Mayor Adam Stockford’s latest Facebook post idea for garnering trust and friendship in Hillsdale will turn into regular neighborhood meetings between the police and Hillsdale County citizens.
“I actually had the idea when I was watching TV. I can’t remember the show, but they were having a neighborhood meeting,” Stockford said. “An officer was standing in front of the crowd in the church or community center and he was taking questions from people in the neighborhood.”
Though still in the works, his vision includes a regular time and place for the Hillsdale County citizens to meet their police force and voice questions and concerns.
“The police department is the biggest part of our budget and they are a great force,” Stockford said. “But it is a point of pride to have a city where officers and residents know each other by name or face.”
Stockford hopes to hold an inaugural meeting by late spring or early summer of this year. West Street Church of Christ and Sozo Church both saw his Facebook post and reached out to offer their buildings for meetings.
Brent Steel, minister at West Street Church of Christ, said that he saw Mayor Stockford’s post, thought it was a great idea, and immediately offered his church building for the meetings. The church holds up to 100 people.
“Right now, I don’t think we have nearly the controversy the bigger police departments have,” Steel said, “but any time that the police are willing to come out and make inroads into the population, it takes away a little, ‘Oh, crud, the cops are here.’ It can replace it with, ‘Oh good, the police are here. There will be some resolution.”
When he was a council member, Stockford himself offered regular “Coffee with Council” meetings. Often four of five people would arrive with questions. Current councilmen, however, no longer offer this service.
“We don’t do them with the police either. The only interaction people have with police is if they have a complaint or they have been through something traumatic,” Stockford said. “It’s not a typical Q&A session. It’s someone who has done something criminal or is paying a ticket. This seems like a good opportunity to give your average citizen an opportunity to converse with police.”
Both Stockford and the police get a lot of minor complaints about speeding on specific streets, noise, and an increase in the homeless population. According to Stockford, it is redundant to have multiple people contact the police about each of these small incidents. A neighborhood meeting would provide a regular arena to field questions and alleviate these small concerns without taking undue amounts of the police department’s time.
Stockford also pointed out that the police department has petitioned for another full-time officer, a request that the council preemptively prioritized fulfilling.
“It seems like if they get their officer, this is something they can give back to the community,” Stockford said.
Violent crime has also increased in Hillsdale County, according to Stockford.
“People are concerned so giving them access to the police couldn’t hurt things,” Stockford said.