REDDING PD DISCUSSES THE NEIGHBORHOOD POLICE UNIT AND THE VITAL ROLE IT PLAYS
REDDING, Calif. — In spite of recent calls for defunding police departments across the country which have led the headlines for months, nationwide polls show that most Americans overwhelmingly agree that patrol officers are invaluable and an absolute necessity to ensure the safety and security of the residents they serve.
However, with a seemingly never-ending stream of 911 calls, today’s patrol officers are stretched to the breaking point. Officers in many cities describe their shifts as being spent racing from call to call, leaving them little time to deal with or address their area’s ongoing, long-term problems – many of which are at the very root of the volume of calls those officers handle daily.
When properly funded and staffed, many agencies have specialized units and teams designated to take on those problem areas and issues. One such team is the Redding Police Department‘s Neighborhood Police Unit (NPU).
In an exclusive LENN interview, Redding PD’s NPU supervisor Corporal Timothy Renault explained what his unit does and why the specialized unit is such a vitally important and irreplaceable asset to the department and city, as well as the citizens they serve.
After earlier budget cuts had axed the department’s former NPU, the unit was reestablished in January 2016 after the department saw a significant rise in crime and quality of life issues in their city. The NPU now consists of four officers and a supervisor and focuses on solving long-term problems through enforcement efforts, outreach programs, and working in partnership with the community.
Although NPU officers can and do back up patrol officers during dangerous and high-priority incidents, without having to answer or respond to 911 calls the newly re-formed unit was an immediate success. Right away NPU officers began racking up big numbers of arrests while shutting down drug homes and cleaning up the city’s most blighted and problematic areas.
As of Sept. 30, just five years after its creation, the NPU proudly announced they had made their 2,000th arrest.
“A majority of the arrests made by NPU are connected to narcotics,” Renault told LENN; adding that over the last five years, NPU officers had seized approximately two pounds of cocaine, 23 pounds of methamphetamine, and 14 pounds of heroin.
“NPU also seized 118 firearms from suspected drug dealers, convicted felons and dangerous criminals,” Renault said of the specialized unit.
“I think we all can agree that the most important basic function for any police department is patrol,” Renault – who has been a police officer for sixteen years, explained. “The patrol officer answers that call for service from the citizens. Whether it’s a non-priority call or a 911 emergency call, the patrol officers answer it and that’s why they’re so vital.”
“What makes the NPU different is that these officers do not answer calls for service,” Renault continued. “They are not reactive they are proactive and that’s what our community needs to help address some of the issues we are seeing.”
“In addition to our patrol officers, we need a group of officers that can take the fight to the criminal element in our community. We need a group of officers that have time to research the complaints that come in about problem motels or problem houses. We need a group of officers that have the knowledge and experience to write search warrants and work with community groups to address quality of life issues that our community is facing,” Renault explained; adding, “And that group is the Neighborhood Police Unit.”
Since the NPU’s creation, the unit has focused on specific geographical locations in the City of Redding that include Downtown Redding and the Hilltop and Dana Drive Business District.
Going out regularly on foot, bicycle, and all-terrain motorcycles, as well as in traditional patrol and undercover vehicles, the unit also patrols the Sacramento River Trail System and the city’s surrounding parks.
About the NPU’s role in confronting and combating the city and department’s biggest concerns, Renault explained, “I’ve touched on this before. Our community is similar to many other communities and while some people will tell you it’s the drug problem in our community or the lack of jail space or the lack of mental health help or homelessness, I think ultimately what encompasses all of us is quality of life crimes and quality-of-life issues.”
“This team has the ability to listen to the community and deal with those issues,” Renault explained. “We get the complaints that come into our department via phone calls or complaints on our website and figure out creative solutions to address these problems.”
In addressing and resolving those problems, Renault said, “We work with outreach in the community, with volunteer community groups for cleanups, and with drug rehab programs to help some of the addicted citizens we have in our community.” Continuing, Renault added, “And when needed, we work with the District Attorney’s Office to lock up the sexual predators and criminals that need to be out of our community due to violent crimes they are committing.”
When it comes to the types of outreach programs and assistance services NPU officers provide for the area’s homeless, which in recent years had skyrocketed to staggering numbers, Renault explained, “We feel that the homeless problem is not just a police department problem, it is way more. It takes all types of community and county agencies to address these issues.”
“Homelessness is horrible and many of these people need more assistance than the services can provide,” Renault explained.
However, citing “some of the decisions made from Sacramento” as well as “some of the challenges we have because of proposition 47 and AB109, along with other measures that have been pushed upon the counties,” Renault described the NPU’s efforts to combat homelessness and the problems created by the issue as “a difficult battle.”
“But we will continue the be proactive and work with other groups in coming up with a solution,” added Renault.
Asked about how the countries ongoing pandemic and public health crisis has affected the unit’s homeless outreach projects, Renault said, “Prior to the Covid-19 crisis we had an outreach officer in my unit, a retired corporal who returned to RPD to help provide outreach security for county officials. He would work several hours a week with health and human services to go out to homeless encampments and provide outreach.”
However, with no end in the foreseeable future of the ongoing pandemic, NPU officers have had to take a different approach to help those who find themselves without homes or the needed resources to get back onto their feet.
Due to the novel coronavirus concerns, NPU officers now work with the Good News Rescue Mission outreach and Shasta County Health and Human Services. “We try to come up with creative solutions on getting the homeless off the streets and into transitional housing, Renault explained.
Because of some of the large-scale community cleanup projects NPU officers often spearhead or assist with, the unit works regularly with a multitude of agencies within the city and county.
“We work hand in hand with the parks department, solid waste department, wastewater department, and others,” explained Renault. “We also work with the Shasta County Sheriff Alternative Work Program utilizing inmates to help us clean homeless encampments.”
“Plus, there are multiple community organizations such as United Shasta that we work hand in hand with cleaning up some of the illegal encampments and illegal dumping,” added Renault.
Asked about NPU’s future goals, Renault responded, “One of our future goals, which is going to hopefully happen later this year or early next year, is to add a four-officer, downtown bike team.”
“These officers would patrol the downtown area, along with the Hilltop and Dana Drive Business District, which the city has been pushing to revitalize, ” Renault explained; adding, “The department is excited about this unit.”
With new apartments, businesses and restaurants always coming in, this team would be “the face of the police department downtown” and would work out of a downtown substation the department recently acquired. Because of their centralized location, those officers would be ready at a moment’s notice to handle any issues and long-term problems that occur within those areas.
However, without the proper funding and a fully staffed department, none of those long-term issues could be properly addressed or handled, according to Renault; who explained, “It all comes down to funding and support.”
“I’m extremely fortunate to be able to work with and supervise this unit,” Renault said of the NPU and the officers he supervises and works with daily. “I can tell you this is the most rewarding position I’ve been involved in.”
“I’m so proud to be able to supervise a group of officers who work together over 40 hours a week who understand the mission and goals of the city and of the police department and do everything in their power to carry out that mission,” Renault continued. “This crew works tirelessly to better this community and address quality of life crimes and issues in our community.”
“I think I speak for the entire administration in the department when I thank the community and all of the law enforcement in our community for their interest and support,” said Renault; adding, “As long as the funding is available and our unit is able to be maintained, we will continue to come up with creative solutions to some of the challenging problems that face our community.”