The leaders of six local law enforcement agencies have joined to launch a new community outreach campaign that each department hopes will promote safer interactions with the public they serve.
During a news conference at Wilmington Police Department headquarters on Monday, Police Chief Ralph Evangelous unveiled the new initiative called “Listen – Explain, Comply – Complain.”
The initiative aims to improve communications between officer and citizen, and try to clarify the law enforcement processes during stops. The new campaign lays out guidelines department heads ask both citizens and officers to follow.
The officer will work to listen to the citizen and then explain the reason for the stop, Evangelous said. Citizens are asked to comply with the officer’s directions and if there is a complaint about the encounter, file it with the respective law enforcement agency at a later time.
“If there is a problem, then contact us later – we’ll be more than glad to discuss it or you can file a complaint,” Evangelous said. “One thing we found when we looked at encounters that occurred that turned violent around the country is that during a law enforcement stop, the common denominator had been the failure to comply with lawful orders. And what we’re saying is…do not get into a confrontation in the field.”
The campaign was the topic of discussion at a recent monthly meeting of area department heads, Evangelous said. This is the first in a series of topics law enforcement leaders would like launch into the public arena. Other topics will be announced at a later date, he said.
The police chief said the campaign came about as an effort between law enforcement agencies across New Hanover County not because of incidents here but to prevent an eruption of violence during an encounter between a citizen and an officer.
“In 2014, one law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 58 hours and already this year hundreds of civilians have been killed in this country during a law enforcement encounter,” Evangelous said. “One death is too many and so…your law enforcement agencies have joined together in hopes of promoting safety during law enforcement encounters.”
All agencies in New Hanover County are on board with the launch this week. Evangelous was joined Monday by New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Daniel House and UNC-Wilmington Police Chief David Donaldson. Carolina Beach Police Chief Chris Spivey and Kure Beach Police Chief Dennis Cooper were not able to attend. Each agency is taking part in the new initiative and its supporting multi-media campaign.
The police department launched the campaign on social media on Monday with two public service announcements airing on the police department’s YouTube Channel and on local government television.
Along with social media, area residents will start to notice the new message of safety on billboards and printed ads. Video ads will also play on 34 screens during more than 120 viewings per day in local movie theaters beginning Friday. The movie theater ads will run until January.
The cost of the campaign is roughly $3,500 between agencies, according to police spokeswoman Linda Rawley. Several in-house resources were used in the making of the multi-media campaign.
“We believe we all have a role to play during a police stop. And if we work together, [we] can make sure everyone arrives at their destination safely,” Evangelous said.
The police chief said he has personally talked to officers within his department about the campaign.
“We’re telling them to treat the public with respect. Explain why you make that stop. Listen to them – don’t cut them off – listen to them [and] explain. And then, we’re telling the public to comply and if you’re not happy, complain.”
The police department has also created a website to provide the community with information about their rights and answer some frequently asked questions. For more information visit the campaign website.
“We have a process in place where we look at every complaint. We look at video in the car, body cameras…we take it very seriously when someone is not happy with a contact,” Evangelous said.
Complaints or commendations can be taken in person at the police department headquarters, 615 Bess St. in Wilmington, by calling the department at 910-343-3600 or via the internet on the police department’s website. Complaints outside the Wilmington Police Department can be filed within the agency of the complaint. Contact the law enforcement agency for details.