By GINA COCCHIARA
For the past eight months, I have been honored to serve our community as Police Chief for the Town of Bethlehem. When I became chief, I pledged to work with my fellow police officers, our town government, and our community to ensure residents and visitors receive the quality services and protection they deserve, as well as providing a positive work environment for members of our police department.
Our police department has been working hard, striving to improve and enhance the services we provide. These are some of the initiatives we have recently undertaken:
• We actively participated in the Police Reform & Reinvention Collaborative. Although we didn’t always agree on every topic or idea, we had a solid foundation of respect and found common ground on many issues. Our police department is already taking action to implement some new policies. Racism, unequal treatment, and disrespectful behavior from any police officer will never be tolerated.
• To further our community engagement efforts, we will be launching a new bike patrol unit using new Police E-Bikes (bikes provided thanks to a generous donation). We are also exploring options to change our uniforms to soften the look of regular patrol wear, and would like to bring on a therapy dog to enhance our outreach.
• We will be enhancing and updating our Town web page and continuing with our social media pages to share more information.
• We are developing more in-depth datasets allowing us to document and share more information including: arrest data, traffic enforcement data, and personnel interactions. A new survey will be mailed to those our police department has interacted with on calls as an option to provide feedback.
• We also recognize the importance of making our department a positive and desirable place to work. While an increased workload has been challenging as several members have recently retired, we look forward to working with the Town to fill vacant positions and bring on new members that share our community-oriented vision and would make positive contributions.
• We are pursuing long-term goals such as investing in body cameras for increased transparency and the protection of officers and those they interact with.
I am proud of these efforts and the services our police department members provide, but this is only the beginning as we realize this new era of policing in Bethlehem.
The author was named Bethlehem Town Police Chief last August, earning the distinction as the first woman to head the law enforcement agency in its history. Town Hall quickly put her to task by working with a community-led advisory board to implement a state mandated Police Reform & Reinvention Collaborative plan. That just one of the accomplishments she shares in this week’s point of view.