SPOKANE, Wash. — A community policing institute founded at Washington State University Spokane and that served first as a model for the United States may inspire Russia as well. A delegation from the Western Regional Institute for Community Oriented Public Safety at WSU Spokane recently returned from Russia, where they participated in an exchange to pave the way for community-oriented policing.

WRICOPS is one of 22 congressionally funded regional community policing institutes nationwide, and was the first such institute, serving as a model for the nationwide program.

The trip was coordinated by the Seattle-based Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation and funded by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It grew out of two successful earlier exchanges between law enforcement personnel in the five-state WRICOPS region and their Russian counterparts on Sakhalin Island (Sakhalinsk in Russian). This delegation went to Yuhzno, the capital city of the Sakhalinsk region, about 45 miles from Japan at Russia’s eastern seaboard

The foundation asked the group to return to Sakhalin Island to help facilitate the building of relationships of trust between Russian law enforcement officials and the international businesses and residents working and living on Sakhalin Island. The work is intended to pave the way for the establishment of ongoing partnerships to address safety, like those found in a community policing model.

According to Mike Erp, WRICOPS investigator, criminal justice instructor, and director of the Washington State Institute for Community Oriented Policing at WSU Spokane, trust relationships between the business and law enforcement communities are crucial for economic development in the region. Within the next few years it is expected to be one of the largest, if not the largest, offshore oil production sites in the world. Approximately 1,500 non-Russians work on the island—this number is expected to grow tenfold to almost 15,000 in the next year thanks to newly signed oil extraction agreements.

“The Russian policing model is very different from ours in the United States,” said Erp, formerly the police chief in Clarkston. “The UVD, their police force, is also the military. They are as likely to be on patrol in the community one day as they are to be shipped off to Chechnya the next to do battle.”

The delegation’s goal with respect to the business community was to determine their impression of their safety and security—whether they felt safe, protected and at ease as foreigners. Meetings with local police were intended to determine how open they were to working with business interests. Erp described this as a “bridge-building” activity, rather than the full-blown site assessments WRICOPS performs for law enforcement agencies and communities in the United States.

In addition to Erp, the delegation included people who serve as members of the WRICOPS leadership cadre, WSU Spokane faculty, and a representative of FRAEC. Delegation members were Lee Devore, police chief, Twin Falls, Idaho, a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; Larry Majerus, police chief, Douglas, Wyo., the longest-tenured police chief in Wyoming and past president of the Wyoming Chiefs and Sheriffs Association; Barbara Monaco, chief, juvenile probation, district 12, Polson, Mont.; Larry Plott, retired director of Idaho’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy; Marilyn Plott, former Idaho legislative attaché; Dema Harris, human resources consultant and former Yakima County human resources director; Mary Ann Lafazia, project director with the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services; Frederick Peterson, director of international academic affairs and professor of education, WSU Spokane; and Sarah Logan, FRAEC program manager.

“WRICOPS has done over 50 on-site assessments in our region, and we’re always innovating, Erp said. “That collective experience gives us the insight to collect information and organize it in ways a law enforcement agency hasn’t seen before. As a neutral third party with no political agenda, we can help the agency see things they would not otherwise understand about their operations.” The delegation will submit a report to FRAEC based on their observations and interviews and seek to publish their observations in appropriate academic journals.

FRAEC is based in Seattle and is funded by the U.S. Department of State to nurture relationships and economic activity between the United States and Russia.

WRICOPS provides regional training, develops training curriculum and conducts on-site assessments by utilizing a training and leadership cadre–a team of local government officials, citizen representatives and law enforcement professionals. The institute is a five-state partnership of Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming involving Criminal Justice Training Commissions/Peace Officer Standards and Training organizations, police and sheriffs associations, and universities.

Web sites:
Western Regional Institute for Community Oriented Public Safety: www.wricops.spokane.wsu.edu
Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation: www.fraec.org
FRAEC Washington-Sakhalin Law Enforcement Partnership: www.fraec.org/law.html