MUSKOGEE police try more interaction with community

Sunday, June 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Police are going back to basics in Muskogee.

The police department began a new program last weekend that makes police officers directly available to the public. Officers are going to the community, not waiting for citizens to ask them for help.

The department is putting officers at six sites around Muskogee for at least two hours at a time.

``Its going to provide more intimate contact between citizens and police,'' Police Chief Rex Eskridge said.

Police Cpl. Reggie Cotton says the program has the potential to be one of the best community policing efforts in Oklahoma.

Officers have attended intensive training sessions that will help them answer questions from the public about neighborhood issues. The officers who volunteered for the program will continue to go to community-oriented policing school, Eskridge said.

``They're learning how to listen, mediate and find out what people's real issues are,'' he said.

Officers have had about 16 hours of community training through the Oklahoma Regional Community Policing Institute in Oklahoma City, Cotton said. The training involves domestic violence, cultural diversity and human relations.

``Some of the training is designed to help officers pass along information about the community crime prevention, conflict resolution between neighbors and problem solving,'' Cotton said. ``The officers will be able to do a number of things officers on duty don't have time to deal with.''

Six officers were selected for the program based on their experience and attributes, Cotton said.

The same number of officers as usual will patrol the city.

``It won't take away from police officers on the street,'' Cotton said.

``We don't just want the community to get better, but we want this agency to get better as well. We want the people to welcome these guys into the community and not just think of them as police officers, but as human beings.''