2011 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Katherine McQuay and Zoe Mentel

Developed public-private partnerships that counsel local law enforcement leaders on a host of issues—from promoting citizen safety to managing budget cuts.

The economic problems of the past few years have taken their toll on local governments, including police departments that have been forced to layoff or furlough law enforcement officers and cut back on services that could put public safety at risk.

At the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Katherine McQuay and Zoe Mentel teamed up to help address this issue by building innovative partnerships between the private sector and local law enforcement officials.

“Public safety was once the one area state and local officials wouldn’t touch—budget cuts in that area were off the table,” said McQuay. “But the new economic realities have changed all that, and law enforcement agencies are now experiencing cuts, along with every one else. So law enforcement, and the COPS Office, had to think about doing business differently.

McQuay and Mentel enlisted major corporate partners to participate in conferences for police chiefs and other law enforcement executives. This created a dialogue with police and corporate executives about doing business differently, including the areas of resource allocation, leadership development, organizational transformation, human resources policies, problem-solving, leveraging technology and new business strategies.

“Law enforcement was once a fairly traditional field, but this model offers many different ways to do business differently. It also shows that successful public-private partnerships do not have to be based on money,” said Sandra Webb, deputy director of community policing advancement at COPS.

The dialogue has helped create personal relationships that have led to cooperation at the grassroots level, which can translate into better community policing.

One program involves large corporate retailers participating in the development of crime prevention strategies and providing assistance to at-risk juveniles. In some communities, corporations have helped ensure that nonprofit police foundations are set up and run properly so that the public can donate funds and provide assistance to local police departments.

After attending one of the meetings held in Minnesota, Richard Myers, the chief of police in Colorado Springs, Col., said he developed a relationship with a Verizon security official that led to assistance in an important investigation and a connection to the company’s offices in his community. He said his staff is now familiar with the local Verizon campus and its security needs, and has engaged the onsite manger with its fledgling police foundation. In addition, Myers said he recently made contact with a local technology association that has provided help with his department’s finger printing processes.

“I would never would have known how or considered tapping into the business community,” he said. “I left the Minnesota meeting with my head spinning with ideas.”

The COPS program, established by Congress in 1994, advances public safety through community policing and working with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. The program provides training and technical assistance, publications, grants, and numerous other resources to law enforcement agencies across the United States.

McQuay and Mentel initially teamed up with Target, a major retailer that had an existing record of working with law enforcement, to host a meeting of corporate and law enforcement executives.

That initial well-attended forum in February 2010 yielded a how-to guide on forging partnerships that has since been shared with and downloaded by thousands of law enforcement officials. The effort has not only involved Target, but multiple companies, including General Mills, 3M, Motorola, The Walt Disney Company and Verizon. McQuay and Mentel have since made presentations at eight major conferences to facilitate discussions between police chiefs and corporate executives.

“It was a real awakening for law enforcement,” said McQuay. “Suddenly they had new ideas for recruiting, training, promoting and retaining—ideas that weren’t always standard practice for law enforcement, but were standard for corporate America. It was as if a window on a different world had opened up.”

For the two women, the idea of private-public partnerships was the easy part. Getting people in Washington to buy into their vision posed the biggest challenge.

“The idea of working with the private sector was a new one for us. And there is frequently a lot of skepticism when you are the first one to try something new, different and untested,” said COPS Director Bernard Melekian. “Katherine and Zoe were effective because they were willing to take risks.”

In addition, members of the business community have changed their perceptions.

“The corporations who work with them now have a different impression of government because of working with Katherine and Zoe,” said Mahogany Eller, a director of community engagement at Target. “The private sector companies are now more open to having these relationships.”