all our sworn officers in Legitimacy and Procedural Justice (LPJ), a model developed at Yale Law School which holds that true authority comes not from the use or fear of force but from the trust of the community. That trust is often lacking in minority communities, many of which have long histories of experiencing excessive or unfair policing — the civil rights struggles of the 60’s and 70’s were not that long ago, and while our country has made a lot of progress since then, those struggles are not over.

LPJ is based on four principles:

  • Giving others a Voice (Listening)
  • Neutrality in decision making
  • Respectful treatment
  • Trustworthiness.

As described in a KSBW-TV story, LPJ “recognizes that people want to feel heard, feel respected and want to know their police are neutral and trustworthy.” When people feel that way, they’re more likely to comply with the law, because they believe it’s being fairly applied. Much of LPJ amounts to taking the time to listen, and to explain. The difference it makes can be dramatic.

Group Violence Reduction Strategy

To address violence by gangs, the Salinas Police Department follows a comprehensive Group Violence Reduction Strategy. It’s based on the Operation Ceasefire model, which has led to dramatic declines in violence in cities across the country while improving relationships between police and the communities they serve. Ceasefire’s originator, David Kennedy, cites the Salinas Police in his ground-breaking book Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America.

The approach is based a few simple but powerful observations:

  • Almost all violent crime is committed by a very small number of people, organized in groups
  • Most of those people would leave their violent lifestyles behind, if given a way out
  • Most of them will listen when their own community asks them to stop being violent.

The few, most violent members of a community are offered a choice: either intensive attention from law enforcement, or assistance from an array of community services to help them turn their lives around. The great majority make the positive choice.