CAP stands for Community Action Partnerships, but what it means is vastly more important that what it stands for. What it means has everything to do with the disconnect that has occurred over the long period of time between Law Enforcement and the communities we serve. To a very large extent, Law Enforcement has had an Us versus Them mentality. I know this because of my long career in Law Enforcement spent entirely at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. While we have tried various programs and initiatives, such as Community Oriented Policing, Problem Oriented Policing, DARE, GREAT, these have all fallen by the wayside at the Sheriff’s Office for various reasons. Law Enforcement tends to try to solve problems by reactionary measures. Seldom, if ever, do they approach the citizens of their community in any meaningful way to determine exactly what the problems are that are causing our citizens to commit crimes and then actively soliciting the help of the citizens to come up with solutions to those problems. No one is more motivated to solve a problem than those experiencing the problem.
CAP will actively solicit feedback through person to person contact with communities within our county wherever they may be at the time. What is unique about a CAP is that it is truly a partnership, not just a conversation. I want anyone wanting to make a difference in their families, in their neighborhoods and in their community, to become a partner with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. I firmly believe that within our community, the answer to every problem we are facing exists. Community Action Boards (CAB)currently exist within many areas of our communities. These are valuable and our continued participation in them is vital for the community to have a voice about issues within their neighborhoods. However, we need to tap into the knowledge and passion of our citizen’s to identify problems, the causes of those problems and the solution to those problems. As Washoe County Sheriff, I want our CAP team members to be able to say, I played a part, a key role in fixing a specific problem within the community. The days of bringing up a problem and expecting Law Enforcement to come up with a ground breaking idea are gone. The true ground breaking ideas have yet to be discovered and I believe they live in the minds of our citizens.
By creating programs and solutions from within the community, we are impacting two key areas that are obstacles to sustainability of the programs. The first is the bureaucracy and red tape required to start and sustain innovative programs is overwhelming at times. True community based programs have far less bureaucracy and red tape to deal with and therefore creation and sustainability is much more likely. The second is funding of such programs. By creating community partnerships that create the community based programs, we are taking the responsibility of future funding out of the hands of government. When economies falter and government budgets are cut, programs, whether innovative and successful or not, are cut. Grass roots programs developed and supported through the community are not reliant on government funding so when budgets are cut, successful programs have a much better chance of sustainability.