Law enforcement officers are rarely a college student’s favorite people. But Jeffrey Postell, BCPD Sergeant-Community Policing, Community Relations and Crime Prevention, is working hard with the department to change that negative perception and strengthen trust between students and BCPD officers.
Postell has a nearly 12-year history in law enforcement, beginning at a small department in North Carolina. After only eight months on the job, Postell was on patrol one night and noticed a suspicious man behind a Save-a-Lot who he thought was a burglar. Postell drew his gun and ordered the man away from the building. After arresting him and bringing him back to the police station, the criminal was identified as Eric Robert Rudolph, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives for his bombing activities, which killed two people and injured another 150 over a period of two years. Rudolph, a domestic terrorist with anti-abortion and anti-GLBTQ political views, became infamous for bombing the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“We got a very dangerous man off the streets, a cop killer, a domestic terrorist, and ended one of the longest and most expensive manhunts in U.S. history, and it went down very peacefully,” Postell said. “I would never take it back, but I would never wish it on anybody else, either.”
He said his arrest of Rudolph gave him experience with the media and allowed him to meet hundreds of people, but it was also a very stressful period of his life. Only 21-years-old at the time of the arrest, Postell quickly became one of the youngest assistant chiefs of a city police department in North Carolina.
Postell began at BCPD in 2009, and since then has worked hard to strengthen the ideals of community policing in the department.
“Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime,” Postell said. “It identifies problems that we, as a University, have by partnering with community members to provide remedies.”
Overall, the goal of community policing is to decrease crimes and criminal mischief.
Postell explained that community policing works through a three part process. First, officers work hard to show that they care and that they are compassionate about the community, which strengthens the trust between officers and students.
“Building trust with residents and the community is imperative to reinforce the commitment our police officers have for this community,” Postell said.
Next, the relationships built help BCPD identify problems, whether it is thefts in the library, harassment in the dining halls, or illegal parking somewhere on campus. Then, by working together, BCPD and the students of Boston College can solve potential safety problems on campus and make the area safer, overall.
Postell emphasized, however, that the goal is not to get students to rat out their peers. Instead, Postell hopes that the community will work together for a safer campus all around.
“We are fortunate to have a safe campus, and I think that has been achieved due to our faculty, staff, and students recognizing problems, reporting those problems, and working with us towards solving them,” Postell said.
Postell pointed to several programs that are already in place that strengthen relationships between students and police officers. The Adopt-A-Cop program, which pairs officers with residence halls for programming and education, helps officers build a rapport with students. Combined with programs like bike registration, self-defense classes at the Plex, and engraving for valuables like iPods and computers free of charge, Postell says the Adopt-A-Cop program is imperative for building trust and reaching out to the community.
“By reaching out to our commmunity through community policing programs and initiatives, we can become part of the community,” Postell said. “Community policing consists of two core components, community partnership and problem solving, and is only a success when the community truly recognizes that we are compassionate and that we care about what they are facing.”
Postell said four C’s of law enforcement help guide him and the other officers through community policing.
“My four C’s of police work: care, compassion, commitment, and communication, prove to the community that you care and that you want to help solve their problems with the right approach,” Postell said.
Through the four C’s, Postell emphasized his hope that officers and community members build positive relationships. “We [BCPD] want the community to feel comfortable in approaching the police with any compliments, suggestions, or problems they’ve identified, and work in partnership on solutions,” he said.
More than anything, Postell emphasized that the men and women of BCPD are not out to get students. They work to keep the community safe in conjunction with members of the community.
“The officers of BCPD are people that make sacrifices for the best of others in line with the Jesuit values of ‘Men and Women for Others,'” Postell said. “Law enforcement is about helping people, just like the motto on our cars say, ‘Together for a Safer Community.’ We’re part of this community, and we’re working together to accomplish the goal of maintaining a safe community, and we can only do that if we have the trust and respect of the community members.”