Public/Private Partnerships Help Police and Communities Do More with Less

Police departments and the communities they serve are always better off when they can work together, especially when resources are tight. And while it is not a new idea, public/private partnerships have become more critical in the past decade than ever before.

There are two primary reasons for this. After the Sept. 11 attacks, police departments were tasked with playing on a national stage, participating in unified response plans and meeting Homeland Security efforts. As the most frequent first responders, police departments — most of whom had been used to operating as independent units — have been drawn into the larger web of services set up to respond to incidents, both manmade and natural. Secondly, the economic downturn has had the effect of reducing the tax base and thus the operating budgets that police departments have available to them. Increasingly, they are expected to do more with less.

Those departments that have been most successful in fighting crime in their jurisdictions have often done so by engaging in public/private partnerships. These partnerships benefit both parties. For the police, they act as a force multiplier, giving them eyes, ears and resources they need. The community benefits from a more detailed understanding of criminal activity patterns, how to help curtail criminal activity and, of course, reduced crime.

Chief Michael Shanahan, who served the University of Washington Police Department for 24 years before retiring in 1995 says, “We are people that do community service above self.” Chief Shanahan was a pioneer and a staunch advocate for public/private sector cooperation. He served as co-chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Private Sector Liaison Committee (PSLC) from 1985-1999. Under his leadership, the PSLC focused on solutions to critical public/private sector issues including product tampering, workplace and school violence, and more. His ideas and leadership became the inspiration for an important recognition that has provided inspiration and models for public/private partnerships worldwide.

Beginning in 2005, the Security Industry Association (SIA) worked closely with the IACP’s PSLC to develop the annual Michael Shanahan Award for Excellence in Public/Private Cooperation. In 2006, Chief Shanahan was the first recipient of the award. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and implementation of public/private cooperation in public safety, and is awarded to partnerships that have demonstrated highly effective models of public/private partnerships.

SIA is the sole corporate sponsor of the Shanahan Award. Funds are partly raised through the annual SIA Ride for Education, an event that takes place each April in conjunction with the International Security Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas (ISC West). The Ride for Education was founded in 2004 to improve educational opportunities for the first responder community. First responders can apply for a grant on the SIA website to assist in coursework directly related to their responsibilities.

This year’s Shanahan Award winners will be presented October 23 at the annual IACP Conference in Chicago. The award is being given to the Baltimore Police Department and two of their private partners:

The Baltimore Police, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University Campus Safety and Security- Community Safety Program — This unique initiative features a three-pronged approach including visible presence, education and university/community engagement. Since the inception of the program, overall violent crime has decreased 53 percent.

The Baltimore Police Department/Johns Hopkins Medicine Corporate Security Public-Safety, Shared Information & Technology Partnership — This restructured program includes a strong commitment to enhancing the relationship with local law enforcement, the surrounding community and community redevelopment programs in their area, and has resulted in a crime drop of 54 percent since 2002.

Editor’s note: Take a first-hand tour of Baltimore’s video surveillance infrastructure, including the command center, at Secured Cities on Nov. 10-11. Visit for details.

While SIA is proud to sponsor this prestigious and influential award, we realized that more was needed to help police departments as limited municipal budgets affected their ability to access training resources. In 2009, SIA began offering the public sector Shanahan Award winner an additional bonus, the opportunity send one of their officers for Level 1 Forensic Video Analysis training offered by the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA). This training details how to approach video to ensure that it is accepted in a court of law. This is the first step in becoming certified as a Forensic Video Analyst by LEVA. SIA sponsors the winner with travel, room and board expenses, course material and the one week class itself.

Police departments nationwide are increasingly taking advantage of community partnerships to leverage their existing resources and make their communities safer. Public/private partnerships help the community help itself become a more secure place. And as an organization, SIA tries to help as often and in any way that we can to promote, educate and recognize the efforts of these partnerships so that they may become a model for other communities.


Karyn Hodgson is communications manager for SIA.