DOJ COPS program is changing perceptions

Monday - 6/6/2011, 10:31am EDT

Zoe Mentel, policy analyst, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Dept. of Justice

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

As the economy has tightened, police departments around the nation are being put in the unaccustomed position of having to make cuts and find alternative funding. A relatively new division within the office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the Department of Justice has been formed around finding "un-traditional partners for law enforcement."

The idea was to find new resources and new partners for chief law enforcement executives, so the Department reached out to major corporations and foundations to promote innovations in law enforcement.

There was one problem, policy analyst Zoe Mentel told Federal News Radio. "You know the Department of Justice is not used to working with large corporations. We're used to suing them (laughs) in other parts of the Justice Department," she said.

Fortunately, she added, the program has had healthy support from the top, both within Justice and the private sector.

Mental said C level executives at major corporations have stepped up to help police chiefs learn about everything from innovation to six sigma implementation to how to ask for funding.

For example, Mental said the program has been working with Disney and all the major studios on security. "Some of them have their own firetrucks. They have their own paramedics. They're basically little cities within the jurisdictions they reside," she said. These private security efforts are "sometimes blessed with much more resources than some of our local PDs. It's a good thing to make those kinds of connections."

The police chiefs, with the help of COPS, are finding kindred spirits in the private sector, said Mentel.

"One good thing about going through the Chief Security Officer (of a corporation) is usually these guys are, if you're working with a large corporation, it's usually a former police chief from a mid or large sized city or it's a former special agent in charge of the FBI, for example - one of the field offices. So they're familiar with law enforcement. They're familiar, sometimes, with the COPS office, and so they know what we do and they're amazingly willing to work with us and work for law enforcement."

Asked what she's learned through the experience, Mental replied, "That's pretty easy: don't let the bureaucracy wear you down. You're going to have to read a lot of memos and a lot of emails and have a lot of meetings with your legal department."

For her efforts, she, along with the rest of the COPS team, are finalists in the Justice and Law Enforcement category of the 2011 Service to America medals.

For more about the medals and the federal employees who have done outstanding work in public service, see Keyword: SAMMIES