Deputy Chief Nick Loussia, Chief Elvin Barren, and members of the Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board  listen to U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence speak at a press conference Jan. 22 at the Southfield Public Library.

Deputy Chief Nick Loussia, Chief Elvin Barren, and members of the Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board listen to U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence speak at a press conference Jan. 22 at the Southfield Public Library.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Southfield police chief details plan for new policing model

‘Community harms’ that affect quality of life take center stage

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published January 29, 2020

 Jason Blanks, the executive director of the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, listens to the press conference.

Jason Blanks, the executive director of the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, listens to the press conference.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Police Chief Elvin Barren hosted a press conference recently to announce his goals for the department.

Barren held the conference Jan. 22 at the Southfield Public Library, along with representatives from the 46th District Court, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, Crimestoppers, Haven of Oakland County, Michigan High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program officials, Oak Park Public Safety Director Steve Cooper, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Southfield Mayor Ken Siver, Southfield Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Martin-Green, and Southfield Deputy Chiefs Nick Loussia and Brian Bassett.

Barren said that most police agencies measure success through reductions in violent and property crimes.

Under the new Community Harms-Directed Policing Model, violent and property crimes will remain a priority, but community harms — which Barren outlined during the conference — that affect quality of life will be addressed with a sense of urgency.

“Those crimes will continue to be a top priority in the Southfield Police Department, but under the community harms-directed policing model, we sought information from our community, our residents, what we should be focusing on as an agency to affect quality-of-life issues,” Barren said.

This concept, Barren said, was founded by Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe, a criminal justice professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. This model encourages police departments to address issues related to behavioral health, environmental issues, substance abuse, traffic accidents and issues facing youths.

Barren said he met with the Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board to discuss the strategy and develop a list of issues that Southfield residents define as community harms.

The issues that have been identified in Southfield are domestic violence, traffic safety, active shooter preparedness, school/youth engagement, human trafficking and illegal drug use. Barren said police will also have a strong presence at the Northland development site.

To curb domestic violence, Barren said, the force will be working closely with Haven, an Oakland County-based nonprofit organization that offers comprehensive programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to almost 30,000 people annually.

Barren said that, each year, his department responds to 1,500 domestic-related calls for service.

“One in three Michigan families right now is experiencing domestic violence. I promise you, you know them. You love them, and you care for them,” said Melissa Sinclair, Haven’s director of social action. “We are so honored to partner with Southfield police. We’ve had a longstanding relationship with them. We look forward to continuing to strengthen that.”

In November, Barren formed the Traffic Safety Bureau, which focuses on the reduction of harmful violent behaviors through education, awareness and enforcement.

“It has been very effective in reducing the amount of complaints coming in and accidents that are occurring,” Barren said. “We will not — and I repeat — will not use tickets as a measure to generate revenue, but to decrease risk behavior as it relates to driving.”

In December, Barren hosted an active shooter community response event where participants received training on techniques designed to increase their chances of survival during an active shooter encounter. Barren said Southfield police are highly trained for active shooter situations and that all threats are managed with a sense of urgency.

Southfield’s youth is a high priority, and Barren said his goal is to get residents acquainted with the police as early as possible.

“Our vision must be tightly coupled with that of the Police Department, particularly when it calls for engaging our youth,” Martin-Green said. “Because it can be an adversarial relationship or it can be one where we work in tandem. And I’m glad to say it’s one where we work in tandem.”

As far as human trafficking goes, Barren said his team has partnered with the Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force, which is federally funded and works with state and local agencies.

Also in December, residents were invited to participate in a free naloxone — an opioid overdose reversal drug — training session.

So far this year, four people have been saved through the use of the drug.

“That way, if there is an individual suffering from a narcotics overdose, our citizens, prior even to our arrival, are able to make a difference and save lives,” Barren said.

Another training on the use of the drug is slated for 6 p.m. April 2 at the Southfield Public Library.

“When the chief shared with me what he had planned, I was absolutely thrilled,” Siver said. “Responding is great, and we have great response times, but it’s about being proactive, and that’s what all of this is. Being proactive — trying to avoid situations before they occur.”

Barren said he hopes the public will keep him accountable with his new goals.

“With all these initiatives, it’s really about public trust. You might say, ‘Chief, why do you put this plan down in a document and share it with the community?’ That way you can hold me accountable for these initiatives,” Barren said. “If I say I’m going to do something, then do it.”

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