I’m Matthew Murray, Yakima’s Chief of Police. I’ve been a police officer for nearly 30 years, and one thing I’ve heard throughout my career, no matter the city, is a reminiscent yearning for the “old days,” when officers used to walk around and talk to people. And I’ve taken that to heart.
Since moving here last year from Denver, I was immediately welcomed by friendly, optimistic people, and I feel honored to serve this community. I’ve had the chance to walk over 1,600 miles out in Yakima neighborhoods getting to know the residents of our city. I block out time nearly every day to park my car and walk the streets, greeting people, shaking hands, and getting to know them.
Most people have heard the term “community policing”, but what does that really mean? I think that it is different in every community, and even changes as the needs of a particular community change. It is most effective when driven by the community.
To effectively police in a community, you have to have trust—to have trust you have to have a relationship, and a relationship is built on contact. It seems simple, but it takes work—like any relationship takes work. Our goal is to build relationships and ultimately to reduce crime—so you’ll see police officers walking neighborhoods, talking with business owners, and getting to know non-profits and organizations throughout the city. When police know the community deeply, are culturally-fluent, and have built trust with residents and organizations, that builds stronger, safer communities.
Our regular patrol officers can’t spend as much time walking neighborhoods as I do every day, but we encourage them to make four connections with the community each shift. Our command staff have been greeting business owners during our Boots on the Ground program. When fully staffed, we will ensure officers have time specifically designated to them getting on the streets to talk with residents and business owners. If you see me or other officers walking through your neighborhood, we invite you to come say hello or just give us a wave, like the “old days.” We’re here to listen and connect.
Follow me on social media and see how I’m connecting with the community from day to day.