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RACINE – The Racine Police Department has released the “COP House Playbook” to help other police departments develop a community-oriented policing model that has been credited with contributing to the city’s historically low crime rates.

The 132-page digital book discusses how law enforcement can enlist community resources to build and operate Community Oriented Policing (COP) Houses. There are six in the City of Racine and one in the Village of Mount Pleasant. The book also discusses similar programs in Rockford, Ill., and St. Cloud, Minn.

The book was co-funded by the RPD in partnership with the Morgridge Family Foundation of Denver. That collaboration came about when Morgridge Foundation executive John Farnam visited the Racine area in early 2019 to discuss strategies related to the “Two Generations-One Solution” poverty disruption model (2Gen), where families are strengthened through the intentional and simultaneous focus on children and adults. He learned first-hand how the COP House model has successfully been applied to help neighborhoods reduce crime and improve residents’ quality of life.

“As change agents and chief disrupters of systemic conditions that prevent the advancement of vulnerable communities, we start on the ground at the neighborhood level, listening to the needs of a community. We invest in equity-driven solutions, and we lift up innovative solutions and leaders who have a bold vision for the future,” Farnam said in a statement.

Model Introduced in Early ‘90s

The COP House model was introduced in Racine by the late Richard Polzin, who served as Racine’s police chief from 1992 to 2000. The first COP House opened about 1993. Long-time support for the COP House programs has come from the Racine Community Foundation and SC Johnson.

The “COP House Playbook” project was directed by current Racine Police Chief Art Howell and written by Bree Spencer. Safe & Sound Inc. of Milwaukee provided research and technical assistance.

To view and download a copy, visit: https://www.cophouseplaybook.org/

COP House Documentary released

Accompanying the “Playbook” release is a 12-minute mini-documentary called “Beauty From the Ashes” produced by local filmmaker Ivan Barra.

The mini-documentary shows RPD’s devotion to the community policing model. It opens with scenes of civil unrest in Racine that were part of a wave of demonstrations that followed the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this spring. In Racine, the protests turned violent and destructive the night of June 1 when the Dr. Thelma Orr COP House, 1146 Villa St., was set on fire. The heavily damaged facility has not reopened.

Sgt. Ryan Comstock, a former COP House officer who was on duty in the wake of the fire, is shown calmly speaking to a group of demonstrators on the street the next night. “We can’t do this job alone. We need the help of the community,” he later says.

Among others appearing in the film are Police Chief Howell, who says of Polzin and community-oriented policing: “He believed in it strongly and literally changed the direction of the department.”

Julia Jones, the granddaughter of Dr. Thelma Orr, the long-time community advocate who is the Villa Street COP House namesake, said: “My grandmother worked the with Racine Police to achieve common goals.”

A current community activist, Denarious Bond, says of today’s activism: “We get people to come together because we believe in lifting up people…keeping people safe.”

For online access to the COP House documentary on YouTube, follow this link: https://youtu.be/x4pXJW6omBs


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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...