PACE TEAM rolls out

Community policing initiative from Black Mountain Police Department

Fred McCormick

The Black Mountain Police Department unveiled the members and cars of its PACE Team last week.

The Police And Citizen Enrichment Together Everyone Achieves More team is a bridge between the department and the community. Police chief Shawn Freeman, who instituted the "community policing" concept for Black Mountain, intends for the team to develop relationships with local business owners and residents.

Black Mountain police officers Chris Craig, front, and Jacob Calvert will form the P.A.C.E. T.E.A.M. within the department.

Jacob Calvert and Chris Craig are the two officers selected to lead the special task force. They were chosen after interviews that included departmental officers and members of the community (the author of this piece was among those to sit on the interview panel).

Selecting Calvert, who has worked with the department for four and a half years, and Craig, a native of Black Mountain and five-and-a-half-year veteran of the force, was not easy, Freeman said.

“There were some highly qualified individuals who put their names in for this,” he said. “What stood out about these two in particular was that they came into the process with issues they had identified in the community and potential solutions for them.”

Craig's contributions go beyond him being from the town, Freeman said. "He's got such a great rapport with a lot of citizens, and people really respect him," he said. "Being that building bridges and community support is a major focus for us, that made him a natural fit."

Calvert's ability to communicate efficiently and effectively complement Craig's skills, the chief said.

"He (Calvert) has great presentation skills, which makes him well-suited to do community presentations that will keep the community informed," Freeman said.

The team's duties extend beyond community outreach. That both officers are Swannanoa Valley residents makes them hyper-responsive to community concerns, the chief believes.

"These guys will be our front line," Freeman said. "If we get complaints, our goal is to address them immediately. These officers will be able to respond in a short period of time day or night."

The PACE TEAM will be arriving in style no matter where it goes and will be identifiable by its stealth Dodge Chargers. The cars are wrapped in "ghost" decals, which are less visible in the day and highly visible at night. The two new vehicles were included in the police department's 2017-18 budget. The PACE TEAM and vehicles will scheduled to be on the road by the end of July.

"One thing people will notice immediately is (an) increased presence in residential areas," Freeman said. "Some of that will be handling speeding complaints, but some of that will be going door-to-door, introducing themselves and getting their names out there. There will be an increased presence in the business communities as well, so people will have a point of contact when they have concerns."

Calvert was drawn to the team because it allows the department to have a close relationship with the community.

"I gravitated toward the idea of being able to walk downtown and meet the people who come into town and hearing what the business owners need," he said. "That lets us make decisions on where to set up based on where we know the issues to be."

Craig sees the team as a chance to help local residents and business owners.

"We have to reach deep and find, at the end of the day, (that) we're public servants," he said. "The public in this particular case just so happens to be my town."

Craig's experience as a native of the town and as a police officer has shown him that Black Mountain is a community that supports local law enforcement. Calvert has a plan to help it stay that way, he said.

"I'm hoping to dedicate more time to the elementary and primary schools and put a positive image out there," he said. "Just to let the kids know that I'm not always there for bad things. I can be around for good things as well."