Pine Bluff Police Chief Talks About Efforts To Keep City Safe

Pine Bluff Police Chief Denise Richardson (left) and 100 Families Initiative family advocate LaTisha Brunson
Pine Bluff Police Chief Denise Richardson (left) and 100 Families Initiative family advocate LaTisha Brunson

Pine Bluff Police Chief Denise Richardson spoke at a community meeting, providing updates on efforts being made by the police department for building a stronger and safer city. 

The meeting was hosted by the 100 Families Initiative and the nonprofit Restore Hope.

Bringing In Technology To Keep Residents Safe

Chief Richardson talked about her desire to bring a Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) to Pine Bluff. An RTCC is a series of live video cameras that allow a crime center to monitor in real time what is happening in the city. Richardson noted that this technology is currently being implemented in cities like Little Rock, Jonesboro, and Memphis.

“We do not have money for that right now. We do not have a dedicated fund,” said Chief Richardson. 

But Richardson said, nevertheless, important developments are happening in Pine Bluff that will advance law enforcement technology.

“We have ordered 27 flock condors. And what a flock condor is, it's like a sky cop. So it is a live-action 360 degrees camera. They'll be strategically placed in the city. So that's something that you can look forward to in the future to show that we are concerned about all things security and all things safety,” she said. 

Chief Richardson said the city is also now employing drones. 

“They're pretty much military grade drones. We have a lot of people who are suffering with dementia, with Alzheimer's and they get lost and we get a lot of reports and we can put these drones up. We have an area of focus to help us find people.”

Chief Richardson said that the start of summer break for school children has increased requests for help. 

“We have a lot more reports of, ‘I don't know where my kid is’. So we can also put these drones up for that. We use them to track suspects. We use them when we're doing search warrants. We put the drone up to give us an overall mapping before we ever send officers in,” she explained.

She added a Bike Patrol will also be working to keep residents safe. The city has five e-bikes and 11 manual police mountain bikes.

“People are more likely to talk to officers if they are on bikes rather than in a car.”

Richardson said the police department has also reworked its website. 

“So a lot of the information that you had to physically go to the police department to get two years ago, you don't have to do that. Our website is www.pbpd.org and we have crime maps on there. We have statistics there. We have information about your local police department that you probably didn't have or didn't know who to ask,” she said. 

Wellness Programs For Police Officers

Chief Richardson said there is a wellness program for police officers to help them cope with the trauma that naturally comes along with the job. She said the program is tailored to address the needs of younger officers.

“We have a lot of millennials and Gen Z officers. They're different than us Gen Xers and Boomers. They are vocal. They need to be heard. They are dealing with things we don't. Maybe we didn't teach them how to deal with it,” she said. 

Certified peer support counselors are available to officers. 

“Officers are typically helping people on the worst days of their life. So we have to be trained,” she said.

Group Violence Intervention Program 

Richard also explained the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program underway in Pine Bluff. It is a strategy designed to reduce violent crime, particularly gun violence, by focusing on high-risk individuals and groups. This approach involves a partnership among law enforcement, judges, community leaders, social service providers, and others.

She said the GVI program has unique characteristics that set it apart from other programs.

“The difference between this program and others is that it is not solely focused on offenders. It focuses on people who are in the sphere of those offenders. Today they may be victims, tomorrow they may be suspects, or they may be a witness,” she explained.

“In most of our cases, if you pull those cases together, the same people are in those case files as victims, witnesses, family members, or suspects. So once you connect those dots, you see, well, if this young man or this young woman was in trouble today and these are their friends, these are the people we need to approach. We need to intervene because they're going to come before us.”

Richardson says the intervention approach involves finding those who are at-risk, pulling them aside, and making them aware of the services that are available to them. “This gives them an option other than the ones that they have,” she said. 

Richardson said the program relies heavily on volunteers and requests that anyone interested in becoming a volunteer contact the program director, Rev. Kevin Crumpton

Smart Justice is a magazine, podcast, and continuing news coverage from the nonprofit Restore Hope and covers the pursuit of better outcomes on justice system-related issues, such as child welfare, incarceration, and juvenile justice. Our coverage is solutions-oriented, focusing on the innovative ways in which communities are solving issues and the lessons that have been learned as a result of successes and challenges. 

The podcast is available on all major podcasting platforms.

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