Black Mountain Police Department looks to keep P.A.C.E. through community policing

New team seeks to enrich relationship between police and public

Fred McCormick

In the fight against crime there are few tools available to law enforcement officers as valuable as the trust of the community they serve. Open and honest communication between citizens and officers allows a department to allocate resources to address concerns before they become issues.

The approach to law enforcement that nurtures that relationship is known as community policing, and it's the philosophy behind the formation of the P.A.C.E. T.E.A.M. (Police And Citizen Enrichment Together Everyone Achieves More) within the Black Mountain Police Department.

The unit will work to improve the partnership between the department and community, according to Shawn Freeman, who took over as police chief in May.

Black Mountain Police chief Shawn Freeman is putting together a team of officers that will work to improve the partnership between the department and community.

“I wanted to put together a community-oriented team that can resolve issues immediately,” he said.

The two-member team will "wear a lot of hats," according to Freeman.

The PACE TEAM will serve as the public face of the department and will be issued the latest equipment, such as a pair of specially marked vehicles. The unit will respond to calls in the downtown business district, where officers plan to work closely with local business owners.

"The first priority for the team is to build bridges with the community," Freeman said. "If we want to tackle the issues with traffic or the issues with drugs or any other issues that may be growing, we have to have the lines of communication open with people in the community, because they'll be the ones who let us know what's going on."

That approach allows the department to rely on feedback from the community. It also help identifying the public's needs.

"If we get speeding complaints in a certain area, for example," Freeman said. "We can put these two officers out on the street, knocking on doors asking if there are specific times that the speeding is going on. It lets the people who live there know we're out there working on their problem."

The team will also focus on drug suppression. In a two-week period, the Black Mountain Police Department posted three drug busts on its Facebook page, busts that yielded 44 grams of methamphetamine, 14 grams of crack cocaine, 14 grams of heroin and 80 Xanax pills.

"Once this team is up and going I'm hoping to bring the community in to really talk about community policing and the effectiveness of it," Freeman said. "We have to have buy-in from the citizens to help address these kinds of problems."

The department reallocated two existing shifts to create the PACE TEAM and interviewed four officers on the force.

“We are above standard when you’re talking about police officers,” Freeman said. “These guys have a lot of specialized and advanced training and college degrees.”

Freeman said last week that he will select the team in the next several days.

"This team will spearhead the charge to bridge gaps between the department and the community," Freeman said. "And by opening those lines of communication, they'll work with citizens to build an even safer, more caring community."