Troy police say community support boosts morale

Department restates policies, tests body cameras

By: Eric Czarnik | Troy Times | Published September 8, 2020

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TROY — For Troy police Officer Greg Pokley, part of the motivation to keep working his shifts comes from the gestures of gratitude that he and his coworkers receive from everyday people.

And sometimes it also shows up as a sign.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, a citizen made a sign,” he said. “He made a real nice wood sign: ‘Thank you, Troy Police Department. We’re supporting you.’ Stuff like that.”

Despite news headlines about nationwide protests and an upswing in criticism of law enforcement, Troy Police Department spokeswoman Meghan Lehman said morale among Troy police officers is high.

“I think we’re very fortunate in Troy that we are supported by our citizens,” she said. “We have tried to be as transparent as possible to inform consistently about what the Troy police do. Fortunately, we have received a lot of support.”

Department officials say they uphold an ethic of community policing based on building and maintaining bridges with religious, educational, community and neighborhood groups. They added that the department stages more than 200 events or programs annually for the community. Patrol officers also get assigned to a particular area of the city to establish ties with the community there.

Lately, Pokley explained, the department has been trying to keep kids’ spirits up during the era of COVID-19 by doing drive-by birthdays when asked. The celebrations involve sending six to eight police cars to the child’s address at a time, he said.

The outreach to the community often is appreciated, Pokley explained. He said multiple local businesses have been supporting police since the pandemic-related shutdowns started back in March. He recalls the time Kar’s Nuts sent a bunch of their products, as well as times when restaurants provided lunch.

“They used to come in daily,” he said. “The local businesses were sending us lunches for all three shifts. … As far as the citizens, it’s really great. They sent letters, cards, thank-you notes. The kids are sending thank-you notes. They’re painting special notes on rocks.”

Another important component to police morale was the support from local officials “right from the get-go,” including the city manager, the mayor, the City Council and the police chief, he said.

“They have no intention of defunding,” Pokley added. “The support and morale of the Police Department from just that was really high.”

 

Police policies in place
Following the death of George Floyd and the fresh emergence of Black Lives Matter protests, Lehman said the city aggregated its own summary of its relevant police policies around the first week in June. The city posted a list of some of its policies on Facebook in August.

“Our policies were very closely in line with the most popular reform ideas,” Lehman said. “The only thing we first have (added) was specific language about the duty to intervene.”

Among the policies mentioned, Troy police said they incorporate a stringent background check and a psychological exam into the hiring process. Officers go through “numerous hours of in-service training” and learn how to use non-lethal force with pepper spray and Tasers, as well as verbal, nonviolent de-escalation strategies.

Troy police officials that they abide by the state’s use-of-force continuum rules, adding that the department’s tactics are not like the ones seen in video of how Floyd was treated.

In addition, the police said, for the past five years, officers and other police workers take a Fair and Impartial Policing class that aligns with implicit bias awareness and de-escalation. Police said they are also trained to deal with people who have mental illnesses or disabilities.

In terms of accountability, Troy says its police chief and chain of command review all arrest incidents where police force occurs, in addition to all complaints.

“When reviewing Use of Force reports involving TPD personnel, in virtually every case, the tactics that were used are less than what would have been legally justified,” the department said in a statement.

Police officials said they have a tracking system in place that records commendations and complaints so that leadership can step in. As complaints accumulate, the system flags an officer, who may be punished progressively or fired if the violation is serious enough.

When it comes to archiving police interactions with the public, the department currently records dashcam video and microphone audio of resident interactions and audits their use for compliance. The department is also researching body-worn cameras and hopes to acquire them, but said the technology will likely have a “significant cost.”

Lehman said the department had no set deadline for officially rolling out body cameras, because they’re trying out different brands and can only do so one at a time. But she hopes the officers will have them soon.

“We’re testing them right now as quick as possible,” she said. “With the bid process for making a large purchase like that, we’re following a rigorous bid process. We’re going to test a few different brands to get the best value.”

Find out more about the Troy Police Department by sending email to troypolice@troymi.gov or by calling (248) 524-3477.

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