A leadership and training institute for law enforcement officers and interested members of the public has been established at the LBJ School with a $1 million federal grant awarded to UT Austin this year.
Called the Texas Institute for Public Problem Solving (TIPPS), the community policing program is directed by LBJ School Professor Bill Spelman, who prepared the application for the grant and created the institute. Steven Dietz, a City of Austin research specialist who codirected an LBJ School policy research project on neighborhood problem solving with Spelman in 1996-97, is the assistant director.
According to Spelman, the institute will provide police officers throughout Texas with the problem-solving tools to prevent crime.
Dietz added that half of the TIPPS participants will be people outside the law enforcement field. "The idea behind community policing is that it involves two aspects--community and police," he said, stressing that the police can only initiate the problem-solving process. "We are training both community members and police at the same time so that when the police leave (the neighborhood), those skills remain. The community can then be the starting point to solving its own problems."
The TIPPS curriculum, which includes free classes in mediation training and problem solving, will be used to train about 2,000 police officers and other Texas residents across the state. The classes began this spring and continue through October.
According to Dietz, police officers who take the classes will receive training credit from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE), which requires sworn officers to take 40 hours of training every two years. In 1997 the 75th Texas Legislature changed the Texas Administrative Code to require police officers to take classes in problem solving and critical thinking. Consequently, TIPPS is currently seeking TCLEOSE certification so that its classes can be used to satisfy this requirement.
Training session participants will be recruited through police and sheriff's departments; each police officer who attends a class will be asked to bring at least one person who is not in law enforcement. In a similar fashion, city council members and mayors will be contacted to identify interested participants. In some cities, ads will be placed in local news media outlets to recruit participants.
TIPPS will host a community policing conference this summer that will offer workshops on problem solving and mediation, public forums on community activism and community networking, and short classes on special topics. The conference will also feature a panel of police chiefs who will discuss successes and failures and offer other insights.
TIPPS is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and is part of the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The program is being conducted as a partnership effort that involves UT Austin, the Travis County Dispute Resolution Center, and the Georgetown and San Marcos (Texas) police departments.
According to Dietz, TIPPS is seeking a contract renewal that would maintain the original initiatives through next year and allow the program to expand into new areas. For instance, one proposal involves working with school districts on "a more holistic approach to public safety," Dietz said. "We are also exploring other funding options. For instance, we are trying to get foundation money to do crisis team training."
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