by Terry Rogers
Chief Kenneth Brown of the Milford Police Department took the position after Chief Keith Hudson retired in early 2016. Within months of taking over the department, the Baltimore riots over the death of Freddie Gray erupted, putting focus on the training of police officers around the country. When Chief Brown took over the department, he knew he wanted to reach out to the community and build a relationship with its members.
“When I took the job, it was an era when people wanted more transparency due to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014,” Chief Brown explained. “One of the biggest things I did when I took over was to institute a body camera program. More transparency was a way of gaining more public trust, thereby improving our relations with the community.”
Chief Brown did not stop with adding body cameras for better transparency. He encouraged the officers to start connecting and serving the citizens more on a daily basis. He also recognizes and rewards officers when they do things to better serve the public.
“We had a couple officers who, while on patrol, stopped and shoveled snow from an elderly resident’s driveway,” Chief Brown said. “Our K-9 officers would stop by neighborhoods or a child’s birthday party and conduct impromptu K-9 demonstrations. I remember once when a K-9 officer was called to a child’s birthday party for a loud music complaint and ended up doing the dog demonstration for the partygoers. They also went to the store and purchased a gift for the child and took it back to them. I encourage them to do small things every day that will have a big impact on the community. For example, picking up a worker who is walking to or from work and, when the weather is bad, giving them a ride to where they are going.”
Soon after he became the Chief of Police, Chief Brown joined the NAACP in order to build a rapport with their members and start a dialog with them. He attends their banquets each year and has attended several church services in minority communities as well as those held on the National Day of Prayer. Since taking the lead of the department, Chief Brown has attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration every year.
Connecting with community members is not the only way that Chief Brown has tried to create a better police force.
“Since I have been Chief, we have had department wide trainings in Cultural Diversity, Community Relations, Miranda Warning and Subjects Rights,” Chief Brown said. “Training has also been required in Bill of Rights/Supreme Court Decisions, Ethics in Law Enforcement, De-escalation and Duty of Care, which is designed to prevent deaths in custody. There have been other trainings held department wide, but these trainings relate to what is happening today.”
In an effort to encourage more personal connection with the public, Chief Brown pulled officers from the department’s bicycle patrol and placed those officers on foot patrol. Although he knew officers would be able to interact with the public on a bicycle, he felt that on foot they would have more opportunities for personal dialog. Chief Brown explained that he has an open-door policy to the public and makes themselves available to them as often as possible.
“We have hosted Milford’s Night Out for 25 years,” Chief Brown said. “One of the primary purposes of the night out is to continue to strengthen our relationship with the community. We have a wide variety of vendors who provide safety related information for all of our citizens, with some vendors having specific information that helps minority groups. For example, one vendor provides specific information for legal assistance to Spanish-speaking communities.”
Other community events that the Milford Police Department participate in include providing meals ot area families in partnership with Mountaire Farms during the holidays, a program that reaches beyond Milford.
“We do not limit the program to the City of Milford because we see a need in neighboring communities as well,” Chief Brown said. “Mountaire is generous enough to provide enough meals that we’re able to work with community partners and identify families in Lincoln, Ellendale and Houston.” The department attends block parties, community meetings and more. They also collect school supplies to help Milford School District students in need, collected used books to distribute to children in communities who do not have adequate reading materials and take every opportunity to meet with youth groups within the City.
Chief Brown pointed out that the officers in Milford value the community and think of them as part of the team. They understand they need the community to help with their mission and they work every day trying to build relationships.
“Our School Resource Officers have many conversations with students each day,” Chief Brown said. “They enter classrooms to speak on a wide variety of issues on a regular basis, too. Our SRO’s make sure to be available to the students and their families for issues that, in many cases, don’t involve school matters. They build relationships with students that in many cases result in the student wanting the SRO to assist due to their comfort level with the officer. Our SRO’s understand they are very important in showing children we are here to protect them. We know the first police officer many children meet is the SRO. We want our SRO’s to leave a lasting impression on that child that we are their friends and are here to keep them safe. We also want them to know we value them as being part of our team. Having good communication between us and the community is great for crime prevention.”
Moving forward, as a member of the Delaware Police Chief’s Council, Chief Brown explained that the organization has been meeting to work toward more standard statewide policies to ensure consistency in best practices across the state.
“I am reviewing our own policies to see where we can make improvements although many of the proposed demands, we already have in place,” Chief Brown said. “We track race on all of our criminal arrests and traffic contacts to monitor them for trends which may indicate a bias on any particular group. I am committed to working with all stake holders in unison to recommend and develop meaningful solutions that will have a positive impact on policing and enhance the public’s trust and faith in our profession.”