Over the past 10 years, progressive law enforcement agencies have involved citizens and the surrounding business communities in their quest to protect life and property, solve neighborhood problems, and enhance the quality of life in the areas they serve. Local, county and state law enforcement officials increasingly are open to establishing partnerships that result in better communities.
Some waste firms have long realized the benefits of working with law enforcement agencies in an effort to improve the areas in which the hauler operates. Keep in mind that across the United States, police and sanitation employees are among the most common workers you will find in neighborhoods on a daily basis. Combine the 700,000 sworn police officers in the United States with the 367,000 sanitation workers in this country and you have more than 1 million people who are dedicated to serving and protecting their communities.
During the past decade, the waste and recycling industry have partnered with law enforcement on numerous projects including crime prevention and traffic safety. On the prevention side, some companies have created programs to assist local police by serving as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police as sanitation workers perform their duties throughout the workday.
We're Looking Out for You
In 2002, Republic Services launched the “We're Looking Out for You” program, which is a crime prevention initiative that enlists the active participation of our drivers, in cooperation with law enforcement and emergency services, to reduce crime and maintain safe neighborhoods.
“We take our role as community-involved business leaders very seriously,” says Jim O'Connor, chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Republic Services. “Because many of our employees and their families also live, shop and play in the communities we serve, business is really about making the community a better place. The network of drivers in a community can be an invaluable resource to the police as we can serve as extra and alert ‘eyes and ears’ in the communities we serve.”
As part of the “We're Looking Out for You” program, Republic drivers, dispatchers and supervisors are trained to observe and report any suspicious events, crimes in progress, traffic accidents and other emergency situations. If necessary, the drivers use their existing two-way radio communications systems to alert dispatch of any unusual circumstances. The dispatcher will then notify the proper authorities of the location and incident. Republic's local divisions that have implemented the program follow specific guidelines to work with police and communicate with elected officials, customers and members of the general public.
Creating a Relationship
Inviting law enforcement personnel to participate in safety programs is another way to create relationships with the police. Some divisions invited police to speak to drivers in an attempt to foster the trust and respect needed for a good relationship. In most municipalities, police are more than willing to visit with businesses and talk with drivers about traffic safety and special initiatives such as back-to-school, school-zone, pedestrian and traffic-safety programs. Many waste haulers also work with police during Amber Alerts, when law enforcement is searching for a missing child who may be in danger.
Still another opportunity to work with police comes when conducting training programs. Some hauling companies have law enforcement officials train supervisors and managers in accident investigation. The training covers such topics as the proper way to record accident-scene information, how to diagram and photograph an accident, and the importance of following best safety practices while at an accident scene. Furthermore, hauling firms often use off-duty or retired police officers and state Department of Transportation officials to teach defensive driving and vehicle safety programs to waste drivers.
A waste firm's mechanics and maintenance managers also can benefit and learn from law enforcement personnel. In California, some Republic divisions work with representatives from the California Highway Patrol to develop programs to educate mechanics on the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's “out of service” criteria for commercial vehicles. Furthermore, the program trains mechanics in elements of the California Department of Transportation's vehicle inspections, such as brake adjustments, steering wheel play and tire tread depth.
Waste haulers also may be called upon to assist law enforcement agencies during searches and investigations. These opportunities typically involve search warrants at landfills, transfer stations or on routes where police need to conduct lawful investigations. In these situations, cooperation with police and the involvement of your legal counsel may be helpful as the police work to build a case against a suspected criminal.
Slow Down to Get Around
One unique program that was developed in concert with the Ohio State Police is the “Slow Down to Get Around” national safety campaign that reminds motorists to drive more carefully near solid waste collection vehicles. The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and Rumpke Consolidated Co. worked with the Ohio State Police to create educational tools to inform motorists and keep the roads safe for garbage collectors.
The program was launched across the United States and included public service announcements that aired in a dozen media markets. A second component of the program — decals inscribed with the “Slow Down to Get Around” slogan — can be placed directly on collection vehicles. The decals serve as important visual reminders for motorists. Bruce Parker, president of NSWMA, says that the decals are probably the most effective component of the campaign. “The decals work by putting the message of safety into the driver's psyche,” Parker says. Just as most drivers know of slogans like “Give 'Em a Brake” and “Slow for the Cone Zone,” hopefully the decals will make drivers automatically slow down when they see a service vehicle.
Waste haulers and police have similar goals — they both work to make the communities they serve better and safer. While waste haulers focus on sanitary issues, law enforcement is primarily focused on the prevention of crime and disorder.
It is important to remember the words spoken by Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Royal Irish Constabulary, more than 200 years ago: “The police are the public and the public are the police. The difference is that the police are only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” Working together, waste haulers and law enforcement officials can help make communities better, safer and more enjoyable for families and friends.
Will Flower is the executive vice president of Communication for Phoenix-based Republic Services. Lane MacAllister serves as the area safety manager for Republic Services in Southern California. MacAllister was a California law enforcement officer for 16 years with extensive experience in commercial vehicle enforcement and traffic accident investigation.