By: Anish Quenim
As a hostage and crisis negotiator, kidnap ransom negotiator and suicide intervention specialist I normally established contact with people on what we would refer to as ‘the penultimate day’. After numerous such interventions, I had reason to believe that escalation of a crisis isn’t sudden and happens over a period of time. As crisis negotiators, we break down painful chapters during an intervention. Such dissection allows us to listen to entire stories, which eventually would assist in a timely intervention. We’re dealing with humans after all, replacing the word ‘problem’ with the word ‘situation’ was crucial. Nobody is born a criminal and thus without understanding the underlying reasons that activated the ‘crime trigger’, we cannot merely justify imposing a ‘criminal label’. Why did it happen? Why now? Why her or him? Why it may happen again? And so on and so forth.
The theory of ‘working back to work forward’ required that I spent time analysing the charts at the police department for better understanding of the Trends and Actuals. I needed to break down these instances to better understand the stories behind each statistic. This comparative analysis provided meaningful insight and enabled a ‘priority based’ policing model. I had my data, but now had to test it. There truly could’ve been only two outcomes, 1) Early detection of a possible crisis thus we could plug escalation in the grass roots stage, or 2) Establishing relationships with community that could someday assist in their own crisis negotiations, if it ever reached that stage.
I decided to focus on community policing, as a model to implement a systematic overhaul to crisis intervention. The project was called ‘Verna Police Crocs and Cops Community Policing Unit’ (a first of its kind model in Goa, India) and the goal was ‘proactive rather than reactive’. The results were astonishing. There was an increase in proactive reporting by over 800% in just one year, the crime rate was dropping drastically too. Victim rehabilitation rates were at its highest and we noticed a negligible rate of recidivism. Not just community policing, but the community was now policing themselves and took responsibility of for each other, whilst the police were supervising, analysing and listening, for amicable existence.
Evidence showed us that the community had to be tackled through: 1) Community activities, partnerships and alternate dispute resolution for problem resolution, 2) Community investments to improve hot spot districts, and 3) Officer own development and change. We went on to establish over two hundred police public partnerships (partnerships which were defined post evidence based policing analysis) with schools, colleges, village bodies, religious institutions, industries, non profits, activists, media, influencers, philanthropists, mental health experts, other relative professionals, etc. We had conducted over three hundred activities together (activities which were defined post evidence based policing analysis too). Hundreds of cases were peacefully resolved without the need for traditional policing methods, why? Because evidence was showing us that alternate dispute resolution methods were providing more success. Over ten educator programs were also developed based on such analysis, and taught to community and the police. Programs such as; senior citizen welfare, child and crime education, parents – teachers and youth development, religious worker roles, education tracker schemes, crisis handling protocols, telephone crisis response empathy, etc.
An investment of almost two million dollars was proposed and being raised for community welfare, from the industrial community. We associated with the Houston Police Community Policing Unit and worked on multiple community improvement districts together, for the Verna Police community. These projects were also shortlisted based on evidence that showed priority investment models. Namely; 1) community health and hygiene, 2) police station up gradation, 3) patrol and community patrol, 4) community policing technology, application and robotics, 5) hot spot school up gradation, 6) community recruitment portal to ensure employment for all (either pre intervention or post), 7) growth monitoring for students whose parents were living in Europe (Goa being an ex Portuguese colony, most Goan’s from our jurisdiction lived abroad), etc. These initiatives were managed by over a hundred volunteers from community, through a social work volunteer model of community engagement. In fact, some of these volunteers were short listed based on traits of their past deviance and mentored accordingly, thus they could work besides their police, rather than against.
The Officers too were enjoying the work environment and were being recognised by not just their own community but others too. Officer welfare levels were at its highest, and with it so was their productivity. Our community included their families as well, this improved levels of post traumatic stress disorder. We were the first to have a dedicated gymnasium, cross fit and yoga centre, this in turn improved officer fitness and response timings. The need for such development had risen from evidence based policing findings, which had pointed specifics from past case handling experiences for officer development. Findings and statistics were eventually sent to the national bodies for police research and further implementation.
We were scientifically readjusting to the Trends and Actuals and the change was positively evident. I do not hesitate to also mention that we had little support from the police hierarchy and the government, but evidence showed that the issue wasn’t really the police or the law or the government, the issue was at the community level, and thus we decided to work directly with the community and make the reform community centric rather than any other way. The results, of course helped all, and the support eventually came. If I may also mention, the police officers and me were called out to lesser crisis interventions that year; compared to years prior. This targeted approach involving our communities was working.
As I move forward with my career, I have decided to focus on social work for community policing, rather than crisis negotiations. And therefore, I will be pursuing my post graduation in Social Work in the United States in 2021 with a hope to continue working alongside the police and their communities, to promote effective community organisation and development. The Verna Police Crocs and Cops Community Policing Unit in Goa, India had established the foundations for community and policing reforms through social work, and therefore I wish to build from this success. I hope to also continue to integrate findings from Evidence Based Policing with social work for policing. To conclude, whilst I await my return to the United States, I am also working on COMMCOP, a digital application to connect communities with the Police and vice versa, using similar social work and evidence based policing principles. I would be happy to share additional details of my ongoing assignments and past collaborations on request, and of course partner with similar visionaries, worldwide.
Association websites: www.icebreaqers.com , www.commcop.app
Anish is a hostage and crisis negotiator, community policing trainer and researcher. His focus is evidence based community policing for crisis negotiations, through targeted social work. His relational approach to law enforcement assists in establishing community centric police reforms for proactive, reactive and rehabilitative crisis management.