The City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department today hosted a delegation from Iraq who wanted to learn about community policing in the United States.
The visit is part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Their objective during this three-week visit to the U.S. is to examine law enforcement in the United States, explore community policing, and examine the critical role of transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
Mayor Craig A. Moe told the group, “Police Departments function better when officers interact with people every day. That trust has to be there.”
The Laurel Police Department has an entire Community Policing unit dedicated to building that trust.
“Community policing is paramount to successful resolutions of a lot of community issues, “Police Chief Richard McLaughlin told the visitors. “We work very hard to be transparent. It's very important that those relationships are maintained.”
Corporal Joseph Johnson is the unofficial Ambassador of Laurel’s community policing effort. He is a familiar face in Laurel—always out and about in the schools and at neighborhood functions. And hardly ever in a patrol car.
“Officers have to be approachable,” Johnson says. “That’s why I like patrolling on a bike or a Segway-rather than encased in a steel patrol car. I can talk to people face to face. My message, especially to the youngsters who flag me down to talk--there's more to being a police officer than just arresting people. “
City Councilman Fred Smalls helped facilitate this visit, the fifth one the City of Laurel has hosted in the last 3 or 4 years. Visitors from Estonia, Egypt, Colombia, and Palestine has also visited Laurel as part of the program.
“I don’t mind telling the world what a great place Laurel is and sharing what we do to keep it that way,” Smalls says.
Council President Mike Leszcz also attended the event along with City Administrator Martin Flemion. The delegation, many of them from Iraq Ministry of the Interior wanted to know about resources, cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies, and how to get officers to buy into community policing.
Through an interpreter one visitor after another praised the Police Chief and Mayor for creating such a positive community atmosphere.
“I know that didn’t happen overnight. It sounds like they work on it all the time,” he said.
After leaving Laurel, the Iraqi delegation headed to Montgomery County for visit. They’ll be in the United States for three weeks before heading home.
(By Audrey Barnes/City of Laurel)