Bring­ing a ‘per­sonal touch’ to polic­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Tess Sheets

Be­fore new Or­lando Po­lice re­cruits be­gin duty as patrol of­fi­cers, their first or­der of busi­ness is get­ting to know some of the peo­ple they’ll be work­ing for.

Of­fi­cer Or­lando Ro­man, one of the agency’s 11 re­cruits sworn in Tues­day, met with Lake Nona’s Lau­re­ate Park neigh­bor­hood watch co­or­di­na­tor Gene Thatcher on Fri­day at a Star­bucks on Nar­coosee Road. Ro­man will be as­signed to Dis­trict One, which in­cludes Lake Nona, start­ing Mon­day, his first of­fi­cial day on duty.

While Thatcher and Ro­man chat­ted at a cir­cu­lar ta­ble in the cof­fee shop’s out­door pa­tio area, the agency’s other re­cruits were scat­tered through­out the city, meet­ing with other com­mu­nity mem­bers to dis­cuss con­cerns in their parts of town.

The meet­ings are part of newly ap­pointed po­lice Chief Or­lando Rolón’s ini­tia­tive to build re­la­tion­ships be­tween of­fi­cers and com­mu­nity mem­bers, hop­ing of­fi­cers will gain a “per­sonal touch” with their com­mu­nity, OPD spokes­peo­ple said.

“A lot of the tech­niques and tac­tics that we’re taught, spe­cific po­lice work, whether it’s ar­rest­ing and laws, is very im­por­tant, but I think the jewel of what we do is en­gag­ing our com­mu­nity and this is an ex­am­ple of that right now,” Ro­man said.

Lake Nona, a once-ru­ral part of town now oc­cu­pied by a sprawl­ing and af­flu­ent res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity, is af­fected pri­mar­ily by “crimes of op­por­tu­nity”— car break-ins or mi­nor thefts, Thatcher said.

In Lau­re­ate Park, a large res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood in Lake Nona, a net­work of about 50 neigh­bor­hood watch “block com­man­ders” help thwart crime by re­lay­ing sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity to law en­force­ment. Their role as the po­lice depart­ment’s “eyes and ears” for the com­mu­nity de­pends on a solid re­la­tion­ship with of­fi­cers, Thatcher said.

Meet­ing face-to-face with the cops who serve her neigh­bor­hood is the best way to bol­ster that con­nec­tion, she said.

“In or­der to have a suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ship... I think it’s so im­por­tant that we get to know each other,” Thatcher said. “So when they come into our

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