A town’s neat idea worth replicating

With a tremendous need to return to community policing, a story about Farmington, New Hampshire has caught the attention of many. Police Chief Jay Drury started a very simple program where police officers approach citizens on the street after witnessing them doing the right thing or simply doing what they are supposed to do. To the citizens surprise, the officers award them with a coupon for a free slice of pizza or an order of fries at local restaurants who elected to participate.

Below is a link to the NBC Nightly News story where I learned of the program. People who have cleaned up after a pet, walked across the street using the crosswalks, walked with a properly leashed pet, or helped shovel snow off a common sidewalk or street, are afforded coupons. The people are surprised at first, but delighted with the positive reinforcement.

To me, this is replicable and sustainable idea. The award is not super huge, but is commensurate with an economic gold star. The restaurants benefit from getting notoriety as well as customers in the door. It is akin to the kids selling the coupon books to raise money. My guess is you will buy stuff for others while you are there, which makes it advantageous to the restaurant.

Yet, the key is the positive interaction between people and the police. As a parent, my wife and I learned there are many opportunities to fuss at your kids to correct  behavior. You could end up only being negative with them if you chose to do so. Mind you, our kids are very good kids, but they have been teenagers and pre-teens. So, when we found ourselves harping on things more than we needed, we curtailed that negative discussion. Now, when we must help them see the error of their ways, we can do it sparingly, but with a calmer voice of “you need to recognize what you did and how you could do better the next time.”

The same goes with the police. If your only encounters are negative, it flavors your perception. With the profiling going in many communities, it behooves police officers to reach out more to the communities, especially those who have members that are profiled. I go back to the book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg (link provided below). In the book, he notes how Paul O’Neill turned Alcoa around by focusing on safety when he became CEO. He noted later that it was the only thing he could get management and labor to agree on. In so doing, he improved communication up, down and across the organization, so not only was safety improved, but performance improved and new ideas of conducting business were shared from those on the manufacturing floor.

The same concept applies here. If the police officers reach out in positive ways to the community, not only should safety be improved but the communities will as well. People will see that what they do and say matter and will begin sharing ideas to improve their community. And, that is worth the effort. Well done Farmington, New Hampshire.